By Chloe Wong (19S07C), Ina Song (19S07C), and Isabelle Tan (19S03S)
Photos courtesy of Dionne Pok (19S06P) and Ms Lynette Soh
Teachers’ Day is slowly approaching and in continuation with our series of teacher features, this article will be featuring Ms Lynette Soh, a lively economics teacher who is well-loved by her students.
Any interesting life stories/interesting hobbies (like gymming?) you would like to share?
There are too many stories to share! I love sharing stories, and I’m glad that my life in sunny Singapore is interesting enough to generate stories that bring a lot of laughter to people around me.
Anyway, since you pointed out gymming*, maybe I’ll share about that. I started gymming* about 2 years ago when I was finding ways to overcome my grief from my grandmother’s passing (she passed away on Teachers Day itself in 2015 and it was very difficult for me to explain it to the students who wanted to see me that day but I digress).
It started as randomly as me being in the same lift as Mrs Dawn Wu one day. I hadn’t had the opportunity to interact much with her before that, but she had always been a friendly face and a comforting presence in the staffroom. So I went something like, “Uh, hi Dawn, would you be interested to go to the gym together?” I was very encouraged when she enthusiastically and readily agreed. That was very cool.
We started with just the 2 of us and a programme I had found online. However, it dawned on me very quickly that I had no idea what I was doing and could possibly injure myself and my gym buddy. Mr Mike Seah then suggested that we invite Ms June Tan, who is a certified Personal Trainer. She also enthusiastically and readily accepted our invitation.
Very soon we had this gym thing going and I started to invite more people from the staffroom to join us – not only the active and young ones – but literally, whoever I came into contact with. I did think people might turn me down, but I also thought that there was nothing to lose asking. I saw the personal and organisational benefits of corporate gymming* and wanted others to come on board.
The group grew, and I think that it’s great. Not only have I promoted the concept of “healthy bodies = healthy minds”, I’ve also become closer to those who I’ve invited to join me at the gym – and that is a significant number of people. I think this is one of my most valuable involvements in Raffles.
I love that this initiative was completely ground up and spontaneous. It is rather unfortunate, though, that at the time of writing, I have not been at the gym for 2 months! This is partly because we don’t gym together during the June holidays, and in July, I injured my ankle and was unable to do any exercise. Nonetheless, my ankle is recovering and you should see us in action again very soon!
*I know that gymming is not a word, and I apologize to the English Language/General Paper teachers in advance if my use of the word misleads the students (students please take note). I tend towards descriptivism.
Also, I’m throwing in a fun fact here, at the risk of being judged, haha. I have been told that I give the impression that I have a lot of shoes. The truth is, I DO! At the time of writing, there are 34 pairs of footwear within my 2m radius.
What was your life in JC like?
Actually, my JC civics tutor was Ms Felicia Seah (affectionately known to me as “Madam<3”) from the RI Chemistry Department. I was a very good student in JC – the model class representative that worked laboriously for my tutors and peers. Madam<3 was instrumental in my development in JC.
She believed in me and gave me a lot of support and encouragement to do well. It was really her belief in me that inspired me to bring out the best of myself. If you had asked me about my secondary school days, you would get a very different story. One year, I did my examinations in the principal’s office.
That was the same year I slapped a girl, punched another girl and twice so, threw a pot at a teacher, ran out of school in the middle of school hours, and told the principal that the school _____ (insert swear term) and the teachers ______ (insert swear term) and that she herself ______ (insert swear term). My mother was horrified.
So I think a teacher’s belief in a student really makes a very big difference. I went on to do exceptionally well in my A levels, and that really opened the door to many other meaningful opportunities I had later on in life. Shout out to Madam<3! Thank you and you are very dear to me – even if I am drowning in work and don’t come by your desk to profess my love much these days.
JC was the time I was challenged to be confident, and not just to appear confident. My school was full of smart and beautiful people, and it was painful to have to confront my flaws when I compared myself with them. It was also this time that I realised that the solution to being fat was not to lose weight, but to be able to look at the mirror, to acknowledge that I am larger than the average 160cm girl, and that I’m still good.
It was also this learning to love myself that helped me to love others too. My own sense of security went far in helping me be more accepting of others. For instance, I have a friend who wears XXXL clothing. I have described him as being “large” before, and while I was accused by many to be a size-ist, I know very clearly that the mass he takes up on this earth doesn’t change what he means to me.
I very am sure that I love my friend for who he is, and I also make it known to him that I love him regardless of the number that shows on the weighing scales when he steps on it. (I am trying very hard to avoid saying it as it is – that I love him even if he is fat – not because I think being fat is a problem, but because for many other people, being fat has somehow been made a problem.)
