A CELEBRATION OF THE CALL TO TEACH AND SERVE
The DAS Academy Graduation Ceremony was held on 12 September 2018. As a member of the DAC faculty, I feel that the graduation ceremony is a special culmination of a journey that I have taken with each of my adult students to learn the whys and how of specialist teaching.
It is a day to rejoice with them. Most have struggled with balancing work and family commitments. One of them even had to contend with significant health issues while on course. However, the determination to complete their course of study was evident in all because they felt led to teach and serve the Special Educational Needs (SEN) community. It has been a privilege to guide my adult students in their individual learning journeys; the experience of teaching and mentoring them has made me a better lecturer and I thank each of them.
What makes an individual want to go back to school after being away from studying for a long time? What makes someone decide to make a career switch? Why teach, and why teach students with dyslexia? I can only say that it starts at the affective level. It is the heart that leads one to see that teaching and especially teaching students with SEN, is not just a job but a vocation.
Let us look at what three of our DAC graduates say about the uniqueness of the teaching profession:
Marcus Goh, a DAS Educational Therapist who received his Postgraduate Certificate in Special Educational Needs (University of South Wales), says,
“When I teach students, I share a bit of my life with them. It may be skills, values and experiences. That’s something that not many jobs allow people to do. And when I see these students, become open to the knowledge and skills imparted to them, and be able to apply them in the real world, I feel a sense of reward that they can face the world with a little more confidence and become a better person than they were yesterday.”
Goh Bee Lin, a teacher and mother of a child with SEN, received her Specialist Diploma in Specific Learning Differences (SpLD). Her views are beautifully summarised here:
“To me, teaching is not just a profession. It gives me a sense of fulfilment because it shows me the meaning of life. I love this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson – Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. So I envision a beautiful garden when I look at my students every day!”
Mike Morales, DAS Outreach & Awareness Officer, also took the Specialist Diploma in Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) because he wanted to fulfill his ambition to be a teacher:
“I believe teaching differs from other professions because it is an innate action that each of has. Making it your profession cultivates that action in us and gives it more meaning as we not only help our students but also change their lives. Teachers like parents have a powerful impact in shaping the lives of others and it does not end with just one visit or one consultation. Being a teacher is a lifetime role.”
Come February 2019, Mike will become a trainee DAS Educational Therapist.
Attending a teaching course results in change. I have seen my adult students grow in their theoretical knowledge and practical skills and most importantly, their appreciation of the challenges faced by students having SEN has deepened:
Adrienne Lim used to be a contract manager. Today, she is a sessional DAS Educational therapist and she received her Specialist Diploma in Educational Therapy. She is fully acquainted with the emotional struggles of children with dyslexia as her own children have this type of SEN:
“I learnt that it is not easy being dyslexic. There is so much to learn and overcome. I’ve learnt not to be so judgmental and to be more compassionate because now I know that learning doesn’t come naturally to them.”
Adrienne’s thoughts are echoed by Beatrice Sim, another DAS therapist who also graduated with the Specialist Diploma in Educational Therapy:
“Since I learnt that dyslexic/spld learners learn differently, I have also grown to become more understanding of their difficulties. It has also spurred me to be more creative in my teaching methods in order to maximise their potential to learn and boost their self-confidence.”
And with this greater appreciation of the struggles of students with SEN, my adult students can now become more passionate advocates for their present and future students.
Finally, the change that resulted from attending their respective teaching courses at the DAS Academy has extended beyond the professional to the personal and family.
Zainab Shaukat trained as a doctor in her home country of Pakistan. She decided to become a specialist teacher when she and her family moved to Singapore. Zainab took the Specialist Diploma in Specific Learning Differences (SpLD). How has she changed as a parent?
“This course has helped me in becoming a more patient and creative parent at home. The module of educational psychology has been especially useful to me as it has provided an insight to child behaviour and how to strategise reinforcements to achieve better outcomes.”
Mike Morales echoes this change in his parenting:
“I am more tolerant as a parent/teacher to my child, as I know, everyone has different styles of learning. I became more innovative in creating educational tools to help my child in her studies. This also gives me confidence in being a teacher in the future.”
The 2018 DAS Academy Graduation Ceremony is over but the work of the Academy continues as the lecturers strive to train and prepare individuals to teach, support and advocate for the needs of SEN students. Perhaps the work of all teachers in whatever school or institute they are in is best summed up in the following quote from Nelson Mandela:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This article was published in FACETS Vol 3. 2018