By Roxanne Wong
My mother is a teacher, and my grandmother was a teacher before her, yet it was only when I entered NUS and joined the Community Services Club’s regular volunteer program TEACH! that I, too, was bitten by the teaching bug. Tutoring children at the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home opened my eyes to how rewarding teaching could be. I remember watching a girl’s eyes light up as I read her a story, and she later told me that it was the first time anyone had ever read to her. Her words struck a chord in me – as an avid reader, I have so much to share. It made me realize that my passion for knowledge could be infectious simply because I cared.
Besides tutoring the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children’s Home, I have also been on volunteer trips to Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, and every time, the most meaningful experiences for me have stemmed from interacting with the children in orphanages. From putting on puppet shows to helping with arts and crafts, these wonderful opportunities showed me that my passion lies in fostering the development of children.
The more children I have had the privilege of teaching, the more inspired I have been to find ways to help each child to learn in ways most suited to them. There is no denying the joy I feel when I interact with children, especially children whose parents are not actively involved in their learning journey. Looking back, I realise that this stems from my own childhood experience. My father left me, my mother, and my two younger sisters when I was just starting primary school. As a result, my mother had to give tuition after work hours and on weekends to raise three young daughters as the sole breadwinner. Yet, she would come home from a day of teaching full of hilarious and heart-warming stories about her students, and she always had an optimistic spin on any event that had happened that day. Her positivity with regards to being an educator has paved the way for me.
The experiences I have had, paired with my major in Sociology, have ignited a specific fervour in me for teaching underprivileged children. Sociology has taught me incredibly valuable things about inequality and power dynamics, and being from a low-income, single parent family, I am able to understand many of the issues that these children face. I have been inspired by the children that I have taught, as well as my eighty-one-year-old grandparents, who helped to take care of me while my mother had to work. I want to make my grandparents proud by pursuing further education.
Last semester, I studied and sat for the Graduate Record Examinations, the admissions examination for postgraduate education, while working two part-time jobs in addition to my full Honours course load and volunteering in weekly children’s activities. The hard work paid off, and I was accepted into both Brown’s and Duke’s graduate programs. Getting the acceptance letters were the proudest moments of my life. I will be the first person in my family to attend graduate school, and while that in itself is a great accomplishment, what makes me the most emotional is thinking about how this is a turning point for me and my family, and how wonderful it feels to be able to validate the hard work of my mother and grandparents.
Brown University’s Masters of Arts in Teaching Program is an extremely selective and intensive 12-month Masters and teaching certification program. Only around twelve students from around the world are selected for each program, and it is an incredible honour to be one of them. Through this experience, I will have the opportunity to be exposed to a range of different teaching settings while embarking on a rigorous academic education at one of the best universities in the world. The program will allow me to push myself to my limits, since it is such an intensive course of study, and it has a strong emphasis on social justice and reducing inequality in schools, which aligns deeply with my beliefs and passions. The chance to be exposed to different education systems and gain new perspectives is such a remarkable privilege, and I couldn’t believe that I had been offered that. I was ecstatic when I found out that I had been awarded a scholarship as well!
However, my journey to graduate school is not over yet. While my undergraduate fees were paid for through needs-based financial aid as well as help from my amazing grandparents, the scholarship I received from Brown only covers a quarter of the necessary tuition fees. I’ve worked hard all through university, taking on teaching internships and part-time jobs, and I have been able to save enough for my flight and housing while at Brown, but the balance of the tuition fees is extremely costly. With that said, I am determined not to give up, and I know that this dream is worth all the effort that I have put in over the years.
I hope that in sharing my story, I will be able to inspire those like me, children from broken families whose chances of success appear slim. I want them to know that through hard work and determination, there are no limits to what they can achieve. All in all, I hope to be a light to the children I teach, just like my mother was for me.
You can help support Roxanne’s dream of attending graduate school by visiting her crowdfunding page at: https://www.youcaring.com/roxanne-wong-532480