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Empowered to GROW

Fulfilling Teachers' Aspirations

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Ministry of Education

OVERVIEW

issue 03

04 In Conversation: Mr Lu Cheng Yang, Director, Personnel, and Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training & Development, are excited about the GROW package and share their hopes for a first-class teaching workforce.

contents

03 Editor's Note This issue fleshes out what the GROW package means for you.

GROWTH

08 Take a Break ­­ and Grow Good news! The enhanced Professional Development Leave Scheme means that more teachers will be eligible to take some time off to upgrade their professional skills and knowledge.

RECOGNITION

10 Teachers' World Having a Teacher Development Centre to reaffirm the teaching profession and instil pride in teachers will soon be a reality. Here's a wish list of what teachers hope to see and do in the building. 12 Winners' Circle Three award-winning teachers reflect on their achievements and give insights on what really motivated and inspired them to perform to their very best.

OPPORTUNITIES

14 Different Folks, Different Tracks The teaching profession is filled with opportunities for career advancement. Four educators share how they were able to channel their inclinations and potential and fulfil their aspirations in their respective chosen paths.

WELL-BEING

18 Taking Care of Teachers A family-oriented work environment. A successful mentor scheme for young teachers. Here are two sterling examples of schools that really take good care of their teachers. 22 Behind Every Teacher The Full-Time School Counsellor and Special Needs Officer supports the role of the teacher, helping the child with special needs to cope in school. They are the helping hands that the teachers truly appreciate.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM REVIEW

21 Preparing Teachers for Changes in English Language Teaching Based on the recommendations of the English Language Curriculum and Pedagogy Review Committee (ELCPRC), the teaching and learning of English will cater to the home language backgrounds, learning needs and interests of our students. How will English Language teachers be prepared for this?

SUMMARY

24 GROW Components A summary of the enhancement schemes in the GROW package.

TEACHER TRIVIA

24 Trivia Time Interesting facts about schools and teachers in other parts of the world.

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editor's note

At the recent Teacher's Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined four key targets for our schools and the education system. One of the four targets to achieve, he stressed, is the building up of a first-class teacher workforce. For this to happen, it is of utmost importance to take the best care of you ­­ our teachers; recognising you for your passion, dedication and contributions; and giving you fulfilling careers in this noble profession. The GROW package, a major new initiative from the Ministry, aims to move us towards that target. It reaffirms teachers of the special and critical role that they play in shaping the future generations of our nation.

Put together after nearly six months of review and consultation with about 2,300 educators, the GROW package is wide in coverage and comprehensive in nature; it addresses the main concerns of a teacher with regards to professional needs, career advancement, promotion opportunities, recognition, rewards, teacher support and welfare. In this issue of Contact ­ The Teacher's Digest, we focus on the enhancements under the GROW package, and showcase how some teachers are going the full mile to realise their aspirations in this profession. We hope that you can draw inspiration from their stories, and fufil your dreams as a teacher too.

CONTACT US Contact ­ The Teachers' Digest is a quarterly publication giving teachers in-depth appreciation of key MOE initiatives and policies. It supplements our fortnightly online edition of Contact which focuses on the latest news and views. We welcome your comments and contributions. Please write to us at: [email protected] Contact is published, for internal circulation only, by Corporate Communications Division, Ministry of Education, #20-00 MOE Building, 1 North Buona Vista Drive, Singapore 138675 Design by atomz i! pte ltd

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Mr Lu Cheng Yang, Director, Personnel (left) and Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training & Development (right), are confident that the GROW package will help teachers grow professionally and personally.

Making Teaching a Profession for Keeps

As part of the two working groups responsible for the recently announced $250 million GROW package, Mr Lu Cheng Yang, Director, Personnel, and Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training & Development, share their thoughts on how GROW boosts the teaching profession to greater heights.

What excites you most about this round of review?

Mr Lu: Unlike past reviews, this time round we focused on more diverse ways we can help our teachers grow both professionally and personally, rather than just the dollars and cents of making teaching an attractive career. What excites me is how the GROW package seeks to benefit the different groups of education officers through this review. We wanted something that caters to most if not all teachers. The result is a package that can be enjoyed by both young and experienced teachers. Mrs Ow: What excited me most in this round of review was receiving many great ideas on how we can better develop and recognise teachers. The feedback and suggestions from some 2,300 educators showed their enthusiasm for making things better. With many of their ideas incorporated into the GROW package, I believe it will go a long way in developing pride in the teaching profession while ensuring that the teaching career remains attractive and fulfilling.

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What excites me is how the GROW package seeks to benefit the different groups of education officers through this review. We wanted something that caters to most if not all teachers. The result is a package that can be enjoyed by both young and experienced teachers.

Mr Lu Cheng Yang, Director, Personnel

Classroom teachers are the backbone of the Education Service, and they should be well rewarded for staying in the profession.

in conversation

My hope for the CONNECT Plan is the same as what it aims to do ­­ retain classroom teachers. Our classroom teachers form the backbone of the Education Service, and there should be a scheme that rewards those who choose to stay on...

Mr Lu Cheng Yang, Director, Personnel

Many people believe that teaching is a calling, and not just a pay check. To your mind, how will having an attractive compensation package help attract the right type of candidates to the profession?

Mr Lu: The long-term strategy is to ensure that the Education Service continues to offer a dynamic and satisfying career. One way is to regularly check that our teachers' salaries are competitive in the market, and that a fair share of talent will be attracted to join the teaching service. Remuneration aside, there should also be enough scope within the service to cater to the teachers' different talents, abilities and aspirations. On both fronts, I believe we are quite close to making teaching a challenging and enriching career for the right kind of candidates. There is already a rigorous process to "sieve out" candidates who may join MOE for the wrong reasons. Having said that, we should also make room for those who may initially join teaching for purely monetary reasons, but grow to love the job!

This review also introduced expanded opportunities in career advancement for teachers and Heads of Department (HODs), such as the new career grade GEO 1A3/ 2A3, giving more HODs the chance to advance to SEO1A1, and a new Master Teacher Level 2. How do these expanded career options benefit the average classroom teacher in practical terms?

Mr Lu: Today, while all teachers will still begin their careers as classroom teachers in schools, they can look forward to a greater range of jobs in the teaching service depending on their abilities and aspirations. During the review, classroom teachers gave the feedback that their personal career opportunities along the Teaching Track seemed limited, compared to the Leadership and Senior Specialist Tracks. These expanded opportunities are really for teachers to explore as they progress along the teaching track, or as they decide to try out other tracks in the teaching career.

Please share with us the thinking behind setting up the Centre for Teacher Development. How will it be different from MOE's current resources for teachers, eg Teachers Network?

