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Why educating and counselling go hand in hand for this teacher
MOE Teaching scholarship recipient Khalid Othman
Science teacher Khalid Othman is a trusted confidant for distressed or troubled students at Changkat Changi Secondary School. PHOTO: SPH MEDIA

This MOE scholar offers guidance and a sympathetic ear to teen students going through a challenging time to ensure they feel seen and heard

Adolescence can be a phase marked by insecurity and self-doubt as teenagers face life changes, heartbreak and strained relationships. In those trying times, youngsters may yearn for someone to confide in without being judged. 

For students at Changkat Changi Secondary School, that person is science teacher Khalid Othman.

The 31-year-old recalls a student who came to him in distress after a bad break-up. 

“He was crying, and we ended up talking for a long time. I shared my own thoughts and experiences on relationships, and he was very appreciative that I was there to listen to him,” he says.

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Another student’s relationship with his mother was falling apart. Playing the role of a mediator, Mr Khalid made sure to hear him out first to understand his perspective. He then invited the student’s mother to school for a chat. 

Thanks to his help, the mother-son relationship mended over time. 

Mr Khalid’s ability to connect with his students stems from a genuine interest in understanding them. His singular focus on being a caring teacher is evident in their glowing testimonials and the three Caring Teacher Awards he proudly possesses, the first of which he won in 2019, just one year into his teaching career.

He sees his role as going beyond just imparting curriculum. Recognising that teenagers may face struggles that go unnoticed, Mr Khalid extends his support to the students at his school, some of whom come from low-income and broken families.

“Teachers are like second parents as we spend so much time with them,” he says. “We are the students’ role models and mentors, and we provide support way beyond just academics.”

Creating a trusting space

As a self-professed introvert, Mr Khalid admits that he began his teaching journey as a nervous novice, fresh after graduating with a joint degree in life sciences from the National University of Singapore and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States.

The recipient of the Ministry of Education (MOE) Teaching Scholarship recalls: “My first few classes as a trainee teacher were extremely nerve-racking. I would prepare for these classes days in advance and look through the material over and over. Every time I finished a lesson, I would be covered in perspiration.”

Witnessing the genuine passion of the teachers at school as well as the respect that students had for them eventually convinced him to press on.

With encouragement from his family, friends and colleagues, the pressure from teaching eased up over time. Now, Mr Khalid finds himself able to conduct lessons without worrying excessively about it and has made caring for students a priority. 

“I want to be recognised for being caring and for having an impact on students,” he shares. “Winning those three Caring Teacher Awards have been milestones in my career.” 

Mr Khalid’s commitment to creating an open and trusting space for students is reflected in his involvement in various aspects of their lives. Beyond the classroom, Mr Khalid volunteers in an after-school group for at-risk students. His multifaceted role extends to coaching badminton as well as a science talent programme, further solidifying the bonds he forms with students.

Recognising the importance of addressing students’ emotional needs alongside academic challenges, his journey has also led him to pursue formal training in counselling.

“Speaking to students and helping them with problems they may encounter has been really fulfilling,” says Mr Khalid, whose approach when speaking with students emphasises genuine conversations and an openness that fosters trust. “You can witness a direct impact on others.”

Finding a balance

The emotional toll of teaching, combined with the commitment to students’ well-being, can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. 

However, Mr Khalid has found a supportive environment at his school, where the staff understands the delicate balance required to navigate the demands of the teaching profession.

“I actually look forward to coming to work on Mondays. My work environment has been really nurturing and welcoming,” he says.

Mr Khalid’s personal ethos of striving for excellence without pursuing perfection also allows him to embrace self-care, ensuring his own well-being and, consequently, his ability to care for his students. 

As he rotates to a new role at MOE Headquarters as a senior data manager in the Higher Education Planning Office this year, Mr Khalid reflects that being a teacher has been more than a profession; it has been a transformative journey. 

“Teachers are like second parents… We are the students’ role models and mentors, and we provide support way beyond just academics.”

– Mr Khalid Othman, recipient of the MOE Teaching Scholarship

From an introverted individual, he has blossomed into a confident educator with a strong sense of purpose.

“Sometimes, developing better relationships means going beyond what you need to do, or doing something that has no direct impact on KPIs (key performance indicators),” he notes.

“The younger generation are our future and teachers have the task alongside parents of imparting values to them. When you see your students improving in character, you see real impact.”

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