Happy World Mental Health Day 2021!

Happy World Mental Health Day 2021

Happy World Mental Health Day!

Today, we’ll see many people telling us to care for others. This is important.

At the same time, I’d like us all to take a step back and have a think about whether we’ve cared for ourselves.

Very often, we think we’re being selfless by putting others first and relegating our own needs to the backburner.

However, when we help others at our own expense, we’re actually being selfish; we end up not being able to help anyone at all, for want of sufficient self-care.

As we advocate for greater sensitivity to others’ mental healthcare needs, let’s also remember our own.

I’ve seen how damaging it is when leaders, friends and family members allow their own mental health issues to overtake them.

So distracted are they by the desire to provide for others that they end up depriving themselves of both self-care, as well as the cognitive bandwidth needed for self-awareness, to recognise how fast they’re falling – or how far they’ve fallen.

In the process, they end up hurting their colleagues, buddies and loved ones, and, in the process, irreparably damaging communities and relationships.

Air travel may seem like a foreign land to us these days, yet the safety guidelines provided during take-off briefings – regarding oxygen mask usage in emergencies – are instructive:

May we always remember to wear our own oxygen masks before helping others wear theirs.

Looking beyond the pain over PSLE

Covid-19 has been tough on this year’s cohort, pointing to further action needed as the children go on to secondary school. Parents too need to consider the broader shifts in education and the lessons they impart their children in their responses to exam setbacks.

This year’s PSLE exposed a chasm between what the majority of this cohort of Primary 6 pupils were prepared for, and what they were ultimately able to do. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG


Laremy Lee
For The Straits Times

So palpable was the pain from this year’s mathematics primary school leaving examination (PSLE) that it even affected those of us who did not sit the exam.

It prompted my 29-year-old cousin to recount, over WhatsApp, her traumatic experience in 2004, when she sat for her PSLE: “For my cohort, our science PSLE was the toughest. Science was my best subject. But I could neither do the paper nor finish it in time. I was quite shaken and on the verge of breaking down. Our teachers confirmed it was the toughest science paper they had seen in years. So how (this cohort of) pupils must be feeling totally resonates with me.”

(Continue reading the full article here.)

(Published as “Looking beyond the pain over PSLE” on 7 Oct 2015 in The Straits Times.)

The last Teachers’​ Day you’ll ever observe – and how to avoid it

Today is Teachers’ Day in Singapore, a day set aside to appreciate the hard work of caring for young lives and minds.

As educators – both leaders and teachers alike – take the day to rest, recharge and reflect on the good that they do, this thought-provoking question should be contemplated too:

What if this were the last Teachers’ Day you’ll ever observe?

For some, I’m sure it’d be even more reason to celebrate. Yay! they’d cheer. No more pesky parents, needy teachers or annoying students to deal with!

Jokes aside, the feeling for most, especially for those in the prime of their career, would be midway between existential dread and impending doom.

Professional obsolescence is a very real threat in all industries, given accelerating technological developments and an increasingly changing social environment.

Naysayers often add to the anxiety by prophesying how the job of teachers will soon disappear, given advancements in technologies that do the work of imparting knowledge better than teachers can.

To avoid being replaced by robots, educators must not only lead and teach well; they must discharge a duty of care at a level that machines will never be able to match.

First, inspire staff and students to learn and challenge them to grow by connecting with them on a human level.

Let staff and students know and feel they are important, and that each is accountable to their own selves for their achievements.

Next, use imagination and creativity to build environments and craft experiences that foster thoughts, values and actions required for well-rounded learning and growth.

This engages staff and students in a holistic manner, and promotes a sense of belonging to their communities for deeper engagement.

Finally, care for your staff and students in the ways they want to be cared for, in order to forge a culture of excellence.

When staff and students know and feel they are heard, supported and trusted, it creates a virtuous circle of care in the educational ecosystem.

Ultimately, this empowers staff and students to strive to succeed and become the best versions of themselves.

A Happy Teachers’ Day to all educators out there, and here’s to many more to come!