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She aspires to create a classroom where mistakes are welcomed
MOE Teaching Scholarship recipient Seah Xing Hui
When she becomes a teacher after graduation, Ms Seah Xing Hui aims to cultivate a supportive and safe learning environment where her students will feel free to learn without fearing ridicule. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

MOE scholar wants to encourage children to step out of their comfort zone and not be afraid to take chances for fear of failure

For Ms Seah Xing Hui, the classroom door symbolises more than just a physical entry; it marks a boundary where judgement is left outside. 

A space where every student feels comfortable and accepted – that is her vision for a safe classroom environment which will encourage learning and personal growth. In such a place, students are less likely to fear making mistakes or being ridiculed, explains the 22-year-old.

Till today, she still remembers a primary school teacher making her stand in class as punishment for making a grammatical mistake. Having come from a Chinese-speaking background, she had struggled with English and the embarrassing incident made her feel that she was “a hopeless student”. 

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Fortunately, there were more positive encounters than bad ones. Good teachers, she recalls, would encourage her when her grades faltered. Rather than dampening her enthusiasm for learning, they instilled confidence and made her believe she could do better next time.

A shy student, she had teachers who coaxed her out of her shell, offering platforms like emceeing at school events.

Aiming for change

Such stark contrasts in her educational experiences fuelled her ambition to join the teaching profession. After completing her A levels, she joined the MOE Teaching Internship Programme where she received training and was attached to a school for nine weeks from January to March 2020. The same year, she applied for and was awarded the MOE Teaching Scholarship.

The scholarship offered opportunities such as school attachments, sponsorship for student exchange programmes and summer programmes. Ms Seah participated in the Building University Interns for Leadership Development (BUILD) programme where she interned at the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and gained exposure to other aspects of the education sector.

As part of the National Institute of Education’s Service and Leadership Training (SALT) programme, she also had the opportunity to lead a group of students to teach English, math and art in Cambodia, which also gave her invaluable insights into the diverse needs of students.

She has applied to teach in primary schools after graduation because she wants to be able to positively influence young minds at a crucial developmental stage.

“I wish to be the educator whom students are able to trust and comfortably confide in should they encounter any problems or issues,” says the final-year student who is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Education at Nanyang Technological University.

Teaching with empathy 

Reflecting on a professor’s poignant advice – “Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehaviour won’t make you angry; it will break your heart” – Ms Seah reminds herself to approach every child with love and empathy rather than judgement and criticism.

“Students come from different backgrounds and carry with them different stories. This insight has allowed me to reflect on how educators have the power to impact students,” she says. 

During her teaching assistantship in July 2022, she was assigned to shadow a student known for his disruptive behaviour during lessons. Through observant eyes and heartfelt conversations with his teacher, she found out that the boy lived with his grandmother, in an environment lacking structure and discipline.

“I wish to be the educator whom students are able to trust and comfortably confide in should they encounter any problems or issues.”

– Ms Seah Xing Hui, recipient of the MOE Teaching Scholarship

Initially perceived as mischievous, his actions were a cry for attention and understanding, she shares.

To foster a supportive and safe learning environment, she plans to focus on her students’ strengths and potential while being more sensitive to their feelings and emotions. 

Her classroom would be a place where students encourage their peers and not laugh at or mock another student. This could be done through peer group learning activities and developing their teamwork and communication skills, she adds. 

“I try to foster students’ curiosity instead of giving the answer away,” she says. “When teaching a concept, I ask many questions and have activities that guide them towards the concept so they can connect the dots for themselves.”

By moving away from traditional rote-learning methods, she wants her students to take ownership of their learning journeys as well as nurture their ability to think critically and solve problems. 

Ms Seah believes that these skills are essential for success beyond the classroom. The aim, she says, is to “build up students’ self-esteem and confidence by helping them to believe in themselves”.

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