“Look forward, not back”

In conjunction with Teacher’s Day, Raffles Press has collaborated with the 34th Student Council’s Teacher’s Day Committee to bring you a series of articles featuring several teachers and non-teaching staff in Raffles Institution. In this instalment, we feature Ms Alexandria Tang, an Economics tutor.

alexandria tang

Ms Alexandria Tang with her class; photo is courtesy of Jonathan Nee

The American economist John Galbraith once had this to say about his profession: ‘Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.’ Fortunately, some teachers have strived to make the subject more than just an abstract academic pursuit. Among this number is Ms Alexandria Tang, a teacher described by her students as hardworking and creative in her pedagogy — she has adopted the unconventional approach of letting her students conduct research on the subject in computer labs, and has accumulated a wealth of interesting examples which bring the subject to life for her students. It is no surprise that Ms. Tang’s students tell us that they have little trouble staying awake – high praise indeed, given that the JC tutorial lesson format often leaves its students yawning with boredom. In this interview, Ms. Tang relates what inspired her to enter the teaching profession, and tells us more about herself as a person.

What do students not understand about teachers?

Sometimes, they don’t understand that teachers were once students too: We know what you are going through ☺

Most importantly, they may forget that teachers have the best interests of the students at heart even if this might not be apparent. Ultimately, they are pushing students towards what’s best for them.

Why did you choose to be a teacher?

I was very interested in Economics in JC and I wanted very much to share this passion with others. In my opinion, economics is very useful for understanding the world and how society works. It’s mostly about translating common sense into theory and it can be applied in almost every aspect of life.

I also enjoy interacting with youth. It allows me to be (and keeps me) young!  I like to problem-solve and provide advice. School isn’t just about imparting academic knowledge; it’s also about preparing students to become good citizens and adults.

Finally, I was quite attracted by the fact that I wouldn’t need to be bound to a desk at work.

What was your childhood ambition?

For a very long time, I wanted to be a doctor, perhaps until just before university, because I was brought up to think that being a doctor was the “most optimal” thing you could do with good grades. But as I reflected on my career options, I realised that teaching overlaps with a lot of things about being a doctor: I could work with people and help them by meeting their needs. Furthermore, I could work alongside other like-minded individuals who share the same interests and passion as I do.

At that moment, I realised that I didn’t really take time to seriously reflect on what I wanted to do (probably because I didn’t have time to). I just went along with the flow and only considered what society or my parents would deem desirable. That’s probably something that many of you can relate to.

What is your life motto?

Don’t regret a day. Look forward, not back.

What is the craziest thing you’ve done in school?

I probably can’t count this as “crazy’ but I joined an intra-school rock band competition with some of my friends. I played the guitar and sang in front of an auditorium full of people. It’s probably not very crazy, but my introverted self wouldn’t have done it; it’s also one of my fonder memories of school to date. (Upon probing) Oh yes, we won!

I learnt that it’s important to challenge yourself and do things that you wouldn’t normally do (within boundaries, of course). After JC is over, you won’t remember studying as much as all the crazy things you did.

What is your favourite pastime?

I like to bake, especially French pastries. My greatest achievement was making 210 rainbow cupcakes for my friend’s 21st birthday. I’m never doing that again! (laughs)

What is your preferred canteen food?

Wanton mee. I haven’t had much time to try out many of the other stalls because the queues are always so long!

What are your pet peeves?

One-word answers to any question.

What is your favourite thing about Raffles?

I like the diversity of Raffles. In every class I teach, the students are different both individually and as a class. The school is also very supportive of both students and teachers. Oops, those are two favourite things!

Do you have any special mentions for any of the colleagues who have made teaching in RI a more enjoyable experience?

Even though I’ve spent a very short time in RI, everybody has helped me in one way or another and I feel bad that sometimes, I don’t take the time to appreciate them enough, whether they’re the cleaners, the support staff, or my colleagues.

Specifically, I’d like to thank the beginning teachers (fellow teachers who started teaching at the same time as she did). During practicum (teaching practice after NIE), they were very good support, and we learnt a lot from each other.

I’d also like to thank my colleagues and bosses for their advice and for being patient with me, as well as my students for making each day exciting and unforgettable ☺

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