Teacher Feature: Year Heads 2014

By Nguyen Hoang Nhan 14S03K and Chu Phuong Anh 15S06C

Today, Raffles Press features Mr. Alfred Chan and Ms. Eva Hor – two freshly-inducted Year Heads just starting out on their new roles – to further explore their interests, passions and impressions on the batch of 2015. 

General Information

YearHead

Could you guys give us a brief overview of your teaching career so far?

Mr. Chan: I have been teaching Chemistry since 2003, so I’ve been here for quite a while.

Ms. Hor: I’ve been teaching since the year of 2000 actually. So, it has been a long time. I teach Biology and I am still excited about the subject.

 What schools were you from?

Mr. Chan: I was from Hwa Chong.

Ms. Hor: I was from NJ and before that, I was from a Convent, CHIJ Secondary.

 Do you guys have any personal interests or hobbies outside of school?

Ms. Hor: I am currently trying to learn how to play the ukulele but I am not very good at it. So, if anybody wants to teach me, that would be great. It’s not working out with my instructor – not because the instructor is not good, but because I am not very musical. Perhaps I will change to drums, I hope that would be easier.

Mr. Chan: I am quite involved in church. I am in the choir for church actually and listen to a lot of music.

How about guitar?

Ms. Hor: I think it’s harder because I think you need longer fingers. So I think starting with something smaller would be easier.

 Any first thoughts on being a Year Head?

Mr. Chan: It was a bit more difficult when we started with the Year 6’s last year. This year, we enjoy the fact that we start with a fresh batch.

Ms. Hor: Because the Year Head system only started last year, we started with the Y6’s. So it was neither here nor there. This year I think we are very excited to get to know the new batch of students and we are very serious about this. So we really appreciate it when students come up to say hi and introduce themselves.  We look forward to hearing more about areas of interest of the batch.

Any obstacles/feelings that stand out when you have to conduct a ‘mass civics lesson’ during assembly?

Ms. Hor: If they are small-group lessons, we are perfectly comfortable. We are less comfortable speaking to a large group of students. In fact, every time there is assembly we will sweat buckets.

Mr. Chan: Actually we prefer small group interactions, so it is easier to talk to people personally. But when it comes to a whole mass of people, it becomes more difficult to express what we want to say.

What are some impressions so far on this batch?

Ms. Hor: Ok, we must start historically. We met the students during the January Induction Program (JIP). The boys were a more excitable lot, but the girls were, to me, well behaved. Correct me if I’m wrong, they were more polite and were less shy to say hello. It’s not that the boys didn’t, but fewer did so. They were more exuberant and a lot noisier I think. Now that the lessons have started I have enjoyed going to my classes. The classes that I have interacted with have a very good mix of people. They are very enthusiastic about school. They want to learn and seem very serious about their works actually. They are not quiet or overly noisy. It is a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. I don’t know whether my classes would be representative of the cohort but the synergy from the boys and girls seems to be a lot better than when they were in separate groups during JIP.

Mr. Chan: Orientation really did a good job in mixing everybody up and getting everyone to know more about one another better. It has been a pleasant experience and we have enjoyed the interactions so far.

I heard Ms. Hor graduated from University of Sydney. Would you recommend your students to go there? If so, which course should they take?

Ms. Hor: Ok, what do I like about Sydney? I did my Masters there. I had a very good time because my class was a really an international group with people from many parts of the world.

Would I recommend it? I would recommend it because I learnt a lot from the Aussies. They play hard and they also work very hard. People take the time to do other things to enrich themselves. Desire to learn beyond the curriculum seems to be an integral part of life in USyd. As a nation, a lot of Aussies I interacted with were truly knowledgeable about the world. So would I encourage it? Yes, it was a very good learning place without being overly stressful. The lovely blue skies and gorgeous bays made doing field work very attractive.

And Mr. Chan, could you share with us your educational experience?

Mr. Chan: Oh, I did Chemical Engineering at NUS. Then I became a teacher and subsequently I did a Masters in Education with NIE. I enjoyed doing my Masters because it got me out of the school, and got me thinking more of how to be a better teacher, and how different things are run.

Teaching and beyond

What sort of difficulties do you think new Y5 students might face in adapting to JC life?

Ms. Hor: I think one of the most difficult things to adapt to would be the independence that is expected of the students. Help is always available but they need to take the first step to ask for it. Another difficulty they may have would be the fast pace at which things are happening inside and outside the classroom. In the lecture system, information is meant to be disseminated very quickly to a large group, with discussions following up during tutorials. This is slightly different from secondary school whereby there are many opportunities to clarify on the spot.

Mr. Chan: The pace as well as the style of delivery is new, and they should not be afraid to ask when they are not sure. Otherwise, it is difficult to catch up once they are lost.

