Coming Home

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Koh Yinjie from Raffles Institution was given a chance to reminisce his younger days as he walked through the all-too-familiar corridors once more. He is back at Lianhua Primary School – affectionately called his “second home” – not as a student, but as a volunteer tutor by coincidence under the Tuition Programme.

Check out what Yinjie has to say on this fated experience, and how being deployed to his alma mater made him feel about his own teachers!

What were your initial thoughts when you received the deployment email that stated you will be going to Lianhua Primary School?

My initial reaction: Surprised! I had expected to be deployed to a school nearer to Bishan, as it is closer to my current school. However, during the training session, I saw the Lianhua Primary School logo in the list of partners and I actually did think to myself how it would be like if I were to be deployed there. At the time, I really did not expect that to come true.

After the initial surprise was really excitement, because I get to return to my second childhood home, and most importantly, give back to the school that made me who I am today. I was actually so proud to be deployed there that I contacted my ex-classmates to tell them about this wonderful opportunity.

TP-2 Yinjie together with his former classmates when he was a primary school student.

We noticed that you know both the teachers in-charge of the Tuition Programme well. How are they related to you?

Mr Matthew Chong was one of the teachers in-charge of the Prefectorial Board, where I served as Head Prefect in 2012.

Ms Elizabeth Wok did not teach my class – she was the form teacher of the class next-door. However, she was my teacher-mentor during my preparation for the West Zone Centre of Excellence: Junior Science Whiz Challenge (a science competition held in River Valley High) when I was in Primary 6. During such time, she personally taught me the content that was required in the competition in a one-to-one setting (not unlike the Tuition Program setting, interestingly).

TP-3 Yinjie with Ms Elizabeth Wok during his Primary 6 Graduation Day.

How would you describe your primary school days to be like? What kind of student were you back then?

I truly enjoyed my time in Lianhua because of all the opportunities it provided me. The teachers are also encouraging and helpful. As a student I was more academically inclined, so I was grateful when my teachers enrolled me in various competitions and enabled me to represent the school. It was through these competitions that I discovered my true passion for Science, apart from the help of my dedicated Science teachers (including Ms Wok as I mentioned above).

Lianhua also gave me the chance to improve myself as a person. I developed my leadership skills through my stint as Head Prefect in Primary 6. This role had a profound impact on my life as I discovered my strengths and weaknesses, and I still hold those revelations dear today.

How had the teachers from Lianhua Primary impacted you when you were their student?

I was really fortunate to have 3 very dedicated and sincere form teachers throughout my 6 years at Lianhua (Mdm Zainal in Primary 1, Mdm Pek from Primary 2-3, and Mrs Tham from Primary 4-6). All of them contributed to my development as a student, and more importantly, as a person. I still remember to this day something that my P1 form teacher Mdm Zainal said to me over a decade ago. After I scored overall highest in the cohort in P1, she told me to always stay humble and set higher aims for myself, as that is the only way I can continue to grow and improve. It was probably just a minute of a conversation that happened a decade ago, but it truly shaped me to be who I am today.

Since then, I always continued to strive for the better and developed a perfectionistic attitude to my work, while also remaining humble and keeping an open mind in order to learn from others. This is just one example of how my teachers at Lianhua has shaped my development, and it is something that I will be forever grateful for.

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How does this programme make you feel towards your teachers?

Through this programme, I got the opportunity to be on the opposite side for once – being the teacher instead of the student. I got to experience what it is like to be the one teaching, and it really gave me a newfound respect for my teachers. Teaching just one student is already difficult enough; it needs lesson planning and execution, as well as retaining attention and keeping in control. To even contemplate teaching a class of 20, 30, or even 40, seems like an uphill task. So, I really admire how my teachers could handle such a large class, and yet still devote enough attention to each student. I think that that is really the hallmark of a good educator.

Were there any challenges you faced being the one teaching now?

Being a student, all you had to do was walk in with a receptive mind and benefit from the experience. However, being a tutor now, I had to diligently prepare for the lesson, and know exactly what I am going to teach and how I am going to teach it. Much of the work for a teacher/tutor happens outside of the classroom.

Furthermore, being the one teaching, I got to be the one ready – the one ready to teach, the one ready with the correct answers and methods, the one ready to be a role model my tutee can look up to – and this in itself is challenging.

How is the relationship with your tutee Bryan?

He is the happy and carefree one, and I’m the strict one in the relationship! He is a jovial and pleasant person, but sometimes he takes his playfulness too far when seriousness in academic work is required, and so I have to strictly rein him in. However, both of us clicked from day one, and I’m often surprised and touched by how much he cares for me – even through small ways like offering me a sweet, or wondering whether I was okay if I came late for sessions.

Any goals for your tutee and yourself?

While I would really want him to excel academically, we have to be realistic and know that it is difficult to make drastic improvements in merely 13 lessons. So my aim for the lessons is to help him to set life goals, and find something to work towards, because having something an aim is the biggest motivation.

As for myself, I signed up for this programme because I want to make a difference to the community through my own strengths and passions. Now that I am attached to Lianhua, I also have the additional aim of giving back to my alma mater. But really, what I want to achieve for myself through this programme is to learn more about myself through the act of teaching others. I would like to learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses, and to learn from my tutee as well.

Do you have any words to say to Lianhua Primary School and the teachers for Teachers’ Day?

I definitely want to say a big thank you to Lianhua Primary School, as well as to my former teachers for making my childhood so enjoyable and memorable, and for making me who I am today! And to all the teachers in Lianhua and beyond, I really respect your line of work as it really takes something to persevere in this tiring but noble career; and the desire to touch the hearts of every single one of your students.

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