‘An SUTD culture…

I did think of the idea of a family. I try to go around to greet people, I just try to say ‘hi’ to everyone that I see, I try to talk to a lot of people. Then I realise that as I grow older, it gets more and more inhibitive la. I don’t know why but I still try to do that. I was hoping that SUTD can embrace the idea that we have a lot to learn from each other, and I was hoping that we can value each other. We may not agree with the way that somebody does something, but you always value that person for doing that something. So these two things were what I thought when we talk about being a family – being close enough to talk to another in campus, and being supportive of each other.

So I was this overly young egoistic teacher going into the classroom thinking I could make a huge difference. I was confident about my knowledge in school and I was like if I know my curriculum quite well, and I am a young teacher, I think that I can do very well with the students. So I went in with this very egoistic idea that you know with youth, you can sort of inspire. That was the perspective.

That also went haywire. When my classes did not do well for their block test, I became very disappointed. I had this mentality that if you don’t do well, you did not work hard enough. I got so angry that I walked out in the middle of the class, because they did very badly.

I was very emotionally attached and I was really quite disappointed. Because of that little conflict that we had, I didn’t manage to get that relationship with the class back on track – for a very long time I did not realise that it was also my mistake that I threw a tantrum at them, and that maybe it was not because they were not hardworking enough, but maybe..because chemistry is not for everyone. I actually know they worked really hard.

I was getting the reality all wrong, in terms of people. Everything is different, everyone thinks differently and everyone has their values, everyone is good at different stuff. Honestly, during the first few weeks as a teacher, I didn’t feel that I was wrong. It was only after years of reflection that – you know things trigger you – and then you start to realise that ‘oh ya, I was wrong in a lot of things.’

I was employing wrong methods and wrong ideas on certain things. Over the years I learnt to appreciate and see how people work very differently, how people think very differently, valuing multiple perspectives, understanding how people work. I think there is still a lot of room for growth. I don’t know how to change everything about myself that I want to change. Sometimes you realise that being enthusiastic about certain things that trigger you, actually keeps you more alive as a person, rather than being someone completely objective or rational. I feel that if I get robbed of that enthusiasm and passion, I would not be myself anymore. So there is still this conflict, finding a balance.

Coming out of this, I really respect teachers a lot more, but I hope that most of the teachers could understand students better. Teachers went through the same education system, which is mostly yes or no, or right or wrong – a good student is a student who excels in studies, shuts up in class, listens to you talk and hands in his homework on time. The idea of the model student should not fit a certain set of criteria, which was a mistake I felt I made very badly and I bet even negatively affected some of the students, which I still regret now.

It takes a bit for you to step out of that environment and see yourself critically, and if you ever step back into that environment you know what to do. When you are stuck in that environment, it is very difficult. So…it is going to take us time to step out of the SUTD environment, to look back and then see that we should do something.’

J I E H A N
C H U A
< Class of 2015, EPD >

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