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Stories of PMCA Recipients 2015


Ai Lian at PMCA award ceremony 2015


Congratulations to our PMCA 2015 winner!

PMCA_2015Madam Lim Ai Lian

A Privilege To Teach

It has been my privilege to teach children from disadvantaged backgrounds, low-progress learners, and students with special educational needs. This has been a rewarding journey for me because I can impact them both in and out of the classrooms. While every classroom presents a unique community of learners, it is important to identify and utilize different strategies and differentiated learning to reach out to every student. What works for one child might not work for another. It takes extra effort to figure out how to best relate to each of my students and find a way to connect with them, but I make it a point to do so. This is important because once students believe that their teacher truly cares for them, then there is no limit to what they can achieve.
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No Child Left Behind

Susan (name has been changed to protect identity), a student diagnosed with a genetic disorder that hampers development, had severe learning difficulties and poor social skills. Besides these, she had to grapple with several health problems. She was initially advised to attend a special school. However, her family thought otherwise and wanted her to remain in a mainstream school. Initially, it was not easy to work with her parents as they were guarded and protective of Susan. This led me to make a conscious effort to establish open communication with them in order to win them over. By working together with them, I leveraged Susan’s strengths and created opportunities for her to “shine”, bringing out the best in her. I shared her little successes with her parents and encouraged them to reaffirm these successes at home.  

Slowly but surely, with sheer determination and the support of both home and school, Susan overcame all obstacles and completed her primary education. At the end of primary six, she won several awards for her good progress, a feat which was initially deemed impossible. I am inspired to see how Susan has grown. Susan’s success is a reminder of what I strongly believe in – that once we awaken the latent potential in our students, they will become unstoppable.

Throughout my teaching experience, I became aware that some of my students came from homes where they did not receive much attention from their parents. For some, their homes no longer provided them with security and love but had become a battleground where economic and emotional survival was a daily reality. This made me realise the need to create an inclusive and caring classroom community where every child feels valued. 

Celebrate Every Child

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”                   

- Leo Buscaglia                                          

I remember this particular child who was labelled ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’. The year I taught him, I realised that there was something special about him. I observed that he was vocal, witty and always eager to learn, although his results proved otherwise. Somehow, this observation was contrary to what his parents felt about him. I was very disturbed when the child confided in me that he was “immune to caning”.  

When I met up with his mother, she shared with me her struggles that amidst her family’s financial woes, she had to cope with her son who was “such a failure”. I learnt that she would cane him each time she coached him in his work and would require medication for her depression. I persuaded her to let him go through an assessment for special educational needs and true to my suspicion, he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. 

I will never forget how his mother broke down and wept for a long time when she received the diagnosis. That was the turning point for both mother and son. With support structures in place, the boy blossomed and his mother walked out of her depression eventually. The parent-child relationship was restored. 

Seeing my students, who face all sorts of challenges overcome the odds and triumph over their circumstances, inspires me to give my best! 

Celebrate every child – this to me is priceless. 

A Holistic Approach to Education

I believe that a school-wide effort is pivotal in supporting students with special educational needs. To foster a greater sense of inclusivity, I led the Allied Educators and teachers trained in special educational needs to provide transition support sessions to induct teachers on the profile of each cohort’s batch of students with special educational needs. The sessions aimed to equip teachers with strategies to model caring and inclusive dispositions to nurture this group of students and help them grow. To level up their learning, the VIP CLUB was set up to provide a customised support programme through small group instruction. Through differentiated instructional strategies and resources, these students’ learning needs are met, and every child is given the opportunity to learn and experience success. 

While it is important to help students find success in their academic subjects, it is even more critical to equip them with good heart-ware and a moral compass to help them navigate life’s challenges. The Ministry’s shift to a more student-centric and values-driven education signals the importance placed on the holistic development of our students. With this in mind, the ‘HIPS Hurray!’ programme was conceptualised. The ‘HIPS Hurray!’ programme is a whole-school approach to character education, and is conducted at the start of the school term to create learning platforms for values inculcation. It also promotes team-building and enhances teacher-student rapport through interactions during the activities.

Another example is a collaboration with the Aesthetics Department to pilot the Music Therapy for Learning Motivation Project for students, which explores music therapy as a tool to promote positive change in behaviour and motivate learning beyond the music classroom. The music activities are geared towards therapeutic goals to improve students’ self-esteem and to increase their motivation. 

Next, I will be embarking on Creative Play Therapy, a pilot project that aims to reach out to a targeted group of students with social-behavioural issues. Creative Play Therapy is an extension of Music Therapy, which has been rolled out successfully in the last three years. During the play therapy session, the child will be guided by a trained therapist to apply coping strategies on challenges or difficulties that they face. Grounded in research, studies have shown that participants are usually better able to express themselves in more constructive ways. Creative Play Therapy also builds their confidence, boosts concentration, and develops greater resilience. 

Every Child Can Succeed

Founded on the belief that every child can succeed, I conceptualised and designed the “Helping Individual Pupils Succeed” (HIPS) Resource Toolkit to help teachers access critical information and practical strategies to help support students who were suspectedof or diagnosed with special educational needs. The primary goal of this toolkit is to enhance teachers’ understanding of special educational needs and equip them with effective teaching and learning strategies. This complements the current range of support provided for students with special educational needs, and will be used during the VIP CLUB and in-class support sessions.  

Recipients of the PMCA 2015

A Teacher's Heartbeat

An inclusive education is not what we do to our students. Rather, it is what we do with them, and for them, to bring out the best in each of them. I am deeply humbled and most honoured to be conferred the Princess Maha Chakri Award (PMCA). 

Lead, care and inspire – I will continue to do my best to lead, care for and inspire the education fraternity.

“A teacher’s heartbeat lies in shaping lives and moulding the future generations for greater success ahead. “