My journey from student to award-winning teacher

By Chua Wan Rong, SMU School of Accountancy, Class of 2007

“I will never be a teacher.” I remember saying this to my English teacher at the age of 15, in response to her prediction that I would eventually become a teacher.

I ate my words ater 3.5 years of working in auditing, when I joined Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Business & Accountancy as a lecturer in June 2011. In the ACC department, I have taught various modules, including auditing, financial accounting and managerial accounting.

My designation is “Lecturer”, but sometimes I feel like an “EduTainer”: a hybrid of educator and entertainer. The role of teachers has evolved greatly over the past 20 years. With the proliferation of technology and knowledge, sometimes, even I feel inadequate because my students can ask and find out almost everything from Google.

Now that I am on this end of the learning spectrum, I find myself rethinking my role as an educator, as it feels very different from the days when I was a student myself.

My interest in teaching started at SMU, where I helped out as a teaching assistant for FA103. This interest was sparked further while I was doing auditing in Deloitte & Touche LLP. As such, I was quite confident that I wanted to find a teaching job when I left auditing: specifically at a polytechnic, where I could share my practical work experiences.

When I first started working as a lecturer, there were times when I felt overwhelmed as I was unclear of how much responsibility I should take on for the students’ learning. As a student, I only needed to take responsibility for my personal learning. In my current role as the content provider cum facilitator, I have to do more than just deliver the content. Regardless of how good I feel about what I’ve taught, it is more important to know how much my students have taken away with them from a two-hour lecture/tutorial. Given that everyone learns differently, it is a challenge to ensure that all students have managed to grasp the majority of the key learning points that I planned.

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Wan Rong (right) posing with Founding Dean, Professor Pang Yang Hoong, at the SoA Commemorative Book Launch in July 2015

During my SMU days, I thought professors had the best job. They only had to talk about what they are familiar with for three hours, 2-3 times a week, and that was it. After joining this line, I realised my folly. It is easy to talk, but not an easy task to engage the class and get them to retain and be able to apply what was taught.

A lot of preparation work goes into that three-hour seminar, something which I did not realise when I was a student. Now that I am conducting lectures for 200 students, I realise the need for sufficient preparation in order for me to pull off my two-hour-long “talk show”. The importance of preparation has helped me to progress from my first “I tell you and you listen” lecture, to my current “I am so engaging that you can’t help but listen to me” lecture.

I received my first Staff Teaching Award for the year 2014/15, which was a great encouragement to me after receiving nominations for the past three years. It is an affirmation of my efforts and has made me realise the positive impact that I have made in my students’ lives. It also brings to mind all the kind words and gestures from my SMU professors in years past; I remember my days at the Bukit Timah campus, where my friends and I would look for our professors for consultations and other professors would join in the chat. When I was doing my teaching assistant duties on level 10, professors would drop by to say hi, even though they may not have taught me previously. Subsequently, there were other professors who made themselves available to clarify my doubts when my own professor was not around.

To a great extent, SMU’s School of Accountancy has groomed me into who I am today: from a person who was afraid of public-speaking, to someone who is now able to stand in front of a crowd of 200 and command their attention. Looking back on my SMU days, it was extremely tough when I had to juggle school work (which included at least four presentations every week) and my Accounting Society responsibilities. But it was this exact combination that trained me to be who I am today. I am always ready to come back to SoA because this place was where my transformation took place. With this, I really want to say a big “thank you” to all the professors who have given me a kind word or gesture, because I cannot be who I am today, if not for you.

To all my professors: I will continue to strive to be the best “EduTainer” that I can be, so that you can be proud to tell others that, “Hey, that’s my student!”

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