Diary of an RI Intern: The Grass is Greener on the Other Side

By Phua Qi Qi

Extending our Diary of an RI Boy column, we bring you Diary of an RI Intern, where we invite J3s to share their interning experiences. This week, Phua Qi Qi shares her experience of post-JC life as an intern at MOE.

As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side: while in school, I envied seniors – J3s especially – who having cleared the dreaded As, could now spend nine free months before university kicked in lounging in the sun. Now that it’s my turn, I will happily proclaim that the grass is indeed greener on this side, although not quite so substantially as I thought it would be.

While there were occasions when I particularly missed school, I felt liberated upon graduation – I can now do anything I want I don’t have to study for 9 months! Alas, that was not to be. For me, these 9 months have passed in a blur of internships, interviews, university applications and part-time work (no more school, no more allowance!). As if that isn’t enough, post-JC life entails having to manage my own bank accounts, buy insurance, and pay adult transportation fare. I never thought these adult responsibilities would come so soon; I wasn’t ready to grow up yet. It was kind of scary, albeit not in an entirely bad way.

Life until now for most of us has always been a matter of time and progression – from kindergarten to primary school, secondary school and then JC. Then all of a sudden, you find yourself at a million-way junction. Teaching didn’t come naturally to me. I was, perhaps just as many of you are, completely at a loss as to what I wanted to be. I had a vague idea of a rosy future – one where I got up happily everyday, dressed up nicely and headed off to a job that brought me great fulfillment and enjoyment. But that was, of course, simply an air-headed and ill-concretized notion.

Nonetheless, I had to start somewhere. As a student, I had been privileged to have had several wonderful teachers who were not only patient, but went out of their way to help me both in my academics as well as in my personal growth. They had been inspiring individuals, and on a whim, I decided to apply for a teaching internship through MOE. Well aware that I had no affinity with the Sciences, I chose Geography and Music as my two teaching subjects – two particular interests of mine. Thus, I spent the entire of Term One as a teaching intern at a secondary school. It was an incredible experience.

Worksheet question: How did Stalin gain power?

Answer: He was cool, like a boss.

While speaking to or performing for a large group of people had never been a huge problem for me, all of a sudden, standing in front of a group of 40 students seemed pretty terrifying. Although only 19 myself, I was unprepared for my precocious students and their unbridled energy. Every class that I went to was a different ball game altogether. With my hilarious Secondary 2 students, I had to field questions like ‘’cher, why you no Facebook?’ and ‘’cher, later we want to find ghost, you want to come?’ In my Secondary 3 classes, they were interested in how I could be a teacher since I ‘looked so young’ (thank you) and my Secondary 4 and 5 students were sometimes all too interested in testing how observant I was in spotting their eating, music-listening and handphone-using in class. It certainly did not help that I am not very tall either, so some of my students towered over me.

At the same time, there were always discipline issues that distracted the lesson; students who downright refused to listen, who were simply uninterested in learning (worksheet question: How did Stalin gain power? Answer: He was cool, like a boss.). There was always reprimanding to be done, and I learnt to hone my fierce expressions and murderous stares. Furthermore, there were countless meetings that had to be attended, as well as the paperwork and administrative matters inherent in every organization. It was certainly not a run-of-the-mill 8-5 day job.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed interacting with my students immensely. At the same time, I found great fun in teaching both Geography and Music – much more fun than learning it, in fact. While the subject matter was interesting, it was more important that I had the autonomy to structure my lessons such that it tried to not only teach the syllabus, but also ignite the spark of interest in my students. Geography and Music lessons became the medium through which I wanted to motivate and excite my students. I wanted them to be excited about their lives. It was a constant challenge – but I knew that this was what I wanted to do.

Teaching is by no means unconventional, nor the “path untrodden”, but few Rafflesians consider it their ambition. But don’t be afraid to take chances, for you never know what might take you by surprise, and find its way into your life.

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