Humans of Hmlet: International School Teacher, Alan Jeffrey, tells us what it's like to be an educator in Singapore.
In light of Teacher's Day this September, we wanted to give the limelight to educators and talk about the plight and pleasures of being a teacher in Singapore.
Sitting comfortably on the sofa of his 3-bedroom apartment in Hmlet Duet, Alan thanked us kindly for the iced mocha and croissants we'd brought for him from Tiong Bahru Bakery at Chip Bee Gardens, not far from where he lives.
Standing at almost 6 foot tall, you'd think he'd be intimidating – Alan is anything but. The 28 year old humanities teacher is an avid reader and an introvert, spending most of his downtime either with close friends, visiting new restaurants and doing more reading.
Before the teaching life though, he worked in the UN as a Counter Sex Trafficking Officer before making the switch into education. To him, these jobs are just a way to reach his higher purpose of doing work that impacts people.
"Your hard work pays off because you see the children's development, I think... that's all I need in life."
Teaching and living in Singapore in a pandemic
Alan first moved to Singapore in 2015, so he's had his fair share of experience with the good and the bad in the rental landscape before Hmlet or coliving, describing his experience with traditional landlords as a "mixed" one.
After a few years of moving cities, he came back to Singapore in 2019 to embark on his teaching gig. This time, he moved in into a Hmlet.
"I feel like with coliving companies like Hmlet, it simplifies the process considerably, especially for a foreigner."
For Alan, he knew a life in Hmlet pre-Covid with events and gatherings and during Covid. Although it didn't change much of his lifestyle specifically, he mentioned that having flatmates you could be friends with during a lockdown couldn't hurt.
Home-based-learning on the other hand, even with its challenges is efficient too. But even with the help of technology, Alan mentioned that teachers have to be in classroom to avoid being out of touch.
Leaving the role
Teaching is a demanding job for sure, but Alan appreciates the downtime that he has – mostly because it doesn't clash with life on daily basis. Once you're out of the classroom, you clock out.
"If I'm not working hard in the classroom, preparing material, I'll be relaxing."
But after 3 years, Alan is starting his own business that doesn't stray too far from education. The idea is in creating an online platform connecting Japanese and international school students to be directly in touch with expert tutors. According to Alan, it's a service that's lacking in the Japan market.
Walking away from teaching isn't so much a relief for Alan but something he will look back on fondly. After sharing that he will soon be on a different journey, Alan walked to his room and came back with mementos he kept over the years – drawings and goodbye cards from his students.
Can anyone be a teacher?
"To be a good teacher, you need to enjoy working with children"
To anyone who's looking to be in the education sector or be an educator themselves, here's one thing that Alan has to say to you.
"That it's not that difficult as you might think. If you're really interested and willing to do what it takes to become a teacher, you can."
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