By Azzahra Osman (22S03P) and Ting Kaily (22S03P)
In this Teachers’ Day Special, we share some facts about our teachers you may not have known.
NAME: MS JEANNIE CHEW LI LIAN
An ex-business owner, a drums enthusiast, a volleyball player in her undergraduate years in China, and a self-directed learner of the Japanese language… is there anything that Ms Chew has not tried her hands at?
What was playing volleyball in university like?
I played volleyball on the international students’ team as an undergraduate at Peking University in China. Being part of such a diverse team was difficult as we joined the sport with different objectives in mind, which occasionally caused disagreements and unhappiness. It did not help that everyone had varying degrees of fluency in Mandarin, so communication was sometimes less than ideal.
Another issue was that the international students’ team was separate from the local students’ team, which made us feel a little unwelcome. Looking back, it might have been better if we played within our own separate faculties instead. As for the sport itself, it is exactly as you see it – fast, and painful. It was tough, because I am not very tall. I have had bruises and injuries throughout the years playing the sport.
Why did you choose to go to China for university?
I didn’t choose to go to China – I simply jumped at whichever agency was willing to give me a scholarship to go overseas to study Economics, which happened to be MOE. I wanted to go overseas very badly because I wanted to broaden my exposure, and to be more independent.
Adjusting to living in China was quite painful at first. It was a totally different culture: everyone was so much smarter and more hardworking than me. I remember crying often in my first 6 months there but I guess it was truly a growing process. And today, I love the country’s history, food and lots more!
What was your experience like running your own business in research and consultancy?
Being my own boss was very tough – it is not as romantic as how it is depicted in the media. You bear all the risks that come with running a business and so you worry about it every day. For instance, one challenge I faced was collaborating with my business partner. He gave me many excuses such as going overseas with his girlfriend, when in reality, he was simply not interested in what we were doing anymore. He “betrayed” me when he suddenly decided that he wanted out after just a few years. As upset as I was, there was nothing I could do about this. I could only try my best to salvage what I could, and then I moved on.
You enjoy playing the drums too. When and why did you start playing the drums?
I have always loved beats, but unfortunately did not have the time to learn and practice. Now, I am slowly starting to pick it up again. I LOVE TVXQ (the K-pop band – which I interestingly I only got to know about last year after watching a recording of their concert) and Mayday (the Taiwanese band) – their beats are crazy sick. I want to be able to play some of their songs soon!
We heard that you know a little bit of Japanese. How did you learn the language?
I have been learning Japanese on my own! It isn’t easy as there is no syllabus or set of materials that you can just practice with — unless I want to spend money, of course. I chose to source for videos on YouTube instead! This was quite a challenge in itself, but I’m glad I did it.
I regret not taking Japanese as a Third Language in school. However, with recent inspiration from TVXQ (who speak Japanese too), I’m picking it up now. Hopefully, work and life do not stop me from learning it.
NAME: MS ERDALYN TAN YEH THONG
A petite and lithe figure dancing to the melodious numbers of jazz, hip hop and many more. That’s Maths teacher, Ms Tan, who loves dancing and watching talent survival shows.
Why did you start dancing?
I’m actually an introvert with a low sense of self-confidence, so I think dancing allows me to open up and build a little more assertiveness. I have always loved watching dance performances which also require a lot of courage from the performers to be able to express themselves freely on stage. I wanted to see if I could overcome my own stage fright, too.
What kind of dance do you do?
I have tried many different genres — street jazz, contemporary dance, and hip hop but I guess I am the most comfortable with street jazz.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you have had dancing?
I actually had my first dance performance for NDP 2007, where my entire secondary school cohort had to dance a ballet routine to the official NDP theme song “There’s No Place I’d Rather Be”. We had to train three times a week after school, and we had to rehearse on the actual platform on Saturdays as it got nearer to the day itself. We had to report to school really early, travel all the way to Marina Bay and put on heavy makeup to rehearse before the NDP previews and actual parade.
It was really tiring and each rehearsal day ended around 11pm. Despite the long hours, I really had a lot of fun doing something that I like and that was when I discovered that I probably had a passion for dancing.
Despite being an introvert, learning to dance gave me the courage to express myself on stage, and this prompted me to join dance during my university days. The dance training sessions in university were even more hectic and sometimes dragged on until 3am as we had to prepare for competitions against other university halls. Despite the injuries sustained from dance, I never regretted joining it and it is probably one of the best memories of my life.
However, work is really hectic now and my body aches more as I grow older even without doing any vigorous activity. I don’t think I will be furthering my interest in dance, unfortunately.
NAME: MR ASHTON TAN SIANG
DEPARTMENT: KNOWLEDGE SKILLS (GP)
How many of us have belted out to Japanese songs during karaoke? For Mr Tan, the answer is ‘often’. In fact, he even uploaded videos of him singing to Youtube when he was younger, and was also part of a J-rock band with a group of friends.
Why did you start singing?
I was a huge fan of anime as a kid, and developed a love for singing along to the radio in my parents’ car. I found an outlet that combined these interests online back when YouTube was still new. YouTube then was a lot less based on virality, and had a lot more to do with small interest groups. I collaborated with other teenagers around the world to do covers of Japanese songs. Listening to my old recordings always makes me cringe a little, but at the same time I remember how proud I was of having my 400 subscribers.
Later, I joined a band as their vocalist, and we even took part in a few concerts and competitions (although we never won anything).
What are some of your favourite memories from singing?
As a teen, I spent hours using Audacity (a digital audio editor) recording and re-recording tracks. I worked with other aspiring YouTubers from America and sent our vocal tracks back and forth to be spliced together.
As for my hobbyist band, every competition we took part in is a fond memory for me. One of our members signed us up for things we had no right taking part in. But these impending performance deadlines really made us take each jamming session seriously.
I remember forgetting the lyrics during one performance (and I actually had to take out my phone to continue!). Super cringey, honestly, but also a treasured memory of the kind of nonsense that we got up to.
What setbacks has your band faced?
Our hobby band stopped performing as often as we used to when the member of the band who would get us opportunities moved to Japan. With Covid-19, we found it difficult to jam together, and our bassist (who is incredibly talented!) left to spend most of her time in an actually good band. I would love to get back to jamming with my friends, but it remains to be seen if it’s something we can do next year.
However, it’s not like singing as a hobby can be fully discarded; I’ve never stopped singing along to my favourite Japanese songs in the shower or late at night. Before Covid-19, it was also a regular thing for me to bring my Nintendo Switch to a friend’s for karaoke sessions using microphones and the Joysound app.
People should be proud of the ‘weird’ stuff they enjoy doing, and the cringey things you do today can also be memorable moments that we should celebrate as being part of our lives.Mr Ashton Tan