Make the horse thirsty

Having prata with the 5N1 boys.

So my relief teaching stint at Saint Gabriel’s Secondary School ended last week.

I’m very glad for the opportunity to have returned for one last hurrah; to have come full circle in my teaching journey and for this very meaningful and enriching experience to mark the end of my teaching career (for now).

Something I found valuable from the experience: a lesson that resurfaced during the course of my stint.

When I was a trainee teacher at St Gab’s four years ago, I remember telling Mr William Ng, our School Coordinating Mentor then, about how one class was making it difficult for me to teach them.

The exact words I used was in the form of the idiom “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

Mr Ng took one look at me and replied, “Then make the horse thirsty.”

My instinctive response was to shoot him a WTF look – though I stopped when I realised he made sense.

(That was a very powerful exercise in reframing for me; I’ve since learnt the power of reframing situations like that in order to break out of what might be a seemingly hopeless circumstance.)

In any case, being a beginning teacher, I didn’t know how to make the “horses” thirsty then.

So I completely forgot about the phrase and about making “horses” thirsty until I was a week into my stint and I reconnected with Mr Ng.

Recollecting his words was both an empowering and inspiring experience; I finally understood what he meant.

I also felt a sense of relief: at some point last year, my teaching journey had finally led me to learn what it was I had to do to make the “horses” thirsty.

A couple of people have asked how to make the “horses” thirsty. An ex-colleague has even quipped that it’s “even more important than what…the fox say[s]“.

I’m not normally the type to hold my cards close to my chest, but this time round, I will, for personal reasons.

In any case, if you’re a teacher, keep teaching well and make making “horses” thirsty one of your priorities too.

P.S. not related but still amusing, nonetheless: Rockson’s Horse.


Young, thundering herd

So I had just commenced my Literature lesson yesterday when one of the boys (Boy A) abruptly walked into the classroom.

I eyed Boy A irritably, annoyed that he was late but I didn’t make a fuss about it.

Until Boy A went right up to another boy (Boy B), casually handed him a homework assignment that belonged to yet another boy and had a very congenial and drawn-out tête-à-tête with Boy B before returning to his place, all while right in front of me.

By then, I was pointedly glaring at both boys but they didn’t notice anything amiss, until I said in a sharp tone, “Eh, you all don’t even have a sense of propriety, is it?”

Because the point I was going to make was about how they needed to have the courtesy to:

  • Be punctual for the lesson;
  • Greet the teacher when they enter the classroom;
  • Be polite and not disrupt the lesson, etc. – good manners, in other words.

But there was somewhat of a long silence and a bit of uncomfortable squirming in the classroom before Boy A piped up to ask, “Sir – what is ‘propriety’?”


I eventually pointed out to them the need to learn about decorum and etiquette.

Before that, we did a bit of vocabulary: I told them that “propriety” has the same root word as “appropriate”, where both are derived from the Latin word for “proper”.

On a separate note, the class has a class flag on which is inscribed the words “Young, thundering herd” (it’s on the left-hand side of the picture).

It cracks me up; I always break into a grin whenever I see it, because it proves my point about the universality of pigletry.

PSA: In white and blue (Part II)

The old St Gabriel's School Badge

In a strange twist of fate, my teaching career has come full circle and I’ll be relief teaching at St Gabriel’s Secondary School from today till the end of Term 4.

Pretty excited because I’ll be teaching The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Boom by Jean Tay.

I’ll also have to teach some English language classes, but thankfully it’s the old syllabus (I heard the new one is… complex).

In somewhat-related news, I’m trying to find a high-resolution version of the school badge you see above (the original and the one I used to wear).

The original motto was “Virtue and Truth” (or “Virtus et Veritas” in Latin, though it was never used as such); the present motto is “Labore Omnia Vincit” (or “Hard Work Conquers All”).

I still prefer the old motto and badge.