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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ms Priscilla See

I first wrote about Ms S. here. Ms S. stands for Ms Priscilla See. She is Little Boy's form teacher and the best teacher we have met in the school-going lives of our 2 children over more than a decade. Ms See is so good a teacher that I am amazed that someone like that even exists.

First off, she noticed Little Boy, and actually paid attention to him. He would come home and tell me that Ms See praised him for this or that today. When I got to know Ms See better, I found out that she systematically goes through her class list to ensure that EVERY child is praised for something or other. In this way, she managed to draw my quiet Little Boy out and build a relationship with him.

And Little Boy was just about invisible to his teachers in previous years. He is quiet and likes to fade into the background. Being noticed by Ms See was a new experience for him. And he cherishes it so much that all Ms See has to do is to frown at him and he will come home all contrite, and I will have to ask him what went wrong.

Next, Little Boy has had a somewhat chequered school career. He is a dreamy boy. It can't be helped. We are a dreamy family. He is the sort of boy that hands in work without his name, forgets to write the date, writes "cm" when he meant to write "km". My boy is so blur that he ran an extra round in his 1.6km physical fitness test... and didn't know until I noted that his timing was so impossibly long that one would have to be built like Mr Potato Man to clock that timing. Yet Ms See never once judged him incapable. It was always that he didn't work hard enough. Never that he was dumb and therefore, hopeless. She was always there. Stern at times when his head was too deep in the clouds, and praise-ful at others. It made Little Boy feel that if he tried hard enough, he could do better.

Next, Ms See respected Little Boy's right to choose. She made the children sit down to plan their own goal targets for each subject. Under her guidance and encouragement, Little Boy planned to score above 90 in every subject. He chose his own goals and these self-chosen goals provided a focus for his efforts. It worked very well indeed.

Best of all, Ms See treated me (a parent) as a person... and as material in her hands to mould and guide. She has this non-threatening way of explaining what is good parenting... and she helped me understand her mind, her approach and her expectations. She didn't much like that I didn't value accuracy as much as creativity. For me, learning has to be fun, especially when you're that small. Ms See thought that the creative rein I gave my son was done at the expense of rigour and discipline. I got the message and I helped Little Boy with accuracy. Learning needed to be fun, and I still valued creativity... but the PSLE was going to be an exercise in creativity, rigour AND discipline.

I felt that Ms See treated me as a parent partner... and I grew to see in her my teacher partner. Often, we would connive and collude to teach Little Boy important lessons.

Ms See's approach to parents is refreshing because once or twice I have sought advice from the odd teacher passing by me at the gate only to have the person recoil from my question and her face contort from a smile to a frown at me. Once or twice, people in the General Office have scolded me. Whilst one understands that the children's security is important, one does feel that this can be communicated politely to a lost parent... or a parent in need of help.

And there is more, Ms See has so many creative ideas to motivate children. There is a system of reward cards... and a system of group reward points and so much else... Little Boy works hard for those itsy bitsy cards. He keeps them carefully in his wallet and counts them once in a while. And when he is given a card, it's always the first thing he tells me.

And the result of all this is that Little Boy moved from 28th place in a class of 38 students... to 8th place in a class of 38 students. In fact, I think that Ms See has a thing or 2 to teach her colleagues about engaging parents... and about motivating children.

In fact, I even think that she should be awarded Master Teacher status for her mastery of motivational techniques. It is one thing to know different techniques of teaching content but it is so much more important to have a collection of strategies to motivate children and influence parents. In this way, Ms See harnesses the energy of parents and the energy of the children to meet her goals for the children. It's really a resource efficient way of meeting goals.

Petunia is not easily impressed. I too am a trained teacher. I graduated from NIE in the top 10% with a distinction. Today I still teach... and I actually even teach a class on motivation at a local university. Between the masterful theoretician-researchers who were my mentors and the confident Ms See who practises her craft with such effectiveness, I would say Ms See wins hands down.


daelight said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blur Ting said...

We need more teachers like Mrs See! Hey, you should send this to Forum, ST. Teachers like her will be an inspiration to others.

Oh, I enjoyed reading this so much. Mr Potato Man!! :-) So funny.

petunialee said...

daelight - I would be happy to sure.

You could look into Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge's book entitled Organizational Behavior. Look for the latest edition. You should be able to buy this book at any of the 3 university libraries... If not, try Amazon for 2nd hand copies?

Do try and get the latest editions. These 2 men are steeped in research, their earlier versions of this book would be hard to understand for you.

Look into the chapter on Motivation. The problem is the translation of motivational principles into practice. I can do a new blogpost to show you how some of the principles can come alive.

petunialee said...

daelight - I notice that you put your email so I deleted your comment to protect you.

Can you comment again 'cos I haven't got your email anymore.

petunialee said...

Ting - I sent the bloglink to her Principal suggesting that Ms See be allowed to share with the teachers in the school her savoir-faire.

Malar said...

Wow! does this kind of teacher still exist???? Thumb up to her!

Rachel said...

I attest that Ms See indeed goes the extra mile for her pupils. Once my child had an issue with one of her pupils. Even though it happened on a Friday evening, she took it upon herself to call and counsel her pupil over the weekend to resolve the matter. Kudos to Ms See. We indeed more teachers like her :)

petunialee said...

Rachel - Thanks for weighing in! You've got a beautiful blog on compo writing. Little Boy will find those resources useful.