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Touching Lives as a School Counsellor

12 May 2014

MOE Promotion and Appointment Ceremony_Kenny Ong 2

Mr Kenny Ong (second from left), 49, was promoted to Lead School Counsellor at the MOE Promotion and Appointment Ceremony 2014.

Giving our children a happy childhood and supportive learning environment is the desire of parents and educators alike. In addition, the work of education partners is important in supporting this aim.

MOE Promotion and Appointment Ceremony

Mr Kenny Ong, 49, had good prospects in his banking and finance career but decided to follow his passion for working with people, and making a difference in their lives. Looking back over the seven years he has spent as an Allied Educator (Counselling), Kenny felt that this career change was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“From analysing balance sheets to analysing people!” as Kenny puts it pithily.

“As we applaud the contributions of our teachers, we must not forget the crucial role that our education partners play, working hand in hand as One MOE, to bring out the best in every child,” said Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at the Ministry of Education’s Promotion and Appointment Ceremony on 17 April 2014. Kenny, now with Pioneer Primary School, was promoted to Lead School Counsellor.

Talking to Kids is Under-rated

When children demonstrate a negative attitude or inappropriate behaviour in school, it is hard to pinpoint the reason for it. They could be struggling with academic demands, family troubles, social issues, emotional or psychological problems… the list goes on.

Kenny believes in Talk Therapy when managing such behaviour. During one-to-one interactions with students, he builds a relationship with them, understands their problems and gently suggests different perspectives and solutions. This certainly paid off for a primary two student when Kenny was based in Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School. The student was thought to be suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as he was constantly seeking attention and would disrupt lessons by speaking out loud excessively.

“As I worked with the child, I realised that it might not be ADHD, because he was able to focus, respond to instructions and interact very well,” said Kenny, who shared that children with ADHD tended to lose focus easily and would quickly switch from doing one thing to another.

MOE Promotion and Appointment Ceremony_Kenny Ong 1

“They might stand up, walk around the class, maybe take a broom and sweep without being called to do so. They might disturb a friend in class with a pen, or they could keep shouting out answers even after being told many times to raise their hands before speaking,” described Kenny, who has a Master’s degree in counselling.

Over a period of counselling, Kenny helped the student to be more aware how his actions affected others around him. The student also learnt about appropriate behaviour in class. More importantly, Kenny observed that the student was simply very expressive by nature.

Banking on the Support of Parents

“My job as a School Counsellor involves working with children, parents and families,” said Kenny.

In the case that Kenny had cited, he worked with the student’s mother, to help her understand her child’s behaviour and how to help him. After discussions, they decided to channel his energy and enthusiasm to speech and drama activities, in which he could be affirmed for his ability to express himself well. Activities run by the English Drama Club and Chinese Drama Society gave him an avenue for expression and served as an alternative learning approach that suited him.

“His mother was very active in encouraging him,” said Kenny, who observed the fruits of their labour after a year of work. Today, the student has gone on to secondary school and has achieved awards for storytelling and speech-making at the national level.

By believing in our children and tapping the power of communication, they can be guided and encouraged to rise above and be the best they can be.