Great Educators make Great Students

I was touched by how instead of screaming at my nine-year-old daughter, he put his arms around her shoulders and explained to her that the greatest tragedy is to have to ever lie to a parent who cares, because the parent is someone who will stand up for her no matter what happens.

It didn’t take him even a second to forgive my daughter for telling a lie that got him and a few teachers in the school spinning around to look for solutions.  His motive was clear: he captured the opportunity to teach his student and not only did my daughter learn the lesson well, we remember his kindness to this day.

Unfortunately, a principal like that is often under appreciated.

I put my child in his school simply because I was a horrible and busy CEO-mum who was too busy preparing for my own company’s listing that I forgot to register my child for primary school.  Fortunately, this principal’s school moved into the neighbourhood that year and he had many places left even after Phase 2C was over.  He gladly took my kid in.

It is not only about Academic Results

Trying to reform myself from the inattentive mum, I asked about the future of my child: the GEP program, EM1 etc etc. His tacit reply was that he was not concerned about those and his aim was not to gear the children for examinations.

Through the years, my children and their classmates did not have supplementary or remedial classes, instead, they participated in activities  he engaged the alumnus help to bring into the school.  The school had interesting CCAs like stilt-walking, from traditional to modern dances, and my daughters went on to sing in the new choir, and swam in the new swim team.

When I went to fetch my younger daughter one time, I saw him teaching her how to mop the floor to keep it dry and safe after the rain.  He weighed my daughter’s bag when we told him it was really heavy, he sent a thank you card to me for sponsoring the school swim team and for always being there to cheer for them.

My contributions to the school were few, but when I spent an afternoon just tying the choir girls’ hair up, the thank yous were never-ending.

Partnering the Parents

Our school is not an ‘elite school’, so most children come from double-incomed heartlander families. During the choir competitions, we have a meagre group of five parents cheering for our 80-strong choir.  The school was not choosy who got into the choir, every child who wanted to sing could sing for the school While our support was pathetic, our children’s voices were powerful.

Other choirs had beautiful and shining costumes, while our kids just wore their cleanest uniforms and sang with gusto.  For the four years my girls spent in the choir, the choir went for two competitions and the school won two Gold awards, a feat not even achievable by more matured choirs.

I believe it was all because the school had great leadership and passionate teachers. Though the teachers could not garner many parents to support them during working hours, they made up this lack by their clear communications with the parents, amicable relations with those of us who could help, and being always appreciative.

Year after year, whenever there was a national sport competition, my son’s school teachers would be counting the number of medals they win, while my girls’ school was happy to have a finalist.  While my sons’ school had a set of track suit each, my daughter’s friends were happy to have a new T-shirt with their names that are printed by a printer I engaged.I did that just so  they would feel special about representing their school.

The swim teacher would be there to smile whenever the school team lost but would make sure my girls got the recognition they deserve for representing the country in their respective sport.  Even in a neighbourhood school, my daughters were given the same opportunities as my sons.

The principal and teachers never fail to thank me above what I really deserve, and because of the wonderful relationship with the school, both my girls had great primary school educations, and great memories of their childhood.  And even though one of my daughters had problems with school at one time, the school volunteered a counselor without my prompting.

End of an Era

By the time my younger daughter reached upper primary, it was time for this principal to leave.  There was no fanfare, no great celebration.  I heard that he was to become the principal of another neighbourhood primary school.

Some said that he was not promoted because of his mediocre performance but I choose to believe he was so good with our school, that he has gone on to do the same for another school.

Indeed, our school was transformed from a simple neighbourhood school to a sought-after one vibrant with interesting activities and good PSLE scores. While there was no career celebration according to some, the love in the kids were present.  My daughter cried for a week and still talks about him to this day.  Certainly, the care and concern he showed to my daughters were felt.

Soul Educators

An educator like him makes a difference in our children’s lives.  Selfless, giving and did not succumb to the many measurements that would have made him mercenary so that he could climb the corporate ladder.  While he was concerned about the academic results, he was even more concerned for bringing up good people with souls.  He set the culture for the school and his teachers were no less great to work with.

While I wonder if his effort will be appreciated by those who matter more in his career path, I appreciate him deeply for all that he has done.

It is often the silent workers, the quiet and unassuming educators who make differences in our children’s lives, yet they are often forgotten.

Soul educators are also in my son’s school. I remember the Australian P5 teacher who would give my P2 child a place in her class when his own teacher sent him away, the disciplinary master who would soften her voice and told my son he could run to her whenever he had problems, the gentle VP who would stop by for every boy to have a gentle word with him, the Chinese teacher who was not afraid to say that my son was not a problem even though she was pressurized to say he was, the kind Killer Whale GEP HOD who would use antiseptic wipe to clean the floor so that it was spotless for the boys to sit on.

Sadly, their voices were often drowned by their more aggressive and career-minded colleagues or superiors who needed quicker and more evident results than building up a soul. Often, their humanly advice go unheard amongst the more aggressive demands of theirs and their superiors’ KPIs.

And while you won’t like them (students) all, the key is they can never, ever know it. So teachers become great actors and great actresses and we come to work when we don’t feel like it and we listen to policies that don’t make sense and we teach anyway.

We teach anyway because that’s what we do. Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who had a champion.  Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

Is this job tough, you betcha, but it is not impossible. We can do this, we are educators.  We are born to make a difference.

~ Rita Pierson

So, perhaps I was really a useless mom who even forgot to register my child in a school during the P1 registration. But that mistake was probably the best that I have ever made, and my daughters have that mistake to thank for their priceless primary school education, one that is built around relationships and care.

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