Discussing the significance and joys of teaching

teaching professionImage source

Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

There are different reasons why someone would like to choose teaching as a lifelong career. But before we discuss this, let’s have a look at why teaching may not be an attractive profession for some.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Education has always encouraged working professionals to enter the teaching sector, and this includes professionals who are making mid-career switches. This open approach to teacher recruitment is not indicative of a lack of teachers but more in terms of how educators are valued in the country. The employment market within the country is competitive when it comes to talents recruitment and the teaching profession may not have one of the strongest pull factors. On the contrary, there are many tertiary students who look to professions with greater prospects of a higher monetary remuneration, such as banking, accounting and finance.

This is not a local trend. In fact, it could well be a global one. In Singapore, the number of literature student intake is dropping. In Japan, some universities have closed their social studies and humanities programmes to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”. All in all, there have been a trend of a drop or loss of emphasis on the social sciences and humanities. Of course, there’s no direct indicator that the loss in interest in the social sciences and the humanities is in any way, linked to people’s aspirations for greater monetary remuneration but the possible of a causal relationship exists.

Generally, local educators in the civil education service are paid well for the teaching positions but there are other commercial and industrial sectors that offer higher pay. Hence, the teaching position – while attractive to those who find a calling in teaching – may not be alluring enough to those who have different life aspirations.

You have not answered the question yet. Why would anyone choose teaching as a profession?

To choose teaching as a profession, there are several qualities that one should possess. The most important quality in teaching, is a passion for it. Now, “passion” is a tricky word. To me, “passion = interest + ability“. This is something that some might not be cognizant about. What I mean is that some people may lack certain factors in the equation. For instance, one may have a passion for teaching but lacks a certain set of skill sets. On the other hand, one may have the capability to excel in teaching but their interest may be lost if some of their expectations within the teaching environment are not met.

“Hence, it’s only when the interest of the person matches their teaching abilities – coupled with the fact that they are able to thrive in an academic environment – that they will truly shine as an educator. And this is often not easy to realise until they find themselves teaching so as to see the truth for themselves. “

Taking the first step to try out as an educator requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone, where courage is called for. Thus, bravery is the second quality of an educator, because it is required not just in entering the teaching profession but also in the fact that it is an essential quality that must be employed in the classroom.

“An educator must be able to take the initiative in evoking insights from students in in-depth discussions and play the lead role in discussion issues from various perspectives.  An educator must be avant-garde in proposing thought-provoking questions, and innovative in lesson design to truly make their lessons shine.”

This is not an easy task and it often takes years to master. Whether one is willing and prepared to take the plunge into this challenge again requires bravery.

The third quality is patience.

As educators, they must be prepared to be patient. They should not hold the expectation that all students will have the same learning pace (which is almost an impossibility, especially in a class of 35-40 students, as can typically be seen in local classroom settings at the primary and secondary level at this point in time). Some students will inadvertently fall behind while some students race ahead during the course of the lessons. Having some students asking educators to teach more within the same lesson duration with some putting forward requests  to slow down the lessons has been a dilemma for most educators in the classrooms. The trick to maintaining a balance is tricky and requires patience on the part of educators.

“There are numerous essential qualities of an educator, and I have only named three which I find to be the most essential. Educators are all different and they vary in personalities and teaching approaches. Nevertheless, the abovementioned qualities are important criteria to assess the suitability of an educator in the teaching profession.”

What makes you decide to join the teaching profession?

I love teaching. Straight and simple.

The path isn’t easy for me either. Teaching doesn’t occur to me as the first choice, unlike some teachers who have decided on teaching since graduating.

This is because my interests are very diverse. I love many things, such as reading, writing, design, photography, the Japanese language, Buddhism, travelling, cultures, psychology, research, editing, social media, analytical thinking, creative writing, communication studies, media literacy. literature, journalism and many more.

It has come to a point where an interviewer once asked me during an interview if I know what I want.

“There might be an expectation among some interviewers that one should be more of a specialist than a generalist but I cannot change my innate preference. I am a generalist, and I am proud to be one. “

So, when I first entered the teaching profession, I have the most enjoyable time of my life, which has lasted till now.

“I realise that I am able to integrate my varied interests into my teachings, employ my writing skills to guide my students and interest them with my thoughts on contemporary happenings. And because every lesson is different with varying class dynamics, I am able to put both my adaptability (did I mention I love variety and changes?) and my understanding of human psychology into work.”

This is something I couldn’t do in some workplaces, due to bureaucratic management, rigid work schedules and work responsibilities, lack of flexible and innovative autonomy, office politics, or a combination of the mentioned.

I really love teaching. Because I find teaching very empowering.

Schools are a golden land of learning, and it still is – in spite of the Internet. In fact, the internet has become my ally in my teaching, what with Information Communication Technology (ICT) entering the education landscape and of course, the “flipped classroom” approach.

To wrap it up, do you have any advice for teachers or professionals aspiring to be teachers?

I will say that teaching is a very fulfilling career.

