Monday, September 3, 2012

A tribute to my sons' teachers in 2012

As we celebrate Teacher's Day 2012 I told myself I have to write something about the teachers who have been there to guide and mentor my children, in recognition of their hard work and in appreciation of the effort they put in to their profession.

I have posted Teacher's Day greetings on Facebook through our parent volunteer group. I have also posted a pre-blog greeting to the teachers in my FB wall. I have sent personal text/email/skype messages (and still sending up to now) to each and every one of my sons' teachers. It was an emotional one for me because I am really grateful for all the things they have done - not only as teachers, but as second parents, to my boys.

As mentioned in my wall, these teachers truly are the epitome of caring, devoted, reliable, inspiring, and successful teachers students and parents are hoping for.

To Kelvin's teachers:
  • Mdm Tay Chor Lin (form and Math teacher) 
    • she was Kelvin's teacher in P1, P5 and P6 so I can safely say that she has somehow seen Kelvin's growth and development through the years. When Kelvin was in P1, I was very excited for him to experience life in primary school and I hoped for a good teacher to walk him through the first year of formal education. If my memory serves me right, Mdm Tay (Miss Tay back then) was quite a new teacher. My idea of a good teacher was someone who can inspire students, who can teach well not only academics but good values as well, someone who can communicate to the parents comfortably. And she did not disappoint. She was very approachable and she made sure that her students (all boys in this case) did their work neatly every time. I knew then that Kelvin was in good hands. 
    • Four years after, when I found out that she was going to be Kelvin's form teacher again in P5 and in P6, I was confident that Kelvin, in these 2 delicate years in primary, will again be in caring hands. Mdm Tay showed me in several occasions that she really cares about her students. She knows them well, not only in academics but also their behaviors/attitudes. 
    • she is able to communicate what she observes about her students in the classroom to parents so that we can work hand-in-hand to help our children do better in school.
    • I remember what she said in the last meeting during P5 that it's not really just about academics but what values we can instill in our boys. And I do agree with her on that. I'm glad she is able to see the good in the boys and enhance that for them to become better students and have good values.
    • I appreciate the fact that we can reach her whenever we have questions - whether it's a weekday or a weekend, and even during holidays! That simply shows that she really makes time for her students, even if she has to sacrifice a few minutes of her supposed free time. That to me is dedication. 
  • Mdm Uma (English teacher) 
    • I can't stress enough how lucky my son's class is when I found out that they will be handled by the head of the English department during the P5 and P6 years. I knew it was going to be such a challenge for Kelvin because the teacher will definitely have big expectations and stricter rules. It can also be quite intimidating knowing I will be talking to the head of the department whenever it's results day every term or so. But she, like Mdm Tay, was very friendly. 
    • She assured me that if there were any questions or concerns regarding Kelvin, I can just call or sms her. She even made time to meet with me during one of the terms to personally explain to me Kelvin's progress and how we can help each other guide Kelvin to do better in the subject. 
    • She also lets me know whenever there is a positive development in Kelvin like the time when he got perfect in his prelims orals. She saw me during my duty at the Lego room and stopped for a while to share the good news. That is a wonderful gesture coming from a teacher. Even though she knew Kelvin will tell me when he gets home, she made it a point to personally tell me, somehow to reassure me that we are going on the right track in helping Kelvin. It inspired me, and motivated Kelvin to do well knowing that his teacher was proud of his achievements.
    • She leads by example. By that I mean she speaks well and with that she also expects better things from her students.
  • Ms Han (Science teacher) 
    • to have an award-winning teacher can be a pressure for the students to do well, but Ms Han creates a very positive atmosphere in the classroom  (and even outside the classroom) wherein she motivates her students to ask her any scientific questions they can think of. 
    • Like Mdm Uma and Mdm Tay, she also gave her personal number to the students, as well as the parents, so she can be reached anytime if there are any concerns or questions. Sometimes the boys even sms her with questions not related to the topics they are discussing but she still replies to their queries because she believes this will enable them to think further. 
    • She gains the students' trust  and I believe they learn better that way. 
    • She communicates to the parents what the weak areas are and gives suggestions as to how we can help to improve our children's performance. She even calls parents who are not able to attend meetings to update them on their child's development. She never puts the students down even if their marks fall but lifts their spirits up by telling them that they can do better with a little help. She really is devoted to having her students learn and enjoy learning Science.
  • Mdm Lee Teck Lan (Kelvin's Chinese teacher in P5)
    • the first thing I liked about Mdm Lee is that she is able to speak good English (goodbye to language barrier). This meant I can communicate my concerns to her better and she can respond in a way that I can clearly understand.
    • She explains Kelvin's status in school well. She tells me when there are both good and not-so-good results as well as behaviors in class. She makes sure I know I we can both talk to Kelvin if there are any behaviors that need to be corrected.
    • The one thing that really impressed me the most was when the time came that Kelvin's MT marks were quite low. I was at a dilemma whether to have him go to PSLE with his MT or to apply for MT in lieu at the last minute. I asked for her suggestion as to what to do in Kelvin's case. She deliberately looked for Kelvin's MT teachers from P1 to P4, talked to them about Kelvin's situation and asked for their suggestions as to what the better options are. She met with me afterwards, presented to me the options and came up with the advice of continuing MT until PSLE because she knows, based on an overall assessment from his previous teachers, that Kelvin can pass and do better. She explained to me in detail what MT in PSLE would be like and how he could score better, which parts he should focus on, etc. She also mentioned that the option of taking MT in lieu may not work to his advantage in secondary as he will not have enough knowledge by that time when everyone else taking the subject will have studied the language in depth as compared to him. I am impressed at how she was able to make time to approach Kelvin's previous MT teachers and prepare an analysis of what path is best for us to take. For this I am really grateful. 
To Ira's teacher:
  • Mr Thiru (form, Math, Social Studies and English teacher)
    • fierce as he is known to his students, but I believe at some point teachers do have to be fierce especially if they are handling a class of 30 EXTREMELY active boys. The boys need to know who is in-charge in class.
    • putting his fierce nature aside, I commend Mr Thiru for being able to handle a class like P2-Service. He is able to get their attention and have them learn something at the end of the day. How do I know this? One time, I asked Ira what the new topic in Math was. He explained it to me in a very clear manner. I was impressed. That meant he was listening and Mr Thiru explained the subject well in class. 
    • I saw how patient he was with the boys and he takes their active nature positively saying they are just full of energy but they are not the naughty types. It's reassuring to know that he sees the good in his students.
  • Ms Arshi (French Faster, tuition teacher)
    • a very patient teacher
    • she knows how to motivate Ira even when he is not a very good mood (sessions are after-school and sometimes he is so sleepy)
    • she compliments every little achievement and improvement which motivates Ira to do well
    • she is bubbly and approachable