Mrs Ow: Teachers Network (TN) has done much for teacher development since it started in 1998. Over the years, the Learning Communities of teachers have lived out the philosophy of providing professional development by teachers for teachers, despite not having a physical venue to call their own. The desire to have a place to call their own was echoed by teachers in the focus groups in this round of review. We agree with them that a centre dedicated to teachers' continuing learning and personal development will enable us to build a quality teaching fraternity. It will also encourage ground up collaborative efforts among teachers beyond what is being done now through TN currently. The possibilities are limitless. I hope that all teachers are as excited about the centre for teacher development and its possibilities, as those of us working on this project are. I invite teachers to share with us your dream and wish list to make this centre truly one that you are proud to call your own.

The revised CONNECT Plan Deposits offer teachers a significantly higher payout. What are your hopes for CONNECT, and its effectiveness as a retention tool?

Mr Lu: My hope for the CONNECT Plan is the same as what it aims to do ­­ retain classroom teachers. Our classroom teachers form the backbone of the Education Service, and there should be a scheme that rewards those who choose to stay on. We did an earlier study which found that CONNECT Plan has delayed the resignation rates for some groups of teachers, and I am very pleased with that. Hopefully, with the increased contributions, more teachers will want to stay on in teaching for an even longer period.

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Are there many avenues for teachers with fewer years of experience under their belt, in terms of professional development?

Mrs Ow: Yes, we have quite a wide range of programmes for teachers with different levels of experience and needs. For beginning teachers, there is the Structured Mentoring Programme. There are courses in curriculum and pedagogy for those who need more grounding in teaching areas. For those who take up different responsibilities and specialisations, there are milestone courses and skills courses. Teachers who aspire to attain higher certification while working can choose the Professional Development Continuum Model (PDCM) to embark on their Diploma or Masters programme through the in-service route. Teachers can also participate in overseas exchange programmes. Then there is the Teacher Work Attachment (TWA) scheme. Work Attachment locally or overseas gives teachers opportunities to widen their perspectives and outlook beyond their own school environment. I hear over and over again from teachers who have been on TWA, about how they have used knowledge learnt from their new experiences to come up with innovative and interesting teaching strategies that benefit students. Mr Lu: Yes, I agree! Teachers should know that they can continually upgrade themselves professionally, through taking up the Undergraduate Study Leave scheme or the existing Professional Development Leave schemes. They can look at our scholarship and sponsorship schemes to undertake postgraduate studies, including those leading to Masters and PhDs, too. In fact, many have made use of our interest-free study loans to pursue both their degree and post-graduate studies.

Students learn better when they have a teacher who is dedicated to their well-being, character and moral development, and inspires them to be enterprising, innovative and curious.

With the additional resources, schools would now be better placed to take a closer look at rationalising their work distribution, to see how time can be carved out for teachers to engage in professional activities.

Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training & Development on how the daily workload of teachers can be alleviated.

MOE has been putting in more resources in schools in terms of manpower grants and new positions like the Co-Curricular Programme Executive, Special Needs Officer and Full-Time School Counsellor. How will these resources help alleviate the daily workload of the teachers?

Mr Lu: Having more resources should not be seen simply in the context of reducing the number of working hours per se. It really is about how we can support teachers so that they have the time and space to reflect, develop and discover ways to help their students learn better. Other than the 10 additional permanent teachers being posted to each school by 2010, schools need to see how the larger pool of Special Needs Officers (SNO), Full-Time School Counsellors (FTSC), and the Co-Curricular Programme Executives (CCPE), along with schools' increased manpower grants can be used to ease teachers' non-teaching duties. Mrs Ow: With the additional resources, schools would now be better placed to take a closer look at rationalising their work distribution, to see how time can be carved out for teachers to engage in professional activities. Some schools have done this well and the results are clear: staff morale is high and teachers work collaboratively. Teachers in these schools still work very hard but they are passionate about what they are doing and feel a high sense of professionalism.

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in conversation

Please share with us your personal hopes for the teaching profession for the next decade.

Mrs Ow: To answer that, I'll begin by sharing my own experience as a teacher. Teaching has always been for me a very meaningful job. It may sound a bit of a cliché, but teaching has given me the opportunity to make a difference and to touch lives. It has also given me many learning opportunities just by interacting with my students and exchanging ideas with colleagues. When I was a teacher, teaching was tough. Yes, there were times when I felt like giving up, and like some of the younger teachers today, I also grumbled about workload and about not having time for my family. But there were also countless exciting and fun learning experiences with my students and colleagues. I read the blog of a teacher recently, and realised through her entries ­­ some angry and complaining and others very inspirational and appreciative ­­ that the experiences a teacher goes through today have not changed very much from what I experienced decades ago. Will this change in the next decade? I think teachers will still claim that they hate and love their job in the same breath. But in their hearts they know that they love teaching and strive to be the best teachers that they can be for their students. I hope that knowing the purpose of why they teach, continuing to be passionate about teaching, gaining wisdom as their career progresses, taking time to also care for themselves, will help the next generation of teachers to be true to their calling. They may encounter disappointing experiences here and there but there will also be countless fulfilling and satisfying experiences. I hope that even as they grumble about their challenges, teachers will also express appreciation and gratitude for the tangible and intangible benefits that the career brings. In the eyes of the public, teaching will continue to be respected if we teachers continue to take pride in our profession and uphold our belief in the value of what we do ­­ making a difference and touching lives. We must stand tall and be proud to be called "teachers". Mr Lu: My vision is for every teacher to be recognised by their school, and in the eyes of the public, be respected for what they are doing every day. I would like to see teachers take every chance to exploit the autonomy they have to shape the way they teach, and the opportunities they have to advance their careers. Students learn best with inspiring teachers who are dedicated to the well-being, character and moral development of students, while role-modelling a spirit of enterprise, innovation and curiosity. As the world is continuously changing, I believe teachers will remain at the heart of preparing every child for a complex future. This is true today, and will be true in the years to come.

To Mr Lu (left), the GROW package is part of the long-term strategy to ensure that the Education Service offers a dynamic and satisfying career. Mrs Ow agrees that GROW will go a long way in making the teaching career an attractive one, as it develops pride and reaffirms the purpose of teaching.

We must stand tall and be proud to be called "teachers"

Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training & Development

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Take a Break Benefiting from ­­ and Grow Attachments

Teachers who aspire to go for further studies or overseas teaching stints can have their dreams fulfilled ­­ thanks to the enhanced Professional Development Leave (PDL) scheme.

The enhanced PDL scheme means that it is no longer just a pipe dream for teachers with at least 12 years of experience under their belt. Teachers who yearn to take time away from the classroom to improve their teaching skills, study new pedagogies, be a subject expert, expose themselves to other teaching environment, or undertake other learning opportunities can now fulfil these aspirations. Under the enhanced PDL, they will be given the time and space to do so on full pay. Some 8,000 teachers today qualify, and can convert two months of half-pay leave to one month of full-pay leave to go on PDL for a duration of between one month and one term (10 weeks). The enhanced PDL may be enjoyed every six years, with the first at the 12th year.

