Goh Wai Leng believes in the power of discovering and realising potential, whether it is in her students or her fellow teachers.
Goh Wai Leng, Geylang Methodist School (Primary), President’s Award for Teachers 2018 Recipient
Being a teacher has been Goh Wai Leng’s first and only job; it is “where my heart really lies”, she says.
A Physical Education teacher of 18 years, Wai Leng loves the buzz of the school environment, whether it is from mingling with students and putting them through their paces as athletes, or from her fellow teachers in her capacity as School Staff Developer (SSD).
She remembers supervising a new teacher a few years ago. “She initially had ‘heavy’ family commitments, but I was there with her to grow her leadership journey. When she became Subject Head, I was able to, as a more senior teacher, share with her what to do, and the challenges she may face. She became more confident and comfortable in leading her own team of people.” That teacher is now Head of Department of Aesthetics in her school.
Wai Leng has also been helping her colleagues to grow in other ways.
In 2017, as Year Head of Primary 1 and 2, she saw an opportunity to help her colleagues understand their pupils better. Many of the children joined the school from kindergartens, where they had already been exposed to certain subjects and environments.
So Wai Leng made arrangements for her primary school teachers to get familiar with the kindergarten environment, and MOE’s recently-introduced Nurturing Early Learners Curriculum, through visits and sharing sessions.
This helped them better meet the children’s needs. “My colleagues were able to understand why their own classroom methods made some of the pupils bored or fearful. They managed to adjust accordingly, so they could put the children at ease and continue to nurture their sense of curiosity.”
Commenting on her role as an SSD and mentor, Wai Leng added, “There is sense of satisfaction when you see your teachers grow.”
Wai Leng gets a similar sense of satisfaction when she sees her students grow, particularly those in her Co-Curricular Activity, Track and Field.
She recalls a particular child Alvin (not his real name) whom she talent-spotted when he was in Primary 3. “He was a scrawny little boy and nobody knew that he could run. But as a former athlete myself, I could see his potential. He was a gem in the making.”
Wai Leng encouraged him to train and take part in national sports meets. “The whole idea was to have the experience – to experience defeat, to experience sweet success, as long as you better your personal best.”
Alvin blossomed in his individual events, the boys’ 300m and 600m. When he went on to secondary school, he became the champion for ‘C’ Division Cross Country.
Giving students a bigger voice
Off the track, Wai Leng believes in helping students to set targets too. She introduced the “Reflection Organiser” – a checklist for them to track and reflect on their progress.
Periodically, teachers will sit down with the students to go through the organiser and its questions: What are your strengths? What is the area that you want to work on? How can you do better? What support do you want from your teacher, and from your parents?
It is a useful stock-take, but it does not stop there. Remarks that students make during these discussions are also shared at Meet-the-Parents sessions. It is a departure from the convention of teachers giving parents feedback about their children. As Wai Leng points out, “The child has a voice. Hear him out.”
One child said she wanted her parents to sit with her while she was studying, instead of watching television. Some said they were not able to finish their schoolwork because they had too much tuition.
Wai Leng took videos of some of the parent-teacher meetings in 2017, the first year where the reflection organisers were used. In one particularly powerful clip, a teacher asked a Primary 1 student what she wanted to say to her mother. The child said, “I want to say to mummy ‘Thank you for helping me all this time’”. And then the child gave her mother a hug.
“When I shared that video with my colleagues, they understood its impact – it was about real people, real students, real stories. And this captured their hearts,” says Wai Leng.
“Mrs Chan’s PE lessons are very fun. We team up with friends and learn about teamwork through games like the Scarecrow, where we work together to try to get the ball from other people. When we play, we learn that you do not need to do everything yourself, but can work with other people to achieve your goals.” – Durratul, Primary 3