The Fellowship is a 2-year commitment. What made you decide to do more than that?
It was definitely the students that encouraged me to stay on. In my first year as a Fellow, I took the time to adjust myself to the community, which is quite different from where I was before [Editor’s note: Jessica used to teach at a private school in Shah Alam]. In my second year, I started to see myself as a gardener. I am sowing the seeds of change. In the third year (and beyond, possibly), I will be a gardener tending to young seedlings.
What in the community needed changing?
As TFM Fellows, we are taught to build bridges with the community. Early on, we did house visits to meet the parents of our students. One of my collabs [another TFM Fellow placed at the same school] mentioned that a parent told him that this was the first time a teacher came and visited the house. Now parents are aware of what goes on in school with their kids. I’m currently the class teacher for a Form 1 class. At the beginning of the year, I gave out name cards. Parents regularly contact me to check on their kids. We’ve built a very personal relationship with this community in Tanjong Sepat.
What do you hope to achieve in your 3rd year that you couldn’t have achieved in 2?
I hope to continue the above, obviously. I want to increase classroom engagement as well as out of school learning. Right now I like hanging out with my students. I go yumcha with them pretty often! This way, I don’t just help them with their studies; I get to know them better and instill good values in them. I am helping them build responsibility – particularly responsibility for their own education and futures. I hope to put them on the right pathways for their careers.
Was this something you saw yourself doing before?
My first choice was always to be a teacher, but I never envisioned being in a school with such kids. I was at a private school before this. I joined the Fellowship because I wanted to find out more about education inequity. Doing the Fellowship has given me a stronger sense of purpose.
Are you considering staying on in education after this?
Yes. My future plan is to do my Masters and go into higher education. And beyond that, I’d like to go into teachers training institute. I strongly believe that is the most fundamental part of a teacher’s training, because it will shape how teachers teach and learn.