A Multi-linguist in Singapore
Teaching in Singapore isn't just limited to the government schools. There are numerous private schools that offer courses that help improve your language and earn certificates in business or other disciplines.
Today, we speak with Angelica, who has been teaching languages in Singapore and has been working with international students that hail from South America, Europe and Asia.
Q1: Hi Angelica, how have the first six months of 2012 been for you?
Eventful, things have changed. New challenges have thrown my status quo to the wind, so, I am dealing with the change, learning new things about myself. It is hard work but the struggle makes life interesting and the end result is worth the work.
Q2: How did you acquire your skills to teach a variety of languages?
Well, I come from a mixed background, my mother is Chinese Singaporean and my father is German. So, since I was little I spoke to my mother in English and my father in German. My grandmother only spoke Hokkien and as I often stayed with her I picked it up too. I started school in the Swiss School. The language of instruction was officially German, but the Swiss speak their own 'Swiss German' which was the language students communicated with during the breaks. English was for me a second language in school, it was taught as a foreign language and we also had to learn French starting from the fourth grade. Outside of school, my mother insisted I stay true to my roots and I had continuous Mandarin tuition throughout my childhood. So, I effectively grew up in an environment with a myriad of languages which basically set the scene for my future development.
Q3: Tell us more about your teacher job. What was one of your most memorable teaching experiences?
There are many different aspects to teaching. However, when you teach a foreign language, very often you need to communicate its culture to the students as well. As most expressions are derived from events/habits, students learn from the things that happen or the things people do. As students want to know more about the country and its people, they usually pick up the social aspect of language faster and want to strengthen it.
Q4: Was starting out in an education job easy?
No. I spent hours preparing the classes and put in lots of work. A perfectionist by nature, I would obsess about the materials to be covered and how to present them in a conducive way. It got much easier with time, once familiar with what you are teaching it is a breeze and you tend to enjoy the lessons more. You also realize that there are students in the classroom who are looking to interact. In the beginning you are so focused on teaching, you completely forget about the students. You are delivering the lesson, but if you are too focused on it and you forget about the students. You realise at some point and then you go "Oh!".
Q5: What were some of the career challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Nobody ever tells you that there will come a time when you teach the wrong thing. It can happen either through carelessness or because you were ill-prepared. Sometimes it can happen when a student suddenly asks you a question which you do not know the answer to. You try to give an answer but it turns out to be wrong. It is an experience every teacher will have and how you deal with it will define you as a teacher and person. It is humbling to have to admit to a whole class that you made a mistake and that what you said was wrong. This by no means shows that you are not qualified, but there will be some people who will then question your skills and your work. As a teacher people expect you to know everything, however teachers are not infallible. Like in life, you admit you have made a mistake, try to make amends and then move on. One incident does not throw years of hard work out the window.
Q6: What career advice would you give to aspiring teachers - so they can prepare themselves for the career?
Relax and read. Know what is going on in the world and don't just acquire the knowledge you need for what you are teaching. All subjects, be it languages, sciences, arts, et cetera, overlap. Subjects are a means to organise and structure the learning process but in the real world everything is mixed together. Making what you teach relevant is the most effective way to pass on the message and please, don't learn for the sake of learning. Learn because you want to know.
Q7: What does the phrase 'rest and relax' means to you?
Sleeping, reading in a quiet place where there are no people and there is no cell phone reception.