The walls of a classroom and the crucible of National Service (NS) may seem different, but two Home Team NSmen have lived and breathed both lives to tell us otherwise.
With over 20 years of teaching between them, MAJ (NS) Bryan Chao and SGT (NS) Nur Fauzi bin Abu Bakar play an important role in the civilian world as well.
MAJ (NS) Bryan Chao is a Physical Education (PE) teacher and serves with the Singapore Civil Defence Force. He is also a committee member of HomeTeamNS Clubhouse Development (East) where he is involved in the developments of the new HomeTeamNS clubhouse.
As an English Language teacher, SGT (NS) Nur Fauzi has the privilege to serve in the Singapore Police Force. As a volunteer, he is the Chairman of HomeTeamNS Fitness Ironman – an annual body-building competition.
What inspired you to be a teacher?
Bryan Chao (BC): I was inspired by the interaction with my men at Geylang Fire Station during my NS stint. Driven by their desire to advance their education level then, I had set up a library in the fire station to allow these men to read and study there, including for their private exams. The whole experience was so fulfilling and inspiring that it propelled me to sign up as a teacher after my NSF days.
Nur Fauzi (NF): A particular teacher from my secondary school inspired me to be a teacher. He was always well-dressed, eloquent, and most importantly showed care and concern for his students. That inspired me to be like him one day.
Do you have any hobbies you take on to relieve stress from work? If yes, what are they?
BC: I swim, jog, and practise yoga to destress. Swimming and jogging allow me to have the “Me” time to reflect on my work, my words, and my actions. The yoga allows me to be at peace with myself and purge thoughts of anything else except my movement and breathing. Very therapeutic!
NF: I have been regularly going to the gym to work out for over a decade. It has been an outlet for me to relieve stress and to meet up with my gym buddies. It is also an effective way to put my worries away — letting me focus on building my physique and to keep myself healthy.
Has NS influenced the way you teach? If yes, how?
BC: Yes! The way we relate to our men is similar to my role as a teacher in class. There is a need to build quality relationships in order to get my men/students to learn effectively. It is all about understanding their needs, helping them achieve what they want and getting them to see how they can give back. It is a two-way process!
NF: NS has taught me many valuable lessons such as making quick decisions on the spot and being mindful of my actions. These skills have allowed me to think fast in the classrooms, while being cautious of what I say and do when interacting with my students.
My students also love it when I share my NS experience with them. It is a good way to get their attention and to transition nicely into my lessons in the classroom.
Any similarities/differences between NS and teaching?
BC: The dynamics of NS and teaching are surprisingly very similar in nature. In my NS unit, the need for teamwork and support is vital to run the unit well. The officers and men have to cover each other well in order to succeed in our operations and exercises. Similarly in Teaching, my colleagues and I work closely together to ensure that our school programmes run successfully. I’m so thankful that they continue to cover me even when I’m away for reservist duties.
NS and teaching are very similar in their embrace of constant advancement. Both have strong beliefs in keeping in lockstep with the future. This can be seen in their endeavour to better their technology and restructuring the workforce.
Also, NS and Teaching are all about saving lives. Therefore, the quality of relationship between officer and men, and between teacher and students must be strong. Communication and collaboration must be two-way in order to be effective! After all, both are Life-Saving Forces!
NF: Both my NS and teaching experience require me to be well-prepared at all times. We cannot simply turn up to our jobs empty-handed. Prior planning will ensure that I make full use of my time in the classroom and ensure that learning takes place effectively.
What were some of the challenges you’ve faced through your teaching duration?
BC: 2 things – Having to hone and update my craft to the constant changing landscape in education, as well as understanding and relating to the youths nowadays.
NF: Most definitely having to juggle between my different work responsibilities as a teacher – things can get pretty fast-paced during the marking period but I have been attuned to work well under pressure.
During the weeks leading to the Fitness Ironman championships, I will be more mindful to clear my work earlier so that I do not need to stress myself out on the event day itself
How has your involvement in your HomeTeamNS committee influenced your teaching?
BC: It definitely eats into my pie – but I take it as a positive experience that helps in my work. The structures and processes that we underwent for HomeTeamNS provide me with an alternate viewpoint in how certain work can be done.
NF: This is the fifth year I am involved with Fitness Ironman and it has been a great journey so far. Planning for this event requires speaking to many people including sponsors, participants, and the audience. It helps that teaching requires speaking, writing, and communicating with people all the time. The process of planning for my committee events has definitely improved my communication and social skills.
What are some values you’ve learned from NS that you wish to inculcate in your students?
BC: Not many among the youth of today appreciate the concept of NS. However, they should view every opportunity that presents itself as a chance to learn and improve, regardless of how unpleasant it may seem. Doing your best in whatever role assigned will prove it worthwhile in the near future!
NF: An important value I would like to inculcate in my students is to be resilient. Most children now grow up in a well-protected environment, be it at home or in school. Some of them are unable to cope and get a culture shock when they enter NS or transition to work-life. I would want my students to be resilient so that they will not give up in the face of adversity.