So do you have any general advice on life in JC?

Ms. Hor: The students need to experience it to understand what we are saying, but if I were to give any advice, I would say that they need to know their limits and to take the initiative to step forward to ask when they need help. If there is one thing they can remember, I hope that would be it.

Mr. Chan: Maybe think about the reasons they are doing certain things and don’t just overcommit, like are they taking part because they are passionate about these activities or because they are going to learn new things? They should figure out what they really like to do and why and not just go through the motions.

Have there been special moments in your teaching career in RI that have made it worthwhile to you?

 Mr. Chan: The most enjoyable class I’ve ever had was one of my form classes many years back (batch of 2008). I still keep in contact with them; many of them are overseas while some of them have graduated and are coming back. They were involved in many things: some were active in sports and some were student leaders, but they are also very ordinary and real people. They were not shy or afraid about interacting with teachers yet were very sensible. When their classmates were down, they really made the effort to take care of one another. They have left a deep impression on me and I feel that I really like being a teacher because I get to meet people like them. This is a class that I enjoyed taking and I really appreciate having them in my life.

Ms. Hor: At the end of the day, it is the interactions and relationships with the students that I have developed that are worthwhile. You know that these relationships matter when you meet 5 years or 10 years down the road, and are still able to pick up where you left off.

How has the experience been working with Mr. Chan/Ms. Hor?

Ms. Hor: I think it’s been a good one because we are very different. (Mr. Chan: And very similar too!) In terms of important things, the student outcomes that we hope for and the values that we hold dear are the same. But I think I am a lot less practical. For example, when we have an idea; I just want to go forth it immediately and may not think about how exactly it is going to be done or the implications. Mr. Chan is a lot more meticulous about thinking through the exact plan to make the idea happen. Mr. Chan, that’s true right?

Mr. Chan: I find that when Ms. Hor comes up with her ideas, they always come from a very good heart. She really wants the best for the students, so when she says she’s not very practical, it’s only because she wants to think of different ways to engage the students better or make them feel more loved and cared for in this environment. Whatever idea that she thinks of comes from that bottom line, so I always try to support that with what I can do. However, as she said, sometimes there are constraints that we face as teachers and as a school in general, so things may or may not work out for what we hope to achieve. It’s a good working relationship and we enjoy working with each other because we seem to fill in each other’s weaknesses.

Ms. Hor: Mr. Chan has been working in student development and civics for a long time, which is an area that is still relatively new to me. He has generously shared his experience and expertise, which I really appreciate.

Do you have any job arrangement to match each working style?

Mr. Chan: We generally don’t. Mostly when a task needs to be done, whoever has the time to address it first will just go ahead and do it.

Ms. Hor: We complement each other’s style quite well actually. Do we disagree, yes, a lot (laughs) but we are friends and it’s all for the students. So it the end everything does work out.

Mr. Chan: We are similar as well since the outcomes and values that we base our thinking on are the same: making sure that the support structure is given and students are well looked after. We also think of ways to support our Civics Tutors whenever we can because they play a heavy role in taking care of our students. These are the common grounds we share and thus in a way we are similar. We really hope that the students appreciate their Civics Tutors because they really don’t know the amount of things the tutors have to help them with.

Trivia: Up Close and Personal

1. What’s your favourite song at the moment?

Mr. Chan: Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Ms. Hor: The Story – Brandi Carlie

2. What is your favourite canteen stall in RI?

Mr. Chan: Haw’s Kitchen because I like Tom Yum.

Ms. Hor: The drink store. I patronise it the most.

3. Favourite spot in school?

Mr. Chan: Staff room

Ms. Hor: Bio Lab

4. Favourite TV shows?

Mr. Chan: US drama series such as CSI and Castle.

Ms. Hor:  Law and Order

5. Favourite drink/food?

Mr. Chan: Coffee and any meat.

Ms. Hor:  Tea and fish balls

6. What’s one secret, irrational fear you have in life?

Mr. Chan: Heights

Ms. Hor: Lizards

7. Your ideal classroom?

Mr. Chan: It must be clean. I also like kids who are talking and chitchatting. Not kind of noisy but lively. There should be a lot of interactions.

Ms. Hor: My ideal classroom needs to have trees and plants. It should have flowers. Everybody should be happy and people can sit on the floor if they want to.

8. 3 words to describe yourself (and the other teacher)?

Mr. Chan: Reserved, organised, (takes the) initiative

Ms. Hor: Spontaneous, forgetful, disorganised.

9. 1 thing students might be surprised to know about you?

Mr. Chan: I am a Samsung fan.

Ms. Hor: My best friend from secondary school is also my colleague!

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