Life after Raffles: Relief Teaching

By Valerie Tan (20A01E) and Coco Liu (20S06L)

This week, Year 6s across the island breathed a sigh of relief. As they put down their pens and closed the booklet of their last ‘A’ Level paper, they were also closing this chapter of their lives. And they might be asking: what next? While some may be looking forward to travelling or simply enjoying their free time, others might be looking into getting a job or an internship. And where else to find one than in their very own school as a teacher?

We interviewed Chung Sohyun (18A13A) to find out more about her experience relief teaching Economics.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I took HELM (History, Economics, Literature, Maths) and GP in the Humanities Programme! My CCAs were RJ Fencing and Press.

How did you get into relief teaching?

I was texting my Economics tutor a few weeks before my A Levels to discuss some questions and she randomly asked me if I was free for relief teaching! I decided to relief teach as I wanted to try teaching my juniors while earning some money.

How was the relief teaching experience?

I really enjoyed relief teaching! I was blessed with great classes (20S03I, 20S06E and 20S02A) and supportive Economics teachers who went the extra mile to help me. The whole experience provided me with an insight into a life as a teacher and it is not easy! I only had to prepare and deliver my lessons, but other teachers usually have a lot of admin (e.g. CCA, CT, etc.) to attend to as well. Because they dedicate so much time to the students’ learning, I think it takes a lot of love and pain to be a teacher. 

Sohyun with 20S06E.

As all teachers would probably agree, I didn’t enjoy marking at all. It is very time-consuming to go through every single script in detail and some students have handwriting that I could not make out. Please write legibly!

What I loved the most about relief teaching, though, was the sense of fulfillment I got after stepping out of a class, knowing that I managed to teach my students something. I also had the privilege to use the clean staffroom toilet and staff lounge where I took a lot of fruits from and heated up my food in the microwave.

The most challenging part for me was engaging the class. Honestly, it would be easy for both me and the students if I were to flash the model answer and ask them to copy it, but that doesn’t actually make the students think, and it would just be a mini lecture. So for me, getting the class to contribute and building onto their ideas instead of giving every answer was the toughest aspect of relief teaching.

How did you do it in the end? Was there a method that you found could really engage students?

At first I called on individuals, but because it put them on the spot, there would be an awkward silence… I think it worked when I gave them time to discuss with their friends before I asked each group/individuals to contribute!

How did you start out preparing your lessons; what was the process like?

The department decides which questions to go through by which week, and I plan what to cover based on that. As for individual lessons, I’ll do my own “suggested answer” first. I used to rely on slides but there was too much copying and no listening, so I switched to writing on the board based on what the students brought up. After I gathered their responses, I would correct their misconceptions, build onto their points, and insert what they have missed out.

Now that you’ve experienced being a teacher, is there anything you would have done differently as a student?

I think that as a student in class, I was attentive and hardworking so I believe I was respectful towards my teachers. But some things I should have done better are talking to my teachers more, showing my care for them, and making some interesting memories outside of classroom!

What was your favourite moment (if any) in your time teaching?

I was teaching at 20S02A and one of my students wanted to ask me a question but he called me “Madame” super loudly! The whole class couldn’t stop laughing for a few minutes.

Sohyun with 20S02A.

Do you have any advice for students aspiring to be teachers?

I would advise them to 1) be prepared that it is going to be challenging, 2) be open because there are so many things you can learn from your own students and other teachers around you, and 3) be approachable so that the students can also come to you for things beyond acads and treat you as an adult they can rely on!

What are your plans in future? Are you considering teaching full-time?

I hope to be a good mentor to my juniors but I don’t plan to be a teacher! I am definitely not patient enough, and I think I’ll get frustrated if I try hard but the students don’t care at all :( I am studying law so I plan to practise for a few years after I graduate :)

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