Friday, March 25, 2011

Signs that You Should Not Become A Teacher

Every year, a new advertisement on teachers and the nobility of teaching surfaces on TV. These advertisements are meant to recruit a new group of teachers to MOE. There could be some use to them, judging by the size and popularity of the MOE booth at the Career Fair year after year!

However, at the same time, there is a sizeable group of people who leave the teaching service. These are people who thought they could 'make a difference' but only found out that they could not handle the job when they entered the service itself. I feel sorry for some of these people sometimes, because they enter with all their hopes and aspirations. But they become overwhelmed by the children, by the work and end up counting the days to the end of their bond, leaving disillusioned.

So, before you sign on that dotted line, check and do reflections whether you are really cut out for the job. Ask relatives and friends who are in the service and ask them for their experiences in the service. Have a clear and realistic picture of the workload and expectations before you actually sign anything. Never forget that once you sign the dotted line, you will be looking at a bond period of 3-5 years. It seems like a short time, but if you are unhappy at the job, it can seem like a lifetime.

Meanwhile, in a tongue-in-cheek way, here are some ways you can assess yourself for the suitability of the teaching profession:

1. You hate kids.
I think this needs no explanation. You are going to face 30-40 children under 12 everyday. If you hate kids, no amount of pay will ever justify the job.

2. You love kids. Too much.
And yet, if you are the kind of person that thinks all children are cute, adorable, innocent and perfectly behaved, you are probably not prepared for the job either. You have to realise that, like adults, children come in many forms. You do get children who are cute, adorable, innocent and perfectly behaved, but you also get children who are mischievous, spoiled and attention-seeking. Not to mention children with intellectual, social and physical disabilities. You must realise that there are children who will not be perfect angels and be ready for them.

3. You never wake up before 12.
Assembly starts at 0710 to 0720 and most schools require their teachers to be in before that. Not to mention that in a number of years, all schools will eventually become single-session, ie in the morning. You really should be an early-riser for this job.

4. You do not like the colour red.
Nobody marks with pink or purple pens. This is an industry standard.

5. You think you can go home everyday at 12 when the school bell rings
There are only a select few I know who do this, and they are all adjunct teachers. (Teachers working on something similar to a contract basis and who are paid hourly) The full-time teachers are usually staying back for CCA, remedials, meetings and if there are none of those, they are involved in some kind of committee meetings. Nobody goes home on the stroke of the bell! The truth is that each teacher can spend something like 11 hours in school, considering how early you have to reach work in order to start lessons. Do not have illusions of laziness if you enter teaching.

That said, sometimes you never really know how you feel about a job until you do it for real. If you are considering teaching, my recommendation is to approach the schools in your surrounding areas and ask them about becoming a contract teacher. You could become a relief teacher as well, but you'd have to be ready for any school that calls you at 630am to come in that very day. A contract teacher is better because you can take on work that is similar to what a real teacher does, but you do not have the bond to keep you in the job. Thus, if you feel you are really not cut out for teaching, you can leave.

Some people may feel I am 'pouring cold water' by writing this post and discouraging people from becoming teachers. I prefer to encourage people to enter the profession realistically. It does the school no good when new teachers enter, become disillusioned, and lose all interest in the job. Rather, I would like to see more people who are clearly aware of the downfalls of the job and yet are willing to take it on nonetheless. These people will stay on and benefit us all.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Occupational Hazards of Teaching

If you teach for a number of years, it is inevitable that some aspects of it would rub onto your daily life. Even for me, I do find that I am tempted to do something in public that would only be more acceptable in the classroom. If you are entering teaching, or if you are a BT, you may want to be warned of some of the following occupational hazards following a long teaching career:

1. You become highly sensitive to spelling and grammar.
Blame it on marking all those English compositions. Once you become trained and used to skimming through written text and picking out spelling and grammar mistakes in a hurry, you immediately notice these mistakes everywhere in public. ( maybe even in my blog! ) And after a few stints as oral examiners, you may find yourself correcting the way your friends pronounce words more than once.

