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Beyond classroom learning

WHEN Ms Amanda Sarah Chin was in her final year at Raffles Girls’ School, she did not just study the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) syllabus. She had a go at delving into forensic science, which she loved. “My science teacher encouraged my love of science beyond the PSLE syllabus — or rather, my obsession with the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television show — by creating CSI scenarios for me to solve,” she recalls. The way her teacher nurtured her intellectual curiosity and love of learning has inspired Ms Chin to do likewise when she becomes a full-time teacher. She will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Education in July next year from the National Institute of Education (NIE), an institute of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Ms Chin, 21, who is in the NTU-NIE Teaching Scholars Programme, says she has always appreciated teachers who are generous “with giving students time unrelated to academics, whether in lessons or conversations”, as well as those who show “kindness, patience, authenticity and humour”. “Whatever it is, it always goes back to the heart and whether a teacher cares for his students,” adds the former Raffles Institution student. In kindergarten, she briefly expressed her desire to be a teacher and then “a teacher of teachers” — not to mention author, cashier and hairdresser, among many other jobs. She seriously returned to the thought of becoming a teacher only when she was in the second year of junior college. “I couldn’t imagine myself reading anything else other than English literature. It also occurred to me how meaningful education is, as an educator has the power and potential to benefit so many lives,” says Ms Chin. Her Academic Subject 1, which is similar to a major, is English literature, so she is well on track to achieving her goal of marrying both of her interests. She says: “I will be teaching English literature and English language. My dream subjects to teach are Film Studies and Cultural Studies, neither of which is offered in secondary schools. “I do hope that more parts of these subjects will be included in our curriculum in the future.”

Pursuing other interests

Ms Chin loves the films of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai and American film-maker Wes Anderson. She also loves reading, with Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden being two of her favourite titles. Yet, her interests extend far beyond these creative fields. She also plays table tennis and pursues photography and has organised a photography workshop and day of appreciation for Bangladeshi migrant workers. Ms Chin feels students should have a fulfilling life outside their studies, too. She says: “Just as it would be miserable for us to live only for our jobs, a student’s life isn’t only about studying. “Students are first and foremost human beings with their own interests and issues. We worry about who a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” On her own passions, she says: “I really love whatever it is I do, so reading literature, for instance, doesn’t feel like work. When I feel too stretched, I rollerblade, do Pilates or watch films.”

Deep impression

At NIE, Ms Chin got to learn about the various education systems in other countries when she went on teaching stints to Zurich in Switzerland and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Her experience in Zurich, especially, left a deep impression on her — she would love to be given the chance to know her students more thoroughly, like how Swiss teachers know theirs. “Secondary school teachers there teach three to four subjects each, often staying with the same class for three years. “They spend more time than we do with their classes, each of which comprise 13 to 24 students, and consequently get to know each student a lot better,” she says. She feels that this was perhaps why many of the Swiss teachers hardly raised their voices in class. Instead, they tapped on their rapport with the students, rationalised or used non-verbal cues to manage them. Ms Chin also learnt about how to deal with unruly behaviour in local schools. While on attachment at Spectra Secondary School, she recalls being suitably impressed by how a teacher reacted — or rather, did not react — when a group of students taunted her. Ms Chin was surprised that the teacher did not scold them. Instead, she turned the episode into a teaching opportunity by explaining to a student with anger management issues that there is no need to respond to something that one does not like. Just by being in control of her own reaction then, the teacher presented a perfect example for her students to emulate. “This was one way she was a living example for her students,” she says.