Teachers who went on PDL came back refreshed, inspired and ready to take on new challenges.

Monfort Junior School teacher Mrs Malaverzi Rajkumar (in blue blouse) has benefited professionally from her recent three weeks of work attachment at the Overseas Family School, and she looks forward to more TWA opportunities.

Valuable Exposure

Other GROW boosters

In addition to the enhanced PDL, the GROW package also has other provisions for teachers' professional growth and development. For instance, every school will have a School-based Staff Developer to ensure that training and professional development programmes are customised to teachers' needs, while supporting the school's goals. The Staff Developer will work with Senior Teachers and Heads of Department to mentor and coach teachers in the area of teaching and career development. In addition, a New Learning & Development Scheme has also been introduced ­­ which allows teachers to claim up to $400 to $700 for any learning-related expenses, such as subscriptions to magazines and journals, subscriptions to professional societies and purchase of IT accessories.

Mrs Malaverzi Rajkumar from Montfort Junior School particularly welcomes the enhancements to PDL. Early this year, she spent three weeks at the Overseas Family School learning about the differences in communication methods for younger students. "I used to teach P5 and P6," she explains, "so when I was assigned a lower primary class, I wanted to see how I could relate and communicate with younger students. When there's respect and courtesy from both parties, difficult problems can be solved." She's also excited about the current PDL improvement, "I will probably take my Masters and I look forward to more attachments."

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growth

Your Burning Questions

· The enhanced-PDL looks to benefit teachers who have at least had 12 years of experience in the service. Why? What about teachers with fewer years in service?

Insights from Another Job

As an encouragement for teachers to pursue part-time postgraduate programmes, flexi-PDL arrangements will be introduced. Senior ML (Malay Language) teacher at Xinmin Sec, Mdm Ida Susila Suandi, is leaving to do her PhD in Infocomm Technology at the University of Warwick later this year. She admits to being "a great believer" of the Teacher Work Attachment (TWA). "I worked during four holiday periods in Berita Harian where I gained useful insights into the life of a journalist, a reporter and a correspondent, all of whom have different job scopes. It was an eye-opening experience and something that I could share with my students." Ida knew that the Ministry has various options for teacher upgrading. "There is an undergraduate study scheme where teachers without degrees can opt to take time off from work after working at least three years to do just that," she recounts. Having undergone two of these, she finds that it has done wonders for her personal development. "It has increased my knowledge tremendously. Truly, the experiences have made me aware of the latest trends in teaching and exposed me to other realms of my chosen field."

In fact, the PDL scheme today already allows an officer to take some form of leave from the 3rd year onwards. Enhancing this to a full-pay leave for teachers with 12 or more years of experience, in a way shows how much we value the older officers, and want to provide them with more opportunities for their professional development. They can use the time to further develop themselves, broaden their perspectives and become even better teachers when they come back. (More information on the PDL can be found on the intranet under "My Career and Life".)

· How can I persuade my Principal to let me go on PDL?

MOE will work closely with our principals to let our teachers go on PDL. It would be impossible for all to do their sabbatical immediately, or in one year, thus schools would need to prioritise requests and find suitable replacements, and find the balance to meet the needs of both teachers and students. Let your principal know if you have any opportunities in mind and plan the best time to take them up. Do keep a lookout for opportunities such as teaching for a term in a school which is on a twinning programme with your own school, going on a structured Teacher Work Attachment in an organisation quite different from a school and undertaking action research, or studies leading to more advanced certification.

· Who will be eligible for the Learning & Development Scheme?

All Education Officers (both trained and untrained) will be eligible for this scheme. Education Officers are entitled to claim up to $400 or $700 depending on their years in service (see table below).

Table 1:

THE LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT SCHEME

Years of Trained Service <15 years 15 years Quantum per Year $400 $700

· Will I still enjoy my current benefits with the introduction of the Learning & Development Scheme (LDS)? Do I have to opt-in to this scheme to enjoy it?

Senior ML teacher Mdm Ida Susila Suandi (centre), working with her students in the computer lab at Xinmin Secondary. The PDL scheme has paved the way for her to pursue a PhD in Infocomm Technology at the University of Warwick later this year.

Education Officers can enjoy this scheme on top of standard benefits (ie medical, dental, concession scheme for purchase of HDB flats etc) they're currently enjoying. All eligible Officers will automatically qualify for the LDS and there is no need for officers to separately apply/opt in to the scheme. 9

Teachers' World

The yet-to-be named Teachers' Development Centre (TDC) might still be at a nascent stage, but based on what teachers say they envision for the Centre, it's going to be a special place to call their very own. Here are just some of their ideas on the wish list.

Think Tank

The TDC should be a top-notch Inquiry and Research Centre that supports: · local teachers on PDL and TWA. · collaboration with local institutions of higher learning so that teachers can benefit from the interactive exchanges with the content and pedagogical experts. · projects with teaching experts and renowned educationists from overseas institutions to develop materials and strategies to improve classroom teaching. With full training, research and resource facilities on site, the TDC would be the ideal venue for such a role.

Back to School

The TDC is the institution where teachers will be trained and equipped with professional skills. As a training institution for teachers, the TDC would need quite a number of classrooms and even thematic training rooms. To facilitate micro-teaching, lesson observations and demonstration lessons, there should also be a teaching laboratory, observation rooms, as well as video recording and conferencing facilities.

Knowledge Gold Mine

The TDC should function as an Innovation and Resource Centre for teachers. Think books, journals, research reports, CD-ROMs, teaching kits, classroom videos, artefacts and other print and non-print teaching-related materials that will be at the teacher's disposal. There's going to be plenty of them, all stored and archived in a library complete with study desks, reading corners and computer terminals.

Teachers' Hub

The TDC is to be a focal hub where teachers gather to: · network, share and exchange ideas with fellow teachers. · connect with special interest groups and professional organisations. · form learning communities to innovate on pedagogies and create teaching resources. This means plenty of spaces allocated for group interaction ­­ such as cosy corners, discussion rooms, conference rooms and meeting halls. 10

Illustration of the TDC is an artistic impression only

recognition

Much Appreciated

Teachers are a special breed of professionals; driven by passion to do their best for their students. They deserve more and better recognition and rewards for their commitment and service, and this is being effected by improvements to the CONNECT Plan and the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Revised CONNECT Plan

Hi-tech Environment

The TDC should have the features of a modern and intelligent building. The Centre would also be designed to take advantage of technological advancements and inspire teachers to be future oriented. That said, the Centre should be equipped with wireless technology, teleconferencing equipment and state-of the-art learning tools such as PC tablets and smart boards for teachers to harness the power of technology in teaching and learning.

