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Featuring Judith Shang '11
Judith Shang
Position: 2nd Grade Teacher
School: International Community School (Network of International Christian Schools)
Location: Singapore
(Profiled: November 2011)

♦  How did you connect with this job opportunity?
♦  What attracted you to this position?
♦  What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
♦  What has been/was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
♦  How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
♦  What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
♦  What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
♦  What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?
♦  What are the challenges and rewards of living in another culture?

How did you connect with this job opportunity?
My sister’s roommate, a missionary kid, had taken courses with the online school of NICS (Network of International Christian Schools). Her mother told me about the umbrella organization to give me a launch start in my research of Christian international teaching opportunities.

What attracted you to this position?
At first, I applied without telling anyone. It was five days after graduation. I really thought I would attend graduate school. I even thought about serving my country for a while. As cliché as it sounds, I applied by conviction. Mrs. Carlson told me about NICS in February. Yet it continued to brew in the back of my mind. The same happened with how I ended up applying to GCC. I figured there would be no harm but to drop my name in the applicant pool!

What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
The students! There are also colleagues with whom I work who are brilliant in character and personality. On top of that, some parents are just lovely acquaintances. Probably the best answer to your question is: the people!

What has been your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
Not burning out. Attitude issues come up as well in the classroom. On a whole, though, it is finding balance. I want to provide a quality, intensive learning environment. But at times, I am so worn that I literally get sick and have cold and flu symptoms at the end of the day. There is a time to plug in hours at work; there are times to leave work alone. I am fortunate enough to have young children. Parents are not as uptight as those of older students. Ultimately, for me, it helps that my kids and I love to laugh. I do not know if I could get through the day without lots of it! Plus, lots of prayer as well as involvement with people outside of the job (for me, non-elementary) help bring that balance.

How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
Confidence. I am not perfect and will always be learning how to better instruct my students. However, with all the paperwork we did at GCC, it more than prepared me for what is required of me. Frankly, I think the education classes, fields and even student teaching were more demanding in some ways than what I have now. Also, I absolutely loved investing in relationships at school. At GCC, I learned to invest outside of the teaching job to bring balance to my life. Here, I have co-coached cross-country and will help with track, am involved with YoungLife and tutor two intensive ESL students from Ethiopia (one of which is in my regular class).

What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
Prioritize and balance. Keep in check what is important in life. There are teachers here who stay at school overnight on a regular basis because they have so much grading. Your job should never consume you. Be consumed in prayer and quiet time. Jesus Himself took leave at times from the crowds for His alone time with the Father. If you have your priorities straight, all else will fall in line better. You will have weary days. But it will never become a burden. It should not be a burden, but a joy and privilege. Despite how tired I feel, once I pick up my kids and I see their energetic bodies and sweaty little faces, my day brightens.

What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
Keep your options open! This was my mother’s wise advice when I shared my apprehensions about teaching the months prior to graduation. My father also prompted me to not ignore the training I received from GCC. Do not underestimate where the Father might take you. It all begins with being content, flexible and willing. His desires become yours.

What are the challenges and rewards of teaching in another culture?
As I grew up Chinese-American, I understand a bit of the Asian culture more so than many of my American colleagues. If anything, it is tricky teaching at an international school. Some children are quite hostile and prejudice towards others. I have an American who reads at a 5th grade level. But her math was so poor that she struggled to add 18+1 when I first taught three months ago. On top of that, she was a red-head with very fair skin. It was obvious she felt inferior to the ten other Asian students who performed well all-around. She and another American girl have a hard time in Mandarin class. Thus, they bolstered themselves by talking about the books they read. At the same time, I am dealing with a few Asian students who are always telling their classmates that the work is easy. Humility is hard to teach, but grade 2B is working on it. As for rewards, it is the cultural diversity and experiences these children bring to the class. I value each heritage. We integrate it on occasion in lessons which I think helps alleviate the sense of racial division. What does bond us is that nobody has a “home” because we all moved. It is simpler to teach about how the world is not our home because we have all been displaced.

What are the challenges and rewards of living in another culture?
I will answer specifically to Singapore. Singapore is not a difficult adjustment for many who have traveled previously. In a lot of ways, it is a westernized country with Asian roots. I like how I meet people who hesitate to answer, “Where are you from?” because they were uprooted a number of times. It is nice to meet others who understand that. That is a plus living in a culture that includes internationals. A cherry on top is how all the public transportation and nearly all buildings have AC (which actually I have grown sensitive to because I adjusted to the heat and humidity here).

However, out of this comes the difficulty. It is a materialistic society. People, including my students, are spoiled and comfortable. Thankfully, my kids are young and learn quickly for the most part. Yet, though Singapore is so westernized in many ways, it is so stuck in the past as if it were a third-world country. I see glimpses of it in the class system. The Indians are in the lowest class. They clean the toilets, take the garbage out or do construction work. Filipinos and Indonesians are maids or cleaners. Many are ill-treated and underpaid. One watches how these different ethnic groups interact. They sit or stand stiffly next to each other on the buses and MRT (Mass Rapid Transitthe train). You see them living together because Singapore demands it, but you can feel the tension.

It might be helpful to define “another culture”. Singapore is a confused mixture. For example, the language demonstrates this: we say “air con”, “queue” and “alight”. Check is spelled “cheque”. Then you have Singaporeans who speak bits of different Chinese dialects, a little Malay and a tad of English. Finally, you have the other Asian ethnic groups who live in Singapore for years at a time to save money. It is a convenient place to live. The metro comes on time. Stores and malls offer many physical comforts. It is all about me and now. There is great need for living a quality-filled life. Singapore has a lot of need, but it comes in a different form than those of other Asian countries.

Within this context comes a wonderful opportunity for outreach. Technically, NICS hired me as a missionary. This is noted in my paperwork. I just use teaching as a means of being here and building relationships to minister.

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