Teaching, Beyond the Classroom


Teaching, by and large, have shifted increasingly from schools to farther afield. So those aspiring to teach; bear in mind that leaving education sector, or not being a ‘teacher’ altogether, might be a good choice.

I had always enjoyed teaching, and have a deep passion for education – which is why I tend to have so many commentary ultimately honing in on education reforms, changes in perspectives that would help to alleviate issues and challenges I observe in the society at large. I have a lot of interactions with teachers primarily because most of my friends became teachers, and having been married to one, new friendships with more teachers inadvertently forms a permanent part of my life.

Yet through these interactions, it is often the daily problem solving that occupies them and hardly any thoughts about dealing with larger issues in society through education, or their role in teaching. In fact, for teachers today, teaching is relegated to a very small part of their actual jobs – with admin, pastoral care, managing projects – and not forgetting marking – taking a lot more time.

“Real teaching” has gone on to tuition centers, enrichment and supplementary classes perhaps. Learning has also changed because many would say that what they learnt in school doesn’t apply much in their work or most of the rest of their lives! Though the academic qualifications they gained count towards something.

Because I love teaching, I realised that my work interactions, be it dealing with bosses, peers or juniors, I incorporate a lot of ‘teaching’ in them. Some would say it’s communications, which probably forms a more general part of the equation; but for most part, as the economy becomes increasingly knowledge-based and knowledge-intensive, teaching skills at work actually matters a lot. The ability to transfer and share knowledge meaningfully matters – whether tacit or explicit knowledge. And this applies not just downwards to juniors and peers but also to your superiors. A large part of this sharing, involves engagement to the extent of teaching.

In fact, sales, is generally teaching. And conceiving it as teaching helps me recognise better how to prepare a pitch, because what I am trying to do is no longer just merely trying to convince and persuade, but to do so through encouraging understanding. In so doing, I also clarify my own thoughts and don’t come across as trying to baffle the audience. This trustworthiness is an important reputation a salesperson ought to gain to be able to deliver consistently.

And over time, you learn to recognise the ‘good students’ from the bad, invest your time wisely to teach and gain rapport with the good students, try to reform the bad ones, and you’d realise, you’re a teacher after all! Whether in consulting, business development, sales, as an operations manager working within a facility – industrial, commercial, even residential – you can be the teacher you might have thought you had wanted to be.

My Dad, who had wanted to be a teacher when he was 16, was rejected for being too young. During those days, people did start working early but he was told to get more qualifications. He eventually went on to be a clerk in public service, shifting around until he became part of the tax department. That anchored him within the tax sector which he stayed within for the next 30 over years. He never became a teacher. But in many sense, within the family, in our interactions, he has always been one.