From 2007, teachers who remain longer with the service will receive a bigger amount at the end of their teaching career. This is due to the increase in the annual CONNECT Plan quantum as shown below:

CONNECT Year Revised Annual Deposits for SEO* Grades and GEO 1/1A1/1A21 to 4 Revised Annual Deposits for GEO 2/2A1/2A25 to 7

1 to 4 5 to 7 8 to 10 11 to 14 15 and above

$ 4,200 $ 5,200 $ 6,000 $ 6,200 $ 3,200

$ 2,900 $ 3,700 $ 4,100 $ 4,800 $ 2,400

*excludes Superscale officers who are ineligible for the plan With the revisions, a beginning teacher at CONNECT Year 1 who stays a full 40 years with the service stands to receive a total payout of $120,000 to $160,000 from the plan.

Honouring the Best

To inspire teachers, an area within TDC should be allocated for a Teachers' Gallery, where top teachers and award winners take pride of place. To help teachers recall what makes this profession truly special through the annals of time, a heritage gallery will capture relics and mementos of teachers in the past, and express the joie de vivre of teaching that, in a way, is timeless!

Enhanced Outstanding Contribution Award

The annual quantum of $3,000 for each school to recognise teachers with outstanding contributions has been revised. Previously a flat rate, the quantum will now be allocated based on total staff strength, and this can go up to as much as $10,000. In using the quantum, schools will set aside $1,000 for an individual award, with the remaining sum to be used as team awards.

Care and Concern

The TDC should be a one-stop facility that looks into the welfare needs of teachers. In addition, recreational facilities like sports halls, a running track, swimming pool, tennis courts and social amenities like a food court with both air-conditioned and alfresco premises and a club house should also be made available. 11

Ms Foo Sheue Feng, Mrs Maureen Tung and Mrs Rabia Shahul Hameed (left to right), had a common goal ­­ to do their best as teachers.

Winners' Circle

One stumbled on teaching as a career "by accident"; another believed she was well suited to teach; and the last pursued it as a calling from the get-go.

Although Ms Foo Sheue Feng, Mrs Maureen Tung and Mrs Rabia Shahul Hameed each had very different motivations and ambitions when they first joined the teaching profession, they all share one common goal -- to do the best they can in their chosen field. The ladies have one more thing in common -- by sheer chance, they were all posted to Compassvale Secondary School and became fellow colleagues. Through unwavering commitment, hard work, a healthy dose of passion, and a favourable teaching environment, all three have achieved their goals.

When teaching, I always include some personal experiences or current affairs, and link them with my lessons so that the students are exposed to different values.

Inspiring Chinese Language Teachers Award 2006 winner, Mrs Maureen Tung, on how she motivates and inspires her students.

More than just an Award

Ms Foo won the Outstanding Youth in Education Award in 2003; Mrs Tung was awarded the Inspiring Chinese Language Teachers Award in 2006; while Mrs Hameed won the President's Award for Teachers in 2004, the highest accolade in the teaching profession. But for each, winning these awards means more than just mere recognition and a well-deserved pat on the back. Says Mrs Hameed, who was nominated by her students, "Even eagles need a lift on occasion. This award gave me the confidence that I was on the right track and that these teenagers needed and wanted the guidance to succeed." Ms Foo echoes the sentiment, "The award affirmed all that I have tried to do for the students -- the manner with which I approached the students, the amount of time spent counselling and speaking with them, the kind of support I tried to provide for them in their times of need, whether or not they liked it!" But, she adds, her greatest affirmation comes from her students -- when they treat her as a friend and mentor, and confide in her. "These are signs that affirmed me as a teacher -- assuring me that I have done right for that particular kid."

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recognition

Forging Bonds

Forging strong bonds with their students is a key factor for all three teachers. Mrs Tung, who was nominated by her peers, students and their parents, keeps in touch with many of her ex-students. Her home, she says, is an open house during Chinese New Year when many students come to visit, "some of them having graduated 20 years ago!" This veteran, who has been teaching for 26 years, reveals the secret of her success, "I try to speak my students' language and be their friend." She adds, "When teaching, I always include some personal experiences or current affairs, and link them with my lessons so that the students are exposed to different values. I feel that this helps to motivate and inspire them." Mrs Hameed shares, "I believe strongly in thinking out of the box and I push my students to think broad and deep....The thrill for me is to bring the most current and hip thing into my lessons. That's a challenge I have set for myself. Each day, I look forward to experiencing something new in my class or in my interaction with the students." the kids. That was what we advocated when we started the school under the leadership of Mrs Wong Mei Heng," says Ms Foo. "The climate and culture of teaching excellence fell in place because everyone was clear of the school's direction. This naturally established the much-needed trust among the teachers and the confidence with which we carried out our roles and duties." The school, according to Mrs Tung, also encouraged its teachers to be innovative in their teaching methods and to share individual strategies and materials. "As a HOD, I try to lead by example and share all my materials with younger teachers. We encourage peer observation and criticism, all of which helps develop this culture of sharing." Adds Mrs Hameed, "The school also believed in celebrating success -- both teachers' and students'. Every time a teacher completed a course or has an achievement, they will be publicly commended so that everyone shares in the joy. This gesture also helps to instil the passion of continuous learning amongst our students. The school strongly supports peer learning and coaching through professional sharing." Last but not least, sincerity counts in helping these ladies achieve their goals of fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as teachers. As Ms Foo puts it very aptly, "When you are sincere about what you do and who you are working with, the kids and the parents will know that you truly care. And chances are, you will try your utmost for them in the right ways."

When you are sincere about what you do and who you are working with, the kids and the parents will know that you truly care. And chances are, you will try your utmost for them in the right ways.

Ms Foo Sheue Feng, Outstanding Youth in Education Award 2003 winner

Teacher Accolades

Introduced in 1999, the Outstanding Youth in Education Award (OYEA) is administered by the National Youth Council in collaboration with Teachers Network, Training & Development Division, MOE. It is awarded as recognition of young teachers in the service and their work in the development of youth. The President's Award for Teachers is the nation's highest accolade in the teaching profession, honouring the selfless service and commitment of outstanding teachers. The Inspiring Chinese Language Teacher Award recognises the work of Chinese language teachers in developing the teaching of the Chinese culture and language in Singapore.

Shaping the School Environment

All three award winners credit their school for providing a dynamic teaching and learning environment. "To be able to build a culture of teaching excellence, you must first build the right attitude among the teachers -- that is to always focus on

As a Head of Department, Mrs Maureen Tung believes in leading by example. To encourage teachers to be innovative and share teaching strategies, she makes all her teaching materials available.

For Ms Foo Sheue Feng, the greatest affirmation comes when her students treat her as more than just another teacher, but also as a friend and mentor.

