To have heart

The first week of work has gone by quietly. The new semester hasn’t started and my colleagues are busy winding down the previous semester. As such, I’m left pretty much on my own most of the time.

To say that the environment is vastly from the Agency is an understatement. Back at the Agency, things are always happening and there’s a buzz in the air. Here, I’m sitting in my 1980s-ish cubicle with high walls and it can get deathly quiet at times.

I am not complaining though. As with every new job, adjustments need to be made and expectations changed. There is no rush and time is needed for me to get used to the way things are run here. Best of all, I have friends like miss ene and darthycdious to ease me into the system.

But that is not the point of this post. Within my first week, I was asked to attend a session that discussed all about the passion of teaching – what’s constructive and destructive passion, how we can sustain our passion etc. Two things that struck me: first, some of my colleagues were honest to me about how they are in this line not for the passion but for the stability it brings; and second, how many educators love their jobs but detest their admin load and the institution.

One reason why I never, ever considered teaching in our primary/secondary/junior college system was because I had seen first-hand how friends loved what they did but left because of politics and administrative work. This is not dissimilar to the private sector – love the job but hate the company or boss. But, and that’s a huge BUT, I always wondered why our teachers are made to take on so much admin work when their primary function is to EDUCATE.

It seems like this is a problem even at tertiary level and while I didn’t think that teachers at my level are free from handling paperwork and “extra curricular activities”, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the actual amount. And during that session, it was clear that many of them felt that the balance between teaching and administrative work is tipping in the wrong direction.

And I don’t know why this would come as a shock – I certainly was guilty of it at the Agency – but I was taken aback when someone hiunted broadly to me that she was here not because she genuinely enjoyed what she did but because of the job stability and relatively easy hours (hardly anyone stays beyond 6pm).

I have always associated teaching as a job that requires passion. I mean, I don’t have to be passionate about advertising in order to produce a fantastic press release but you certainly need to have a lot of heart in order to be a good teacher. And if your heart is not in it, it shows in your teaching. Just think back to the days when you were in school: I can definitely identify the teachers who had shaped my life and those who simply recited from the textbook and didn’t care if I was snoozing in class or not.

Right now, I cannot say that I have a passion for teaching simply because I haven’t started. But I am here because I am genuinely interested in this vocation. I don’t know if I will be any good but I do know, through my Masterclass sessions, that people enjoyed listening to my presentations and that I am quite believable when I am passionate about my subject. And I hope that this will come across when I start teaching proper.

This argument between earning my keep and doing something that I love has been raging in my career for a long time now. Some may call me a job-hopper but most of the time, I leave because I feel that I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank to sustain me for longer and I honestly don’t feel much for the job. It’s quite clear to me, then, that passion rules over practical issues in the long run. I cannot remain in a job because it pays the bills, I need to enjoy and love my job.

Call me idealistic but I am willing to take a risk (and a huge paycut) to try. And that in itself says a lot.

6 thoughts on “To have heart”

  1. Great – and thoughtful – post. Given my background (media, arts, education), I can talk about this for HOURS. But for now: good luck and don’t let the administrative BS get you down. There are magical moments in teaching; look out for and cherish them.


  2. Like you, I am genuinely interested in education too. Always felt that way, and I feel that I have the aptitude for it through the years of teaching I’ve done in my previous role as a researcher in the university. It’s something that keeps coming back to me, and something that I keep thinking about. The only thing I lack is the guts to move out of what I’m currently doing, which is something I like, but not necessarily meaningful. Why the lack of guts – the potential pay cut, the fear of moving onto something new – and I have to say I hand it to you for soldiering on and taking the leap anyway! Wish I could muster that, we’ll see…in a few months! Probably need to steel your guts!


  3. I think it’s unfair how society is quick to label people as job hoppers. I feel like I’m of the same mind as you. I need to be passionate about my work and I come to the job motivated and I leave only when I am thoroughly demotivated or distressed by a terribly bad work environment. I can understand also why people would pick a job that allows them to leave at 6 and not feel a whole ton of guilt and they are not hard working enough. The work culture in Singapore is just not healthy no matter how much talk there is about work life balance.

    So glad that you’re in a much better environment and I just feel in my bones that teaching will come naturally to you. You’ll be one of those teachers the kids remembers years after.

    It’s so wonderful that you have Miss Ene with you. Just hope you’re not too bogged down by the admin.


  4. You are half-right to say that to teach, you need passion. There are many people I know who are in the teaching profession and cannot teach. You can smell them a mile away.

    I’m in my 5th year in education and can clearly say that I enjoy my job. Truly. Of course, it comes with all sorts of not-nice-bits (like dealing with red tape and other administrative responsibilities) but for me, at the end of the day, if you genuinely enjoy interacting with the students and feel your heart swell with happiness and pride when you see them graduate, I think you’d know that you’ve found your passion 🙂


  5. Welcome to my world, hun! I assume that you are teaching in a govt. school? Are you doing contract teaching now? Non-NIE grad pay is crap but you are a mid-career entrant and your career progression should be fast (mine was cos I was doing PR in London before I decided to teach). The pay isn’t too bad once you are no longer a UT/BT. Enjoy being a UT!

    Oh, you mentioned that “hardly anyone stays beyond 6pm”??! Seriously? Wow! This is a first for me. Most of my teacher friends (who’ve been in the industry for 7-10 years) do stay back till past 6pm (paper setting, CCAs, PTMs) and I’ve been reaching home past 7pm out of late (Prelims, consultations, EOY meetings, clearing admin shit etc). And trust me, the work of an educator doesnt end once he/she leaves school for home. There is still that grading to do, student emails to reply, students texting you in the middle of the night etc. Of course unlike in the private sector, I dont have to take half-day leave if I wanna go for afternoon spa. I can just move my classes around if I need to. But then again, I lecture/tutor at a junior college so the JC system might differ from the secondary/primary schools (thank god cos I dont think I can handle emo pubescent juveniles and babies).


  6. Di – no, am not in government school! Teaching at a tertiary institution actually, where the hours are fixed 8.30-6, that’s why. Days are busy but once it hits 6pm, almost everyone leaves.


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