Looking at photos of the Hiroshima Memorial Park in Japan, students listened intently as their teacher shared her experience of visiting the place. It was sobering to hear the stories of civilians and soldiers who had fallen when the atomic bomb was dropped during World War Two. But they also had mixed feelings and thoughts. For who could forget the horrendous events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the Rape of Nanking, which also had massive, long-term impacts?
By showing the present day effects of past events, Ms Khairiah Bte Hairoman, 34, the Head of Department for Humanities at Peirce Secondary School, helps students to see the indelible mark that history leaves behind. Challenged to consider different perspectives, the students realised that hindsight is not always perfect.
“They gain a bigger world picture”
“They don’t just learn content knowledge. They gain a bigger worldview,” said Ms Khairiah as she shared about the empathy and compassion expressed by students. From understanding the long-term effects of historical events, they would be able to develop richer and more dynamic responses to their paper and pen assessments.
Such teaching approaches go a long way in helping our students to relate what they learn in the classroom to real life. For her efforts, Ms Khairiah is one of the five recipients of the Outstanding Youth in Education Award (OYEA) 2014, which recognises young teachers for their commendable enthusiasm, energy and active involvement in youth development.
In her personal travels around the world, Ms Khairiah chooses countries such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Russia because they are linked to the syllabus she teaches. She also makes the effort to visit relevant places-of-interest such as the Hiroshima Memorial Park in Japan and the Demilitarised Zone in Korea. Armed with her experiences, thoughts and photos, she steps into the classroom and teaches with a lot more impact.
Students look forward to hearing her stories, and history lessons come alive.
Flying across the oceans for overseas learning trips, students also have the opportunity to broaden their perspectives for themselves. During a trip to Jaffna, a war-torn part of Sri Lanka, they witnessed the effects of war, the suffering of the locals and the obvious military presence even though the civil war had ended.
Local learning journeys are also part of the experiences that students can participate in. Exploring the Heritage Trail in the central business district of Singapore is one such example. Students are able to witness the contributions of our founding fathers in the environment around them, such as through objects, places, photos and commentaries.
“History is a discourse”
Debating is another method that Ms Khairiah uses in class. Students grapple with the information given to them about the topic and present arguments to support their case. Voicing their views and listening to the arguments put up by the opposing team jolts their minds and causes them to think on their feet.
“History is a discourse,” said Ms Khairiah, who observed that aside from having a good handle on the content, students also practise their communication skills and develop confidence as they present their views in front of their classmates.
While such innovative teaching and learning methods are useful, Ms Khairiah knows that the relationship with her students form the basis of teaching and is a crucial factor for success.
“The most important thing is to build rapport with your students first,” said Ms Khairiah, “Then they will be responsive when you teach.”
Congratulations to Ms Khairah for being one of this year’s Outstanding Youth in Education award recipient!