This is what a great teacher looks like

He’s not good looking. Some of his students used to say that he looks like Snoopy. But one thing is certain. The students he coached in badminton will definitely remember the positive impact he made in their lives.

Seah Kiam Meng has been nominated for The New Paper’s S Soocelaraj Award for teacher-coaches. He is the teacher-in-charge as well as coach for the badminton teams of River Valley High Schoo. He held the same role in his previous school in Jurong Junior College.

I know Kiam Meng and many of his badminton players. The teams Kiam Meng have been in charge of have always been seen as the underdogs. His journey every year to the schools badminton championships is always arduous. But with unwavering tenacity, he always pushes on. He finally got the ultimate reward when one of the teams he was in charge of, the A-Division Girls’ team, won the championship this year.

But winning is not everything. Kiam Meng is more interested in helping the students grow and develop. I know how much he cares for every aspect of his players, from their studies, to their social-emotional growth, to their character and moral values.

Kiam Meng invests tremendous amounts of physical and emotional energy into his students. He not only spends time coaching his players in badminton, he spends time and effort having deep conversations with them. He listens without judging, is harsh and tough when necessary, but always caring.

I wonder whether his efforts are truly recognised and rewarded by the school management and system. His methods are actually very old fashion – put in your heart and soul to connect with the students, build a positive relationship where the students are receptive to your influence, set high standards, scaffold properly, be tough yet caring.

So I wonder whether he would be at a disadvantage when he is ranked against other teachers. Nothing “innovative” in his teaching/coaching pedagogy. No fanciful projects to report. Just simple things. Simple, but difficult to do, yet very effective and, in my opinion, is exactly what we need in our education system.

But I am just not sure whether the performance management system in our education system recognises or rewards teachers like Kiam Meng, teachers who just want to do the simple, but difficult, things of actually educating and nurturing students. Teachers who do not bother with needlessly long meetings,  stupid reports that someone up there wants, the attention seeking events that actually have limited positive impact. Teachers who are single minded in their focus to do what is best for the students, not what would make the school management/school look good. I am just not sure that our education system gives enough recognition and rewards to such teachers. Worse, I am worried that our education system is chasing such teachers away.

I hope my worries are unfounded. But… from what I am hearing, I am not optimistic. That is why teachers like Kiam Meng, who soldier on come what may, are so precious.

[Featured image from TNP by Dalene Low]


2 thoughts on “This is what a great teacher looks like

  1. Fortunate enough to be a student, and then a colleague, and now a friend….
    We will keep on trying to do the best for our students. Thats why we choose this career.


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