Mrs Hameed credits the school for providing a dynamic learning and teaching environment. This created a culture of teaching excellence which keeps her focused on her students.

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Fulfilling their aspirations and going where their passion takes them. (From left to right) Mr Ng Teng Joo, who is on the Leadership Track; Ms Susanna Ho making waves as an Outdoor Education specialist; Master Teacher Mrs Joy Lee focuses on the teaching and development of teachers; and Madam Thoo Mei Lan felt moved to switch track to become a Reading specialist. Xxxxxxxxxxxx

Different Folks, Different Tracks

Take the lead. Or be a subject expert. Or continue to teach in schools where the action is. Increasingly, a teaching career is one that gives diverse opportunities for career growth.

"In so many ways, the teaching profession has evolved over the years," exclaims Madam Thoo Mei Lan, Senior Reading Specialist, Education Programmes Division. "Teachers have more choices and support these days," says the veteran who first joined MOE in 1984 as a teacher. "The key is to exercise that choice judiciously now." Since the early days in the mid-1990s when the Education Service Review Committee first highlighted the career opportunities in education, MOE has pursued its development and enhancement of various professional paths, or tracks, available to teachers. Today, its key message to the force of more than 27,000 teaching professionals rings loud and clear: there are many avenues for long-term career development and growth in the service. With MOE advocating three distinct career tracks -- teaching, leadership and specialist tracks -- teachers can better direct and chart their careers according to their talents and passions. Says Mrs Joy Lee, Master Teacher (S4 Cluster) Blangah Rise Primary, "The different tracks definitely offer more choice and better job matching." Ms Susanna Ho, Senior Specialist, Co-Curricular Activities, Outdoor Education, agrees, "MOE has put in place a very sound framework to guide us in developing more differentiated career pathways to cater to the different aspirations of its staff. Have a knack for leading the team while taking a macro view? Then walk the leadership route. Passionate about one core subject and keen to deepen your knowledge of it and share with your peers? Perhaps the specialist track is for you. You joined teaching for the kids and you're happy to stay in the classroom? You are on the teaching track, going to where your passion takes you. For those like Madam Thoo, whose abilities and interests extend across different fields, there is also the opportunity to switch tracks under the right circumstances.

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opportunities

Take the Lead

The leadership track is the traditional career development track for teachers seeking to advance to higher positions in the Education Service. But for Mr Ng Teng Joo, it is not quite the beaten path. Prior to joining MOE, Mr Ng was a civil engineer. His job, he reveals, was to design and test bridge bearings. Although all his friends jibed that teaching was a "dead-end job" when he wanted to switch careers, Mr Ng persisted in following his passion. "It is no longer true nowadays," he says, referring to the archaic stereotype of the teaching profession. "One can pursue the specialist or the teaching track, and these are highly meaningful jobs. Teachers can also aspire to be Senior Specialists or Master Teachers. Regardless of the roles we assume, I think it is important to think of how we can make our work more interesting by doing the same thing in a different way, and thereby see the effectiveness of the outcomes." Mr Ng first started as a teacher in St Gabriel's Secondary School, teaching Design & Technology and Mathematics.

Henry Park Primary School Principal Mr Ng Teng Joo shares that the Leadership Track would be ideal for teachers who want to improve the school system and its processes, motivate staff and improve learning and teaching in the school community.

He worked as a HOD and VP in Holy Innocents' High School and as a Principal in Bukit Panjang Primary School. He later spent three years in MOE in the Schools Appraisal Branch as a Senior Quality Assessor. He is currently heading Henry Park Primary School as its Principal. Asked how his earlier exposure and experience in other industries helped him as a teacher and in his advancement on the leadership track, Mr Ng answers, "In designing and testing of bridge bearings, I have to be very careful in ensuring that the product is of sound quality. This is crucial as the bearings are important components of the viaducts in the MRT system.

"Likewise, it is important, whether as a teacher or an administrator, to find time for conscientious planning -- whether for a classroom lesson or for school improvement."

He adds, "The leadership track would benefit those who want to improve the school system and its processes, motivate staff and improve the quality of teaching and learning in the school community. The challenge to have buy-in from everyone towards a common vision is necessary, and it can be further achieved through teamwork."

15

Be Someone Special

Specialists are a special breed in the service. Ms Susanna Ho, Senior Specialist, Outdoor Education, at the Co-Curricular Activities Branch, shares, "It entails a good amount of time spent on strategic thinking, research work and providing professional inputs pertaining to policies. A lot of time is also spent on the professional training of teachers in the respective fields." In 1999, Ms Ho joined MOE's pioneer outdoor education unit. After four years, she became more convinced about "the critical role that outdoor education plays in pupils' holistic development." That was when she decided to pursue a specialist track -- "Being a specialist in outdoor education allows me to pursue a field that I'm passionate about and to build up specialist competencies."

According to Ms Ho, being on the specialist track has given her a sharper focus in her professional life. Her time is now primarily devoted to specialist work, a fact that she greatly appreciates. She says, "It allows me to deepen my understanding of the area of specialisation through research and reflection." The bubbly outgoing lady believes that the specialist track is "one of the best professional development frameworks that MOE has developed so far." "Go for it if you are in it for the passion!" she encourages her younger peers.

By opting for the Specialist Track, Senior Specialist Ms Susanna Ho has followed her passion to pursue a field that she is passionate about ­­ outdoor education.

"It is no easy task, you need to be a trail-blazer in order to make things happen, especially when we have so few specialists at the moment."

Across the Tracks

Like Mrs Joy Lee (see next page), Madam Thoo Mei Lan, Senior Specialist, Reading from Education Programmes Division, has crossed the tracks. She is the first, and indeed, only candidate so far who has switched from leading a school on the Leadership track to the Specialist track. Asked what inspired her to make the change, Madam Thoo answers, "In my postings as Vice Principal and later as Principal, I came across many students, especially those in the Normal (Technical) course who entered Secondary 1 not being able to read and write English. It started me thinking that if these students could be identified much earlier in primary school, they could be given support to prevent the literacy deficits from accumulating to such proportions. "With my background in reading education [Madam Thoo holds a Masters in Education with Reading specialisation from Harvard University], I thought I would be able to contribute more and impact more students positively if I focused in the area of reading intervention. I requested for a switch in track in 2003."

She points out that her nine years of experience in the Curriculum Planning and Development Division as a curriculum specialist in library and reading programmes, Geography and Social Studies has given her a good understanding of curriculum design, translation of curriculum design into teaching materials and assessment of pupil learning outcomes. "That, together with my conceptual knowledge of reading instruction and intervention, helps me in my present work that involves evaluating and improving the learning support programme in primary schools. The experience of being a Vice Principal and later a Principal enriches my understanding of the practicalities in running a school as well as of school systems and structures," she adds. Madam Thoo feels that the system has benefited many including herself, and added that what could be further enhanced is strengthening the link between professional development and pupil learning outcomes to ensure that the benefits of professional development are being passed on to students.