“It might not be the most fulfilling professions financially, and the work(load) can be heavy and time-consuming. But at the end of the day, when you look back, you will see a lot of smiling and appreciative faces, thanking you for your dedication and hardwork to teaching. And you will see for yourself, over time, the learners you have accepted and developed into full-fledged talents. This is something that money cannot buy. This sense of satisfaction is invaluable and it stays with you beautifully  throughout the times you continue teaching – knowing in your hearts that talents are nurtured and groomed in every teaching moments, and feeling grateful in your heart.

If you feel an increasing sense of elation as you are reading this, then I say, ‘Join me in the teaching profession. It will be worth your while.’ ”

Patrick Tay is an English Language and Life Skills Training Specialist  who is based in Singapore. He has been teaching communication studies and international issues in polytechnics and writes regularly on various issues of interest in education, media, business and international affairs at patricktay.wordpress.com. He can be contacted at teachingwithart@gmail.com .


3 reasons why giving individual feedback to students is important



1.  Giving individual feedback to students saves them during tests and exams

Giving individual feedback regularly to students will enable them to make attitudinal and habitual changes, which will in turn help them increase their learning enthusiasm towards studying. Over time, they often improve in the subject(s) you are teaching.

When exams approach, they are often more readily prepared for these assessments, as compared to situations whereby they are not receiving any feedback from their teachers.

The types of individual feedback to be given to students varies but it should include the following:

  • Positive attitudes to learning (to be inculcated)
  • Disruptive behaviours in class (to be refrained)
  • Improvements on their assignments or areas to improve on
  • Communication skills with their teammates and classmates (to be improved)
  • Enquiries for any drastic drop in grades or interest in lessons
  • Enquiries about any factors that are affecting their learning

“When feedback is given to students on a consistent basis, the rapport between the students and their teachers also improve, which will in turn enable the students to learn better.”

2. Giving feedback builds strong rapport between students and their teachers

As mentioned in the previous point, giving feedback to students individually and consistently throughout the semesters enables great rapport to be established and sustained between students and their teachers. This is because the very act of giving individual feedback to students by teachers shows that the latter care for their students.

“The very act of showing care towards students’ academic performance by concerned teachers is a primary determining factor in enhancing students’ learning in the classrooms, and may well be instrumental in having greatly engaged student and fantastic learning experiences.

Doing so also increases the possibility of students providing constructive feedback to their teachers, such that their teachers are able to improve their teaching methods and techniques as well.”

3. Giving individual feedback to students enables teachers to understand their students’ learning styles after receiving their responses.

When giving feedback, it’s very important that teachers ask the students if they have interpreted their observations of them correctly to avoid miscommunications, which is common.

For instance, a teacher may provide feedback to a student about his or her ability to focus, since the student is always typing away at her laptop in class when lessons are in session. However, what is happening is that the student learns by typing the main points mentioned in class into a Word document on the laptop. Without asking for the student’s response and without looking at what the student is working on on his or her laptop, the teacher has created a miscommunication, which will probably damage the goodwill between them. If the teacher had asked the students for the reasons for their actions, a lot of misunderstanding can be avoided, with the teacher being more aware of the student’s learning style as well.

A great solution is for teachers to always ask why, when in doubt about their students’ behaviour – thereby giving students a chance to provide a rationale to justify their behaviours.


Author’s background: Patrick Tay is an English Writing Specialist who lectures in various polytechnics in Singapore, and coaches students in English as a private tutor. His professional services can be found here

3 things you might not know about effective teaching

teaching business


1. Teaching is selling.

Most of us often separate teaching from selling. If you are teaching, you are not selling. After all, teachers are not paid by the students, are there? And there’s nothing to sell.


Teachers must learn selling skills, and they must sell – not to make a monetary profit but to maximise the learning opportunities of their students. They do not sell products or services but they sell ideas. Students must be be interested and motivated to learn, and if their teachers can’t get them inspired, the rest of the lesson time will be wasted.

So, teachers, please sell ideas pertaining to the lessons to your students.

I have attended an enrichment teaching program and one of my two trainers mentioned that we should “make thinking visible”. This phrase struck a chord with me as I am – coincidentally – reading a book “Brainfruit” on the challenges that creatives face when selling their ideas to potential investors. This is one of the few books whereby a serial entrepreneur collaborate with an academic to pen a book together on business start-ups to guide creatives who wish to turn their creative ideas into profitable businesses.

So teachers, narrate a story, ask questions, show a video, play music, and get your students to resonate with the lessons.

Like sales professionals in businesses, sell your students on why they need to learn the content in your lessons, and/or the benefits that they will reap upon mastering them. Most students are looking for practical usage for the things they learn, so please inform them how they are able to apply the concepts learnt in class to real life.

Teachers are not salespeople?

No, teachers must be the best salespeople.

2. Teaching is all about questioning

Teaching in a lecturing style doesn’t work. Students don’t want to be lectured. They want to brainstorm and they want to think for themselves.

Teachers can only do that by asking the class questions, and bouncing these ideas in class.