These are only some of the teachers I have come to know in and out of Montfort Junior School.   There are still many more and I could go on and on about their qualities and my experiences working with them. That may yet be in another blog.

Being a parent volunteer opened my eyes as to what a teacher does and experiences in class and in school activities. It made me appreciate them more because I am more aware of what really happens in school. 

It's not easy being a teacher. But they chose to be one and they are doing very well at it.

Sometimes we only think of teachers if we have some complains or questions about our children. I think sometimes we demand too much from them maybe because we don't really know how much work they are doing.  We complain about not getting the exam paper results right away, not taking into consideration that they have to go through 30+ papers. Some parents talk to teachers only to ask about what the teachers are doing to help their children improve, without asking what they can do to help. And so on, and so forth. 

I say we, as parents, should treat teachers as partners in moulding our children - to become educated people with good values. Let us not leave the responsibility of doing this to the teachers alone. They are already doing a big part on our children's lives.

There are many other teachers that deserve our gratitude, and I say we must let them know. That is the least we could do to show our appreciation for all their hard work. For the difference that they make in our children's lives.

I read an article online ( and would like to share it with you. 

"What makes a great teacher? Teaching is one of the most complicated jobs today. It demands broad knowledge of subject matter, curriculum, and standards; enthusiasm, a caring attitude, and a love of learning; knowledge of discipline and classroom management techniques; and a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people. With all these qualities required, it's no wonder that it's hard to find great teachers."

  • Great teachers set high expectations for all students. They expect that all students can and will achieve in their classroom, and they don't give up on underachievers.
  • Great teachers have clear, written-out objectives.Effective teachers have lesson plans that give students a clear idea of what they will be learning, what the assignments are and what the grading policy is. Assignments have learning goals and give students ample opportunity to practice new skills. The teacher is consistent in grading and returns work in a timely manner.
  • Great teachers are prepared and organized. They are in their classrooms early and ready to teach. They present lessons in a clear and structured way. Their classrooms are organized in such a way as to minimize distractions.
  • Great teachers engage students and get them to look at issues in a variety of ways. Effective teachers use facts as a starting point, not an end point; they ask "why" questions, look at all sides and encourage students to predict what will happen next. They ask questions frequently to make sure students are following along. They try to engage the whole class, and they don't allow a few students to dominate the class. They keep students motivated with varied, lively approaches.
  • Great teachers form strong relationships with their students and show that they care about them as people. Great teachers are warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. Teachers with these qualities are known to stay after school and make themselves available to students and parents who need them. They are involved in school-wide committees and activities, and they demonstrate a commitment to the school.
  • Great teachers are masters of their subject matter.They exhibit expertise in the subjects they are teaching and spend time continuing to gain new knowledge in their field. They present material in an enthusiastic manner and instill a hunger in their students to learn more on their own.
  • Great teachers communicate frequently with parents.They reach parents through conferences and frequent written reports home. They don't hesitate to pick up the telephone to call a parent if they are concerned about a student.
I'm really very grateful that my sons are under the care of their teachers. They exemplify the characteristics of great teachers. Let us continue to support such teachers so that they will continue to do their part in bringing out the best in our children.

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