Senior Specialist Madam Thoo Mei Lan crossed over to the Specialist Track from the Leadership Track. As a Principal, she came across many Normal (Technical) students who were weak in English and decided to become a Specialist in Reading so that she could help identify them early in primary schools.

And for those who want to switch tracks, she advises,

"Do some soul-searching and be clear about your motivation."

16

opportunities

Master Teacher Mrs Joy Lee (extreme right) has carved out a successful career in the Teaching Track. She serves 13 schools of different levels, working with teachers on their professional development, needs and priorities.

In the Classroom

As Master Teacher of S4 Cluster, Mrs Joy Lee serves 13 schools of different levels. She says, "As clusters vary in teacher professional development needs and priorities, and the Master Teacher has his/her own area of strength, there is no fixed job description like there is for teachers. Among my Master Teacher colleagues, we can be using very different strategies as long as these serve the broad goals of teacher development." Asked what inspired her to become a master teacher, she answered candidly, "It's not so much what but who actually. I had bosses who really cared about my professional development and helped me realise that my experience and interest in designing and delivering adult learning programmes would match nicely with what was required of a Master Teacher." Unlike most Master Teachers, who usually start out as classroom teachers and work their way up to the role, Mrs Lee's route was somewhat unconventional. She was on the leadership track as a HOD at Outram Institute, overseeing General Paper and Literature. She then joined the Education Technology Division (ETD) and became an IT trainer to English Language teachers for three years, then as a Senior Head at the Professional Development and Consultancy Branch.

Today, she is very happy in her role as Master Teacher attached to Blangah Rise Primary School. Apart from the fact that her learners are no longer students but teachers, the most significant difference for Mrs Lee is that "teacher development work is focused on development rather than evaluation or appraisal of teachers". She adds, "This goes a long way in helping teachers open up and ask for help without fear of being judged and ranked. This is the most fulfilling aspect of a Master Teacher's work. Another plus is no more admin work! And no more writing of policy papers although I am right in the midst of writing one albeit for something I am passionate about, which is Internet safety." To those who are keen in pursuing this track, Mrs Lee advises,

"Talk to a Master Teacher. We are most willing to assure one and all that the accreditation process is not that onerous.

As long as you have a clear vision of how you can contribute at the cluster level and make a difference to teaching practices and teacher morale, the paperwork is a non-issue, and can even be enjoyable!"

17

Taking Care of Teachers

For Pasir Ris Primary School (PRPS) and Anderson Junior College (AJC) the well-being of their teachers is a priority. Valuing work-life balance at PRPS has resulted in a unique family-oriented school culture, while AJC's unique Structured Mentorship Programme (SMP) ensures that for a beginning teacher, help and support is always at hand. As a testament to their success, both schools are Best Practices Award (BPA) winners ­­ PRPS in 2005 and AJC in 2006.

Pasir Ris Primary ­­ It's all in the Family

Pasir Ris Primary (PRPS) believes that teachers who are well taken care of will put in their best in their work, and bring out the best in their pupils. As Mr Feisal Baobed, HOD of Staff Management at PRPS puts it, "Quality staff results in effective delivery." In ensuring the well-being of their teachers, the school designs pro-family staff policies. These include flexible work hours and special arrangements for parents of young children. In fact, Principal Justin Pierre observes aloud that some "80% of our staff have kids who are students here!" Something PRPS does, which contributes to the school's unique family-friendly environment, is its "staff wish list". Teachers add to this wish list their requests for particular levels, sessions, subjects, CCAs and even new areas of work and contributions. Mr Shahizan Ahmad, HOD of PE and CCA explains, "I handle staff well-being and these wish lists are passed to us before time-tabling is done. Some teachers with younger children may prefer earlier sessions so they can spend evenings with the family. Some request CCAs on particular days. The lines between family and work are not so distinct here, as we bring our children to school events and they make friends."

Family Matters

For many teachers like Mr Baobed, being around for his family is a priority. Teaching in the morning session, he likes having flexible working hours, as his daughter Aliah is in the afternoon session. "I straddle both sessions as I like to be around when she's in school." Teachers at PRPS know that the school will take their medical conditions and additional responsibilities into account. HOD of Science Madam Jalene Lim, who has three children in the school, recalls how she felt when she found herself pregnant again, after returning to school half a year after she had her second child. "I was worried about how my Principal and colleagues would react, there I was pregnant again and someone would have to cover my duties again!" she laughs. Her worries proved unfounded, as her then Principal congratulated her, and informed the staff that she would need help. Not only was Madam Lim touched by the incredible support from her colleagues, she received "the ultimate reassurance" when she was informed that "your baby is a future client of the school!" Other uplifting stories of support abound. Madam Audra Cardoza, Subject Head for Student Development, who currently has a son in Primary 6, was most touched by the school's concern for staff family welfare when her husband had to undergo surgery in 1999. "I thought I couldn't be with him by the time my day in school ended but my Principal and Vice Principal then arranged for time off so I wouldn't have to actually take leave to visit my husband."

At Pasir Ris Primary, family comes first! For staff and teachers whose children are also pupils at the school, they are assured that their children are well looked after and cared for by colleagues and friends.

18

well-being

Anderson JC ­­ Guiding Lights

In this climate of teamwork, the teachers feel a sense of ownership and that drives us.

Mr Feisal Baobed, HOD of Staff Management at Pasir Ris Primary

A mentorship programme takes care of the well-being of teachers at Anderson Junior College (AJC), and teachers are glad for it because the support they receive comes close and personal. Within two weeks of being posted to the school, a Beginning Teacher (BT) would undergo an intensive induction programme. Over the past three years, the Structured Mentorship Programme (SMP) has helped both new and senior teachers in a myriad of ways.

Care and Concern

Taking time for open communication helps. Madam Jayanthi Retnam, HOD of English Language, observes, "We share our teaching practices, any ideas that have worked." Madam Lim echoes her sentiments, "Between us, we often trade concerns about teaching, student well-being and some projects that we're undertaking. We're not afraid to seek help from the senior teachers here." But the sharing is not confined to just professional issues. Sometimes, they cross over to family concerns too. Madam Retnam explains, "With the open communication culture, we're not afraid to put forward family situations and concerns, or be thought of as one who can't perform. As a working mother, I feel assured that my child is `looked after' by my colleagues, even the non-teaching staff know who our children are."

Ms Vanessa Yiak (left) is encouraged by the sharing culture at Anderson Junior College. As a beginning teacher, she appreciates the feedback and advice from mentor teacher Mrs Tan Yin Yee (right) on teaching techniques, and learns from Mrs Tan's experiences in the classroom.