The catch is that students – Asian students – are not attuned to be very participative, especially in front of the whole class.

One way that students participate is when teachers start with a story that the class can relate to (thereby activating what they presently know. The academic term is “prior knowledge”) and then asking the class questions. Most students will respond. Try it and see.

Most students want to participate. They just do not like to look bad in front of their peers. So, one way teachers can do that is to make the questions easy for them to answer (using maybe a closed factual question) and once they have “warmed up”, teachers can switch to open questions to get them thinking and talking. Do keep a lookout for the quieter ones who tend to stay quiet consistently. Encourage them to be more vocal as well.

So, teachers, question your classes. They really want to learn.

3. Understand each students’ aspirations and ambitions (secondary level and above)

In typical classroom settings, teachers merely treat the class as one body and write down observations of the students in terms of what they observed during assessment sessions. Few teachers actually take the effort to know each students individually, which makes a whole world of different to the students.

Primary school students might be too young to implement this but this is often workable for secondary to tertiary students, where their cognitive ability is already developed.

Nevertheless, the conventional school system often do not take this into consideration and hence do not allocate time for teachers to get to know their students better. I have read in a local education magazine that a school allows teachers to lunch out with students on certain weekdays to enable them to get to know their students better.

While I applaud this, I would also encourage schools to let their teachers interact with their students in class in a chatting session whereby they will get to know one another in terms of their teaching and learning style. This also enables teachers to know their students’ aspirations and ambitions. This session should preferably be planned just before lessons begin for the upcoming semester.

With this orientation in place, teachers can really feel the difference when they walk into school.

Author’s background: Patrick Tay is an English Writing Specialist who lectures in various polytechnics in Singapore, and coaches students in English as a private tutor. His professional services can be found here.


John Hattie: The reason why some schools and teachers are so successful

John Hattie is a Professor of Education and Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia, since March 2011. He was previously Professor of Education at the University of Auckland.

His research interests include performance indicators and evaluation in education, as well as creativity measurement and models of teaching and learning. He is a proponent of evidence-based quantitative research methodologies on the influences on student achievement.

In this TEDx Talk in Sweden, he states that students’ family background or their personalities, school or class restructuring, learning programs, technology are not attributes contributing to effective learning.

Rather, it’s the following that are determining factors that play a pivotal role in learning:

Factors affecting teachingScreenshot from the video above.

In a nutshell, effective learning arises from:

1. Collaboration among teachers in their teaching approaches

2.  Employment of students’ prior knowledge towards successfully teaching objectives

3. Mutual trust and respect established and maintained between teachers and their students, as well as students accepting errors as opportunities to learn

4. Students’ feedback to teachers such that the latter can modify their teaching approaches to suit the learning styles of the class

5.  Attaining the right degree of balance between surface learning (where students do not understand the subject matter as it is entirely new to them) and deep learning (where students already have existing prior knowledge and where they need something more insightful and challenging to excite their learning enthusiasm)

6. Conducting the lessons in increasing difficulty, and where students are given the opportunities and time to overcome these difficulties



How to teach Anything to Anyone

How to teach anyone anything

Source: http://bit.ly/1hNasD2

Noteworthy quotes:

Setting structured and clear objectives 

“So often people fail in teaching before they start because they don’t have a clear plan. Successful teaching requires structured content with clear objectives and milestones. “

Getting visual

“The best way to expedite learning is to create detailed documents, videos and pictures that demonstrate exactly how a process should be done….Make the content clear and engaging

Some of the best presentations remain unstructured..or at least, it comes down to the personality of the presenters

“I am always baffled how the most interesting and entertaining people suddenly become lifeless and dull when they have structured material to present. ” (Note: Most creatives are unstructured, but humourous)

Use Humour, visuals and storytelling

“Use humor, visuals and storytelling to encode the messages. If you make it entertaining, you’ll engage the learners and yourself so everyone is present..”

Why lectures almost never work

“Lecture is statistically the least effective method for content delivery. People lose interest or get distracted and ultimately retain less information.”

Why being interactive works

“Give them exercises that encourage them to ask questions and demonstrate tasks so they can absorb the material in a meaningful way.”

Learning more from failures than successes

“Since people can learn more from failure than from success, provide frequent, specific feedback laced with encouragement and praise.”

Letting go to inculcate lifelong and independent learning

“Once your learner can self-correct, let him or her fly solo so you can go find something new to learn with your freshly-gained time.”

Introducing Edudemic.com (connecting education and technology)



Some noteworthy posts (with infographics in most posts serving as visual guides):

1.  What is a flipped classroom?

2.  A visual guide to the past, present and future of education

3.  How to get students to love reading

4.  The Teachers’ guide to technology and learning

5.  The Evolution of Distance Learning

6.  The past, present and future of online education

7.  How to use crowdsourcing in the classroom

8.  How to work with parents to create better learning environment

And many more!

The 10 Biggest Educational Trends of 2013

teaching trends

Source: http://www.edudemic.com/biggest-educational-trends/