Why did you choose to teach economics?
I didn’t! It chose me. I entered University as a Political Science major. I changed my major to Philosophy in the second year, and only settled down on Economics in the second semester of my second year. It was all for practical reasons. I found myself in a situation where I needed time and money to graduate from university, and reading Economics allowed that since I could save time with the exemptions I was granted because I had read H3 Economics in JC, and also paved the way financially because I obtained an MOE Teaching Award to study (and subsequently teach) Economics.
I did have an opportunity to exit when my sister offered to buy up my bond after university so I could pursue whatever else I wanted to. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I should do then, so I thought I would just start with teaching first. It then became something that is sufficiently meaningful, challenging and interesting enough for me to continue doing. I wouldn’t say I love teaching Economics per se. I just like working in school. That said, Economics is a very good discipline that does benefit a learner in terms of developing a system of thinking and decision-making with a clear awareness of both the resource constraints and the costs and benefits of a decision. I do think that Economists make more optimal decisions, and this is something I suppose I can give to my students as a teacher of Economics.
Any funny classroom incidents worth sharing?
Again, there are so many! I always remind myself that if I can laugh once a day, I am privileged. The classroom has given me this privilege!
One that is my personal favourite, happened when I was contract teaching in another JC. I used to have this practice of having all students surrender their phones to me by placing them face-down on the teachers desk. One fateful 1st April, in the middle of class, one of the phones’ alarm went off. Because the phones were all faced down, I couldn’t identify immediately which phone it was and it sent me in a frenzy, flipping the phones back up one by one to identify the phone, which by that time was screaming (the volume ascended gradually).
All this while, there were just 21 pairs of 17-year old eyes looking innocently at me, waiting to see what would happen. When I found the phone and asked who it belonged to, the sleepiest looking and most introverted girl in the classroom raised her hand. “Why on earth is there an alarm set for 9:30am? Why would you ever need an alarm at that time?” She had no answer, and luckily for her, because she was always this reserved and clueless, I let it go without expecting her to give me an answer.
I carried on with the lesson until five minutes before the end of the lesson, another phone alarm went off. I was sent into another frenzy, and before I could identify the phone, another alarm went off. I was momentarily puzzled before I realized soon that ALL the phones were buzzing different alarms. (Some of their alarms were songs in foreign languages too…) and the classroom quickly turned into a zoo. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was an April’s Fool joke [played] on me, because the class was too composed.
They were all just sitting still, looking at me blamelessly with their beady eyes. I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh. Is this your idea of an April’s Fool joke?” No response. Just wide-eyes. Out of desperation and to preserve my sanity, I ordered, “Please take back all your phones and switch off the alarms. You are dismissed!” The class exploded in laughter and REFUSED to take back their phones. I begged them to, and eventually they did.
It was actually really fun – despite the fact that I did not finish going through the case study question I meant to complete. At the end of the lesson through, after all the alarms were switched off, the class gifted me with a jar of Skippy’s Peanut Butter, complete with a spoonful of peanut butter already dug up. I also got a few bags of chips, that they assured me was for me only because [the chips] were on discount. This may sound very pathetic, but I must also say that I knew they loved me because after the grand prank and the lousy gifts, they presented me with a thoughtfully written card, and cooperated with me every lesson. This is one of my best memories of teaching.
On a side note, to explain the alarm that rang at 9:30am, it was because the blur girl got the time wrong – which is funny because that is so characteristic of her.
Any advice for us as students?
Here is what I believe about the adolescent life: It is the time when you are old enough to have fun without damaging consequences. Because you have the energy, the love, the friendships, the courage, the idealism to laugh… and also a reasonable level of sensibility to know what reality is and the real consequences of your actions.
If you have the strength of character to be responsible for the inconsequential consequences – getting a white slip, doing detention, and other sorts of contrived penalties – there is a lot you can do with your school experience (just don’t drive your tutors mad). My point is, you are young enough to try, but old enough to know better.
Don’t take risks on your academics, because if you have made it to RI, chances are you have the potential to do well and you want to achieve that without regrets. Nonetheless, don’t pursue academic achievements and nothing but academic achievements. Sometimes, celebrating a friend’s 18th birthday at the expense of a well-written essay you could’ve submitted may be worth it. (Still, remember to spare a thought for your teachers! We have feelings too, you know!)
Remember to be grateful to your tutors for all the hard work they have put in thus far for us students, and always remember that “[teachers] have feelings too” – so do spare a thought for them! Raffles Press wishes all teachers a happy Teacher’s Day!