Mentor Guidance and Feedback

Vice Principal Mrs Tay Cheng Fun explains, "In our open classroom concept, any teacher can be observed by their peers within the same subject or from another level or faculty." With a focus on classroom teaching and management, AJC's mentoring programme arranges for senior teachers to observe the beginning teachers' lessons regularly. Pre- and post-observation meetings between mentors and beginning teachers serve to derive maximum benefit. The Mentors of AJC guide BTs through marking schemes, key concepts of the subjects and even possible problems that may arise within a particular topic. They're chosen by experience and their ability to guide, although some can have three or four years of experience. Economics teacher Ms Vanessa Yiak who was a BT last year credits her Mentor Mrs Tan Yin Yee with her confidence in the classroom. "I really appreciate the sharing culture here, I feel more confident in classes and can bring up any problems or concerns I may have." Ms Yiak reveals that the AJC teachers share teaching techniques, good and bad experiences within the classrooms and even valuable resources.

In Sync with School Policies

Mr Ahmad explains why PRPS teachers share ideas and concerns freely, "We've built a culture where open communication has been in place for many years. We empower leadership skills within our teachers through ground-up initiatives." Mr Baobed continues, "In this climate of teamwork, the teachers feel a sense of ownership and that drives us." Madam Lim shares one final anecdote, "My colleagues are aware that I have a P6 son and we've rescheduled our time so I can concentrate on his exams during Term 3 and I'll take over and `work more' in Term 4. Yes, we are genuinely happy here: both students and teachers. We can't get enough of each other, I even go on holidays with my colleagues!"

19

well-being

Young teachers Mr Loh Chin Hui (extreme right) and Ms Vanessa Yiak (2nd from right) are appreciative of the close personal attention, guidance and support from teacher mentors like Ms Ma Jialin (extreme left) and Mrs Tan Yin Yee (2nd from left).

Constructive Criticisms

Another BT, Mr Loh Chih Hui has admitted that through his observations of classes conducted by peers and senior teachers, he's learnt to manage discussions within his own classes. "I saw a formal class debate once and I learnt how I can manage such intense discussions and how to control the flow of information and ideas. When we have inter-subject class observations, I find this equips us with different perspectives and viewpoints of other disciplines. This brings quality to the information I deliver. For example, I can show students how Science has influenced History." Ms Ma Jialin elaborates on how teachers within the same subjects share feedback on their classes or pedagogies. "Somehow, many of us now dare to try out teaching strategies that others have told us work. Also, we're not afraid of offending each other and we find the feedback from our peers and seniors to be constructive. I was once told that my delivery should be catered more to learners of varying levels and that was helpful." She explains that with the SMP, BTs are required to do a reflection of what they've learnt. She recalls how she was impressed with the students' initiative when watching another teacher's Maths lesson. "They went up to the board and shared their answers, how they realised which methods to use, etc. I felt motivated with this group learning format and I planned to do this with my class."

Mentor Mrs Tan agrees, "It's important that our BTs don't see us judging them right from the start. I scheduled weekly sessions with Ms Yiak to go through her lesson plans, feedback on areas she can do better in. Through this, we gain trust with each other. Of course, we each also gain a friend!"

Welfare Enhanced

As part of the GROW package, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced the need for further support for our teachers. On top of identifying and recognising schools which implement practices that promote work-life harmony, the Part-Time Teaching Scheme (PTTS) has also been improved. The PTTS, first introduced in 2000, has been enhanced so more teachers can apply for flexible work arrangements. Specifically, both female and male married officers with children under the age of 12 are now eligible for PTTS. This helps teachers to achieve a better balance between career and family needs. Additional resources support, such as Full-Time School Counsellors, Special Needs Officers (SNO) and Co-Curricular Programme Executives (CCPE) also help to alleviate the teacher's workload, and free up more time for teachers to devote to family commitments.

Encouragement all the Way

All these AJC teachers agree on one prevailing factor: that the SMP is help for a new teacher when it is needed most ­­ ie within the first few months in a new school. VP Mrs Tay asserts that throughout their observations by supervisors or peers, BTs are encouraged rather than pressured. "Sometimes there may be a clarity issue during lesson delivery; we give them feedback after each lesson. There is on-going help so they feel reassured and more comfortable in front of a class."

20

english language curriculum review

Preparing Teachers for Changes in English Language Teaching

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has accepted the Training our Teachers key recommendations There will be two of the English Language enhancements to teacher training. Curriculum and Pedagogy A/P Lubna Alsagoff Review Committee to make (pictured), in consultation some marked changes in with the faculty EL teaching and learning. of the English Language and Literature How are teachers being Academic Group of the National Institute of Education breaks them down: "The first prepared for this?

A Curriculum for the Singapore Context

Recognising the different home language backgrounds, learning needs and interests of our students, the Committee has recommended a rigorous yet flexible new curriculum. One of the main areas the review committee examined was the training and development of our teachers, who are key to delivering the lessons that will make a difference. For a more detailed read on the aims and recommendations based on Primary, Secondary and Pre-University levels, look out for the November 06 Contact Online article, available at www.moe.gov.sg/ corporate/contactonline/2006/issue15 from 16 Nov 06. are the language enhancement courses which are designed to help student teachers to develop better linguistic abilities in speaking, listening, and writing. "Secondly, content enhancement courses will equip trainee teachers who lack the requisite content in the study of English language with stronger foundations in the subject," continues Ms Alsagoff.

HOD of EL at Canberra Pri Ms Shakila Vasu (in yellow top), believes that training is essential to an EL teacher's development. To this end, her school has started an EL exchange programme to raise teachers' proficiency in teaching EL. Last year, Canberra Pri hosted a TWA, and next year, some teachers will learn best practices from Australia and New Zealand schools.

Teachers have sat for a grammar diagnostic test and based on their results, "have been slated to do either the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or Certificate of Advanced English (CAE), starting early next year." Schools like Canberra have already begun EL exchange programmes: last year, it hosted a Teachers Work Attachment for cluster schools and later this year, Ms Vasu will be conducting EL courses for the undergraduates at the Hanoi University of Technology for two weeks. Next year, some of the school's EL teachers will have the opportunity to `attend' selected schools in Australia and New Zealand to study their exemplary practices in EL teaching and learning. Madam Nurfaizah Tubi (pictured), an EL teacher at Bishan Park Secondary, would definitely be interested in going on a teacherexchange at such schools. "This would give me the opportunity to see and hear how native speakers use language to communicate and also find out how language is taught there and weigh its relevance in our context and hopefully adopt some good practices."

