NIE alumnus and 2019 Nanyang Young Alumni Award recipient, Mr Matthew Ong, believes that educators play a crucial role in helping students to believe in themselves, seek different ways to grow, and make a difference every day.
Mr Matthew Ong, BA (Ed), Second Class (Upper) Honours, NIE Class of 2005, has received numerous awards over the years. As recipient of the 2019 Young Alumni Award, Matthew considers himself fortunate to have been mentored and led by some of the most nurturing educators over the years. | Read More |
“I’m deeply grateful to the wonderful and supportive people around me in school and at home. As we say in St Andrew’s Junior School, it’s about Making Lives and Waking Hearts every day,” Matthew shared.
He even counts his own students among his best “teachers”. “I’ve learnt a great deal from these kids. Every once in a while, a great moment of insight would emerge, and I love collecting these little gems so that I can cherish and perhaps share them with others one day,” he added.
Ever keen to seek new ways of teaching and learning, the English HOD makes time to conduct research, publish his findings, get involved in community service projects, mentor students, and fulfil his role as a doting dad to two children. He is known for his ability to spin memorable stories and learning points out of the most unexpected places, such as a game of chess. “I love to read and listen to stories. I believe they are a powerful way of connecting with people. We remember things better when they are presented as coherent and meaningful stories, as opposed to a lecture.”
When asked if he had a ‘secret formula’ for his personal and professional achievements, Matthew responded: “Mentorship has always been one of the most powerful enablers for me. It’s very difficult to learn everything on the job and sometimes, certain mistakes can only be avoided when someone has shared a prior experience. To me, a mentor is someone who creates a safe space for growth and learning. During my practicum, I was blessed with fantastic mentors like Mrs Elaine Loke. She told me her passion was to ensure that her students became better than her. I found that truly powerful.”
He also credited his principals, directors and friends for making a difference throughout his years as an educator. “They are like a reservoir of wisdom where I draw my strength and inspiration.”
Above all, Matthew singled out his parents as the real heroes behind his learning journey. “They didn’t always have the answers to those 10-year series questions, but they exemplified certain life values that were much better caught than taught. I learnt the fundamentals of true education from Mum and Dad, who believe ‘it’s not what you teach but how you teach it’. And how you teach, the passion and willingness to fail, becomes what you teach. Most importantly, I think how we live is ultimately what our students learn,” he proffered.
Matthew is excited that St Andrew’s is embarking on more formal mentoring structures in the year ahead. “Teachers at St Andrew’s are lucky to be able to access various formal and informal learning platforms. The professional learning teams and subject spotlights are great, but sometimes, it's the bond between students, teachers and even parents that engender more meaningful learning outcomes.”
When asked how he would tackle common challenges to teaching and mentorship, he advised, “Seek to understand before you’re understood. No one wants to fail, so it’s important to lend a helping hand to someone going through difficult moments. Perhaps, we could mentor others the way we wish to be mentored ourselves.”
Wrapping up, Matthew recited his daily mantra to students: “You are enough. Don’t let anyone put you down or tell you that you can’t do it. Everything you need is within you. You can raise the bar. Seek to improve, little by little every day. You may fall but that’s all right. Try again – and again. You can make a difference. Never forget that you can make a positive difference to someone’s life today.”