By Amelia Tan
OVER six months of discussions, 28,000 teachers were asked to identify their strengths and give voice to their vision for the teaching service. The huddling led to a new mantra crafted to guide them in their work: Lead. Care. Inspire.
While these are goals teachers everywhere should aim for, a vision statement is timely right now, when the education system is at an 'inflection point', said Director-General of Education Ho Peng, as she launched the tagline yesterday.
Speaking to about 4,000 teachers and school leaders at the annual Teachers' Mass Lecture, Ms Ho said the system had evolved over the past decade to a point where school managers have autonomy and teachers are encouraged to use innovative teaching and learning methods.
Schools will need teachers like Miss Lucy Oliver Fernandez, a Catholic High School literature teacher who refused to let her students' dislike of the subject deter her. She organised extra classes for the group, which ignited their interest in literary works and inspired them to go on and win trophies at the school's annual Literature Festival.
Ms Ho said: 'With the rapid professional growth of teachers, I see Singapore teachers as beginning to chart the future of our profession...
'Next year is 2010, we are entering a new decade. It is the next lap of the education journey.'
In that next lap, teachers now have a rallying cry to focus them on their goals.
They need to lead students by giving them the chance to discover their talents, and their peers through mentoring, said Ms Ho.
As for the second part of the tagline, it was teaching in a rural primary school in Lim Chu Kang in the 1970s which taught Ms Ho the importance of a teacher's love.
One of her students was very shy and was teased by others for her untidy appearance. But she slowly gained confidence through the constant encouragement Ms Ho gave her.
She said: 'The power of love and care can do so much to a kid's life.'
Teachers should not only care for the physical safety and social and emotional needs of their charges, but also play their part in moulding character.
And it is a great teacher - like Miss Fernandez - who inspires his or her students to love a subject and colleagues to become better teachers, added Ms Ho.
Teachers said the vision statement reflects the changing role of teachers and captures common ideals for the whole teaching service to work towards.
Nan Hua Primary vice-principal, Mrs Juliana Ng, 55, said that teachers had a crucial role today as guides and mentors.
She said: 'More students have disciplinary problems because they come from dual-income families and don't have enough guidance in their lives.
'Teachers have to be ready to take on the role of disciplinarians but at the same time know how to manage students and the expectations of their parents.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.