"We will address the key areas of language study that inform language teaching and language learning," she explains further. Strongly in focus will be areas in the study of grammar and text. Other areas of concern are the study of language development, curriculum evaluation and materials development. Within many schools, training is a salient part of any EL teacher's development. Ms Shakila Vasu, HOD of EL at Canberra Primary School reveals, "In collaboration with the British Council, our school is working on raising our teachers' proficiency in EL."

21

Behind Every Teacher

While some students may face learning difficulties, others may simply need a listening ear. With the additional help provided by a Full-Time School Counsellor (FTSC) or a Special Needs Officer (SNO) to help manage the counselling and special educational needs of their students, schools can ensure that there is adequate help to back up the work each teacher does.

To enable in-service teachers to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of special needs of diverse learners, NIE provides a training package which comprises three modules (total 108 hours) to be completed over 18 months.

Teachers Trained in Special Needs (TSNs)

Other than appreciating this special resource, teachers who have undergone the National Institute of Education's (NIE) training programme have noted how their awareness and understanding of special needs have increased. The training programme aims to provide in-service training for 10% of teaching staff in all mainstream primary and secondary schools by the year 2010. It comprises three modules (108 hours) delivered over one and a half years, and provides the teachers with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the special needs of diverse learners. On completing the course, the teachers will be awarded a Certificate in Special Needs Support from NIE. To date, a total of 104 teachers have completed the Phase 1 TSN course.

Students facing difficulties in learning can expect help from their schools. In 2005, the Support for Special Needs (SSN) Initiative was set up to enhance support for pupils with special needs in mainstream schools. The enhanced support is two-pronged: · Deploying Special Needs Officers (SNOs) to selected resource schools to provide dedicated support for pupils with Dyslexia and mild Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). · Enabling a core of mainstream teachers trained in Special Needs (TSNs) to support pupils with mild disabilities in their schools.

Bringing Training Back

Trained TSNs provide individualised support to pupils with special needs in their classes, including monitoring and evaluating these pupils' progress. They also collaborate with other school staff (namely SNOs, Learning Support Co-ordinators, Part-time/Full-Time School Counsellors and Teacher Counsellors) as well as external agencies, and assist with the transition of these pupils and share strategies and resources with teachers and parents.

Here are what some TSNs said about their training: The course provided me with an understanding and awareness of the difficulties and challenges faced by students with learning difficulties.

Mr Stephen Tan, Full-Time School Counsellor, Holy Innocents' High School

Special Needs Officers

There are currently 37 fully-trained SNOs out in full force in schools, to enable teachers to better manage students that require more support in their learning. The plan is to increase this number of SNOs to 236 by 2010. By then, we will have 140 trained SNOs in our primary schools and 96 SNOs in 32 designated secondary schools. They form a valuable resource as they help students with learning disabilities like dyslexia and ASD integrate better in their school programmes. The SNOs do not just complement the support classroom teachers provide to students with special needs. They also provide in-class support, small group specialised remediation work, small group skills training and assist with related administrative duties.

22

This TSN course is good and long overdue...I think it has been very useful in raising awareness as well as teaching us how to cope with the different disabilities.

Ms June Dieu, Subject Head (PCCG), St. Hilda's Primary School

well-being

When I show empathy to a student, he feels that I want to understand and can sense his feelings.

Madam Chong Min Hui, FTSC at Deyi Secondary School, on how powerful acceptance can be in turning students around

In Counsel ­­ The Full-Time School Counsellor

The Full-Time School Counsellor (FTSC) has been critical in setting up the framework on counselling in schools. Not only does an FTSC help with a teacher-counsellor's work, all subject teachers benefit from having the FTSC's help in setting up a counselling service in consultation with the school management. Madam Chong Min Hui, an FTSC with Deyi Secondary, oversees the workflow of the counselling team and also works with "external agencies, such as the family service centre and Child Guidance Clinic."

A Problem Shared

Being an FTSC, Madam Chong appreciates the recognition for her work. "Students have shared with me that they felt better at the end of one or a few counselling sessions. Their emotional burdens are lifted and others say they've gained clarity in their thoughts, and thus are in a better position to explore issues or to make wise decisions." Students are not the only ones who become more aware of the power of sharing. "Many parents are appreciative when I become a bridge between them and their children," states Madam Chong. In addition, Madam Chong also facilitates conferences between parents and child when both parties are willing.

In her role as an FTSC at Deyi Sec, Madam Chong Min Hui makes it a point to talk to students so that she can get to know them better and counsel them.

A Timely Help

Mrs Grace Chua, Principal of Deyi Secondary, appreciates the timely intervention that an FTSC has provided. "She attends to walk-in cases as well as referrals from teachers during and after curriculum hours," she explains. "In the past, teacher counsellors could only attend to cases after school or during their free periods. An FTSC can focus on and give due attention to students in need." In Deyi Secondary, the FTSC sets up the structure for further follow up by teachers. As Mrs Chua explains, "She supports teachers in imparting values, provides group therapy and timely advice and tips for both students and teachers in handling cases." When mediation is required, the counsellor assists the form teachers and students with parents and/or other parties involved. Needless to say, this has reduced the workload on Form Teachers and Discipline Masters. Materials for Deyi Secondary's Pastoral Care and Career Guidance (PCCG) lessons are now being jointly developed by the FTSC, who helps in career guidance, together with the Heads of Department (HOD) and Subject Head of Student Welfare.

The Power of Acceptance

Students who have committed mistakes often feel anxious over parents' or teachers' reactions. Madam Chong reflects, "When I show empathy to a student, he feels that I want to understand and can sense his feelings. I express through my verbal and non-verbal actions that I accept a student no matter what his actions, thoughts and feelings are. Students do not feel judged and feel free to share and explore his thoughts and feelings." Subsequently, the students learn to pick up the courage to face the consequences of their actions.

23

GROW Components

The enhancements of the GROW package to be rolled out over the next year are summarised below.

Trivia Time

World's Largest School

In 1998, Rizal High School in Pasig, Manila, Philippines, had an enrolment of 16,458 regular students. Numbers have significantly declined since then.

Here are some interesting trivia and lesser-known facts from the world of education. Oldest Teacher

At 102 years old when she finally retired, Albina Cruces holds the record of being the world's oldest teacher. A teacher since 1947, she founded the Eduardo Novoa Elementary School in Portales, Mexico, and if not for a weak hip, she would probably have continued teaching.

Lowest Teacher-to-Pupil Ratio

San Marino, the third smallest nation in Europe, has the lowest pupil to teacher ratio -- a mere 5.5 pupils per teacher.

Most Durable Teacher

The honour goes to La Maestra Chuca, who taught in Caracas, Venezuela, for 81 years. In 1911, at the age of 12, she and her two sisters started a school. After marrying in 1942, she ran her own school from her home in Caracas before retiring from active teaching at the age of 93.

Sources: Guiness Book of Records, UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Global Movement for Children website

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