In my first years of teaching, I was assigned to teach Primary Three students. Though it was challenging, I enjoyed teaching them.
In one of my classes, there was a boy named K* who was always quiet. He kept to himself and would not interact with other children during recess, always standing at one corner of the play area. I could never get K to speak to me.
Mdm Eng celebrates 'World Red Cross Day' with newly enrolled students. Photo Credit: Jing Shan Primary School
I later learnt that K was mildly autistic. In order to reach out to him, I started reading up on autism to learn some strategies on how to connect with and to manage a child with autism. I was determined to get K to speak to me.
In the middle of the year, I had to record the height and weight of the students. I made every student read out their weight to me while standing on the scales. When it was K's turn, he stepped onto the scale. I looked at him and said, "K, can you tell me how heavy you are?" I waited patiently. He was quiet. I prompted, "You are twenty...." And I waited.
"Eight," he muttered.
Mdm Eng and her students experienced an authentic Korean meal during Jing Shan Primary School's 'Twinning Programme' to Seoul. Photo Credit: Jing Shan Primary School
At that moment, I was elated. After having taught him for more than a year, I finally heard K's voice. After that, K began to open up. In the following months, I saw him speak occasionally to his classmates, uttering a word or two in response to their questions. I was happy that he was starting to make connections with the people around him.
K taught me valuable lessons in life.
The first lesson: Be patient.
It takes time for people to know you, to understand your intentions as a teacher, and to open up to you.
The second lesson: Teaching goes beyond the classroom.
A lot of time was spent reaching out to K and observing him in his natural self during recess and after school. Education is about helping students make connections within themselves, with the people around them and with the world.
The third lesson: It takes a village to raise a child.
In my learning to manage a student with autism, I worked with teachers who had previous contact with him. I spent time talking to his sister and parents to find out more about what he was like at home and how he behaved with his siblings and cousins. I worked with his family to help him open up and interact with his peers and with others; we explored how journal writing could help K express his feelings and these entries helped us understand him. This would not have been possible if I was working alone.
The dedicated teacher believes that education is about helping students make connections within themselves, with the people around them and with the world. Photo Credit: Jing Shan Primary School
I do not only teach, I learn. As a teacher, I learn from the people around me - my superiors, colleagues, students, the parents of my students and other stakeholders.
Education is about helping students make connections within themselves, with the people around them and with the world... so they Take Flight!
*Name changed for confidentiality
Contributed by Felicia Eng, the Head-of-Department (Mathematics) from Jing Shan Primary School.