Meet the Form Class!

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All the talk about our deployment in 2016 is speculative and at best tentative, although it would not be far from the truth to say it is likely I will not be teaching them next year.

It is no secret that teachers have our ‘favourite’ ‘best fit’ classes; I am truly blessed that other than my very first form class in 2012, I had the chance to enjoy that kind of camaraderie and rapport with this class of munchkins who have won me so many times over this year with their awesomeness.

  1. When I shared with them the importance of sincerely showing appreciation to others and made them write ‘thank you’ notes to all their subject teachers, they happily obliged – some of those personal thank you messages so honest and thoughtful.

    (So many teachers were immensely touched when they received the handwritten thank-you notes. Hope they keep encouraging others to become better versions of ourselves!) 

  2. All 43 of them showed up – properly attired and on time – on the last day of school.
  3. All 43 of them showed up on time for the entire duration of their examinations. (I was hugely impressed also because of the haze.)
  4. Three-quarters of the class brought along gifts (wrapped!) under $5 so we could have our year-end gift exchange! :) I exchanged a deco-tape roller with a fragrance incense, a choc bar and some pens.
  5. They unanimously agreed to stay behind for pizza when the pizza could only be delivered an hour later! (Impressed by their class spirit, not their desire for free food.)
  6. The student representatives of the class helmed and prepared their service learning presentation entirely on their own – videos, PPT slides, reflections, Q&A. We teachers only gave them the guiding questions and criteria, and some teenyweeny advice. This really won me over – took a huge load off my chest, especially when some other classes had roles reversed when teachers prepared everything (right down to the script) for the students.
  7. The student groups really took to the children at PCF – and learned from working with the teachers there – perhaps through some challenging tough ways. They may not have impressed PCF completely, but I could see them grow as individuals as they challenged themselves to break out of their comfort zone.
  8. They were mighty disappointed because they did not have time for the boomnet activity at the level camp because we had to take the first ferry back. But after the initial disappointment (“Really? Couldn’t we just try? Maybe we could go now? What if…?”) they accepted it graciously and made the most out of the flying fox pool, just hanging out as a class and playing in the water.
  9. For their VIA project, the kids went to a little village in Bintan and helped to tile the floors with bricks for the village school. Seeing the way they all (yes, even the princesses) got down to work and interacted and played with the children made me proud.
  10. The class committee spearheaded the class tee-shirt orders – sourced and liased with the vendor, gathered the names of the students, feedback and a host of possible tee-shirt designs (although they all looked questionable at best with florals, weeds and skulls and I ended up helping with the design.).
  11. They are receptive to feedback. If you reason with them and set clear but realistic goals, there will almost always be visible improvement – be it about using their handphones, being on time for school, greeting a teacher properly, arranging the furniture neatly etc.
  12. They are hungry to learn. Some boys automatically started on their corrections on their end-of-year exam paper, and this was the dialogue it triggered:

    Me: Wow, are you doing corrections? I need to run through the rest of the questions to check for marking errors – there may not be time for that.

    Boys: You don’t want us to do corrections? Don’t you want us to improve??

    Me: Well… [to the whole class] If I print the marker’s report – it shows you the answers, and reasons why the marker accepted or did not accept some answers. You can attach that to your exam paper then and go through it later on your own. Would that be helpful? Who would be interested?

    80% of the hands shot up in the air.

  13. We won Second Place in the SG50 National Day Inter-class Competition! Some of the kids really impressed us with their sporting spirit – to dress up as  SG50 national day icons!
  14. The boys came in second place in the inter-class frisbee competition for Secondary 3s. (You should have seen them – they light up and transform on the field.) Then they offered up their extra medals to us teachers on Teachers’ Day. The girls came in a close third too!
  15. We won the Best Class Award for the Normal Academic stream in our school! :D This takes into consideration their attendance, results, achievements, attitude etc.

Thank you, 3T1, for giving much and striving hard this year. :)

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The First Does Make A Difference

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Three years ago I met a class of students who over the next two years gave me a whole lot of joy, heartache and angst. They grew frustrated and cynical as they slowly discovered the inefficiencies and handicaps of the system they were a part of. They carried the burdens from home and outside of school into the classroom and struggled with meeting expectations of their parents their teachers and their own. God gave me the huge blessing of seeing them through four years of their education in school in the first four years of my teaching profession, and I cannot describe how grateful I am for being able to be a part of that.

At our cross-country yesterday, a number of them participated in the competitive run representing their classes. I got a pleasant shock as i saw them standing in line during the prize presentation ceremony. They won themselves medals and their participation even won their class the best class in the level – and a trophy.

I think the best part was seeing them also proud of their accomplishments. They even relented and took a photo with me! I guess the best moments of being a teacher are when your own students taste the joy of their own achievements.

The feeling of pride is heightened for me as their form teacher. It is hard to describe but they always say the first form class you have feels different, and it does. The students will always have a special place in your heart. For a second time yesterday, I felt that I might just miss these kids to tears when they leave at the end of the year. :'(

Giving Thanks for 2013

And with a blink of an eye, the academic year 2013 has come to a close. There are still school camps, competitions, projects and supplementary lessons that require students to come to school, but for the next two months, I do not need to stand before 40 students, being conscious of my every word and action, and always reflective and aware of how I can persuade, inspire, perform, teach, and discipline children.

This year has been a greater struggle that the year(s) before. I find myself more critical and cynical of the school management, the education system, and the policies and ‘codes of conduct’ that prescribe our actions and behaviour, and more significantly, our attitudes. Being critical is good, but cynicism is something that we would all want to get rid of because it causes you to shrivel up inside dry.

I am also definitely trying to get a firm grip on my spiritual life. Many people would say it is impossible to effect change or fight the system, or achieve a healthy work-life balance yada yada, but I refuse to give in to that belief because we are promised that “[we] can do all things through Christ who gives [us] strength”, and because our Lord has not failed us in his promises, I can not betray Him like that and be someone “of little faith”.

But God is good. And for all the distraught and heartache this year, my form class has been a dear. There is a sense of “homecoming” when I walk into that classroom, and when you see how some of them have grown or matured throughout the year, it certainly warms your heart. We had a mini class celebration with certificates, awards and prizes, birthday presents and personalised cards, as well as a birthday cake. A group of students presented Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” (which I failed to record, apart from the last 3 seconds when the class was clapping for them). The talent show was definitely a lot more meaningful than the Talent Show at the level meeting.

My co-form and I realised that our class is a reflection of us, their form teachers. None of us are overtly affectionate and we hardly express our affection and gratitude openly. It has been an entire year, but other than our class photographs, we did not rush to have other class photographs taken. Even when my class chairperson (who I demoted three weeks ago) said that he would like us to be his form teachers next year, he had to do so with a certain swagger, and punctuate it with a, “I really mean it! From the bottom of my heart!” and even then, my co-form and I did not quite know how to react to that… rather unadulteratedly blunt and sweet expression of affection.

Then I realised that even when my class does not overtly show their appreciation or love through words or gifts or cheers, they do so through other means. Some students practised for hours and sang “I’m Yours”, some students say “hi” each time you walk past the class, some students do their part by cleaning the class, others change into the class tee-shirt during class celebrations, others stand around and offer you assistance when you need help to carry things. Some wait until everyone has left the classroom before they approach you for a photograph.

And being able to work with these children to see them develop and grow this year, has made me really excited to see them grow and mature more next year. If we see with our hearts and not just with our sight, we might just be able to realise how beautiful and pleasant the world actually is. How full of love the world might be, in all its various forms and strands.

And with this, I can only thank my God for my class of students who allowed me  a glimpse of the childlike to see the good in the world.