In the second installment of the four-part seminar series, Of Two Worlds, a teacher and a student-tutor share their personal experiences and takeaways with the KKMC Youth Ministry on how to live out their Christian faith wherever they are placed.
The second session of Of Two Worlds, which focused on the teaching profession was held over Zoom on 19 September 2021. The first panellist, Carolyn Tan with over 20 years of teaching music and English under her belt, was invited to share her experiences. The second panellist, Charlize Goh, is a Secondary 4 student who works as a tutor in her free time and has aspirations to become an educator. Both chose the teaching service as they enjoy interacting with young people, and see it as a calling to inspire and help others.
The teaching profession: A calling
It was a church ministry in the 1990s that inspired Carolyn to think about the teaching profession.
“I had volunteered to teach younger children at the Homework Centre that was set up by KKMC. It was a place where students in the neighbourhood, especially those from lower-income families, would come and receive free tuition from church volunteers. It was after my ‘O’ levels and I enjoyed that time very much.”
The experience left its mark and she decided to pursue the teaching profession as she enjoyed seeing young people grow in their maturity, responsibility, and confidence. Though she did have doubts about venturing into teaching, these doubts mostly came in the midst of challenges and her response was to pray and ask God for guidance.
“There is always a bigger picture. In our frustration we may not see it but God sees it. We should continue to rely on God and trust Him to direct our paths,” Carolyn shared.
For Charlize, it was a caring teacher that influenced her to pursue teaching as a career. “I’ve personally been inspired by a number of teachers throughout my years in school, one of whom was my Secondary 2 form teacher. Back then I was going through difficult times which was tough for me to handle by myself and she noticed that. She asked to talk to me and prayed for me, which was really comforting.”
Charlize was surprised by how open her teacher was about her faith, and it inspired her to join the teaching profession so that she could help others as well.
How can one be a faithful teacher in a secular education environment?
As a Christian teacher, making a difference in a secular school environment involves learning to love and accept the people around you.
Carolyn shared, “When the students make mistakes, I am mindful that God has forgiven us and therefore I should also forgive my students and let them start over again.” It has meant exercising patience and seeing the good in difficult students without labelling them.
She felt it was useful to remember that school was her mission field. “When you are in the mission field, you interact based on the fact that you are all there to do God’s work and you want to let all the corners of the world know about God.”
The importance of Christian fellowship in the workplace was also raised. “Whether it is for difficult times or times of rejoicing, it is a joyful thing to fellowship with other Christians. Regardless of where we go in the working world, we should all join hands and make an effort to find other Christians who are able to fellowship with us,” Carolyn said.
Imparting academic knowledge is not the only way teachers may have an influence over their students. Charlize shared that as a tutor, she not only taught her students academic content but also tried to build their character by educating and encouraging them to support charities.
During a tutoring session, she had brought along a box of stationery supplies to be donated to children-in-need and her curious students had asked her about it. “I explained to them how it was for charity and how I had heard about it from church. I tried to encourage them to donate as well. My younger student even gave me a set of unused pencils and asked me to give them to the children.”
While teachers are placed specifically in environments to nurture students, it is also possible to be placed in informal settings where we have the privilege to mentor others.
One of Charlize’s seniors had encouraged her to join their prayer meetings in school when she was experiencing a difficult season in her life. “Although I had not told my seniors about my problems, she somehow could tell that I needed to spend more time with God.”
The panellists’ sharings helped participants to understand that teaching need not take place solely in schools, but also comes in various forms such as mentoring. In that sense, any one of us can be teachers in our own right, at different times and places.