2. You become more impatient.
In school, everything runs on a tight schedule from 7:15am to 1:00pm. You cannot afford to be too late for lessons, or you run the risk that the next class will erupt into chaos. High value is placed on punctuality in this line. So you cannot understand why your friends can be 20 minutes. Or why your facial therapist has to delay your appointment by 15 minutes. Tsk tsk! Can't these people start on time?

3. You are tempted to scold children misbehaving in public.
After all, you do this all the time in school. If children are misbehaving, it is your duty to correct them and tell them the proper behaviour isn't it? You are so used to doing this in school that when you see the same thing in public, you can't help yourself and you tell them off. The child usually looks at you with a big-eyed stare, ( he isn't your student and he doesn't know you ) and the parent of the child usually looks at you like you are a kidnapper. You are well-advised to keep the comments to your own schoolchildren.

4. You never see a red pen in the same way again.
Let's just say, after school hours, I use every colour of pen except red.

That's my 4 occupation hazards of being a teacher. Do you find yourself doing some of these? Or do you have other strange habits brought on by teaching? Do share in the comments!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Else Can Teachers Do?

Every now and then, you hear some poor teacher unhappy about the work they're doing. Then this unhappy person starts to wonder wistfully about how it would be different in the private sector. Usually it stops at that, because most teachers think it would be difficult to get a job in the private sector with just a degree in education.

But is it?

Maybe there are some jobs out there which teachers can do. Which in fact are most suited for, because of the unique qualities that teaching has imbued them with.

So, for all those who have ever thought about life outside of teaching, here are some suggestions:


The author of this post means this as a light-hearted tongue in cheek post. The author will not be held responsible if somebody took the advice seriously and quit their job, only to find it rough going. Neither am I encouraging anyone to quit teaching. This is just a light-hearted list.

This seems to be one of the most common lines for ex-teachers and I think it's because of the nature of the job. You have to read text, check for spelling/grammar, and make sure that the writing is smooth. Doesn't this sound a lot like marking compositions?

Easy, because most of us are already familiar with text types, familiar with compositions, and also have a keen sense of grammar. After handing out all those creative writing assignments, why not write a lengthier composition of your own? You could always start with your memoirs of your teaching career.

If you have been in a classroom for a length of time, you would know that it's not easy to find well-designed educational posters. Neither is it easy to find the exact kind of manipulatives that you would want for a lesson. Why not then design new ones? You never know, some other teacher out there would find it useful too.

This, I think, is the same as what we do from Primary to Secondary, just that the kids are a lot older, and more inclined to listen.

These 4 points are all I can think of for now. Do you know anyone else who quit teaching to do something else? What did they do? How did their teaching job affect their new career? Please share in the comments!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ideas for Relief Lessons - Primary 1 and 2

Many of us have been in this position before. You are suddenly called to relief a class, at a level that you have never taught before. This is difficult for a number of teachers, because you are unaware of the skills and abilities of that class. So how do you find something to occupy them with, and yet not drive yourself crazy?

You can do the fierce teacher act and order everyone to take a book to read in silence, but that can make some classes try to rebel against you. Usually it's less stressful if you engage the class in an activity that they are interested in.

With that in mind, here's an idea for relieving a Primary 1 or Primary 2 class. It's not necessarily educational, but since you're just relieving the class, it doesn't hurt to do something fun at the same time! And the materials needed are easily found in school, or in your students' schoolbags.

Hand Animals

Materials needed: Paper, pencil, colouring materials

Time: One period ( Inclusive of you giving the class instructions on how to carry this out )

What to do:
1. Put hand on paper.
2. Draw outline of hand.
3. Add eyes, hooves, hair to make it look like an animal.
4. Colour.

Easy isn't it? This can be easily done by most Primary 1 or Primary 2 students. If you want to make it more interesting, you can draw a weird-looking animal, or make it into an alien instead. Demonstrate it first, so that they can see how to do it, and then let them loose to their imaginations!


After some time, I decided I would reopen this blog again. I had no idea at the time, but apparently ideas on teachers and teaching are quite popular around the Internet. Even after the blog officially closed, I was still receiving comments and email from a few people, surprisingly. This made me think that maybe ideas on teaching are still being googled, and I do find myself googling ideas for lessons at work.

So I'll make a second try at this blog. Here's to more good stuff!