Truancy, talking back to teachers in vulgarities, running away from home – these were typical behaviour exhibited by Davain Koh two years ago. He was suspended from school four times because of his impulsiveness and temper.
Known for their truancy and mischief in Secondary One, many teachers had difficulties dealing with the Normal (Technical) class that Davain was in.
But Mr Paul Jeremiah, Allied Educator (Teaching & Learning) changed all that. He saw a fighting spirit and potential in not just Davain, but also the rest of the students in the class.
Inspired by Mr Paul, Davain decided to change for the better and has been topping his class since Secondary Three.
Mr Paul Jeremiah, who has been providing teaching and learning support in English and Elements of Business Skills in Hougang Secondary School since 2011, encouraged his students by assuring them that they were destined for glory, not shame or embarrassment. Everyone makes mistakes, but Mr Paul Jeremiah goes beyond mere punishment as he wants to ensure that his students learn something from their mistake and get back stronger than before.
Recalling one of his encounters with Mr Paul Jeremiah, Davain shared, ‘I remember how Mr Paul ran out of the school to help my classmates who got into a fight with other students. He did it without hesitation, without fear of his own safety. Everything was done out of love for us. He treated us like his own family.’
Mr Paul Jeremiah, also known as Papa P to his students, shows concern but he also reminds them that care and discipline works hand-in-hand.
‘Papa P reminds us constantly that with every action, there is a consequence. If we choose to loiter outside school during school hours, we have to face the possibility of getting suspended. He will not cut corners for us because he wants us to understand that the consequences we have to face outside school could be worse,’ said Rachel Tan, a Secondary Four student.
With the support of the subject teachers, Mr Paul Jeremiah works together with them to create a family culture in the class. As their ‘Character Coach’, Mr Paul get students to have breakfast, play games and share about their week for a few hours every week.
The results have been promising – latecoming and absenteeism was reduced greatly because the teens wanted to bond with their classmates, and they could do it in a safe environment.
‘Every child wants to succeed, and affirmation is important. We have to teach students to do the right things (values-based) instead of doing things right (performance based). Why don’t we look at their strengths instead of jumping to judgements when students make mistakes?’ shared Mr Paul, who believes in investing time and effort in his students because everyone is part of a big family.
Papa P has won the hearts of his students and their parents with his humour, firm yet kind disposition.
A trait his students appreciate most? Respect.
‘Mr Paul respects and treats us fairly, always listening to what we have to say. He also apologises if he has made a mistake. Most important, he walks the talk,’ said Davain.