Despite being a relatively new teacher, Ting Kai could not ignore the call to become a Union Leader (UL) in Singapore Teachers’ Union (STU) after realising that many of his colleagues faced an even greater work and mental load during the pandemic.
Everyone Has A Voice
Before COVID-19 hit, Ting Kai was already a member of STU but he has now taken up the larger role of Young NTUC UL as part of the NTUC Youth Taskforce. Triggering this change was seeing his fellow teachers face never-before-experienced stresses at work. On top of the additional workload of coming up with online lesson packages, they also lacked an outlet or solution to their struggles.
When Young NTUC reached out, it was a natural step to become a UL so he could contribute more to the wellbeing of his colleagues. Prior to Circuit Breaker in 2020, STU had been planning a dialogue session between STU members and MOE to cover topics ranging from career progression to appraisal. COVID-19 forced the planning of this dialogue online and it initially looked like it was going to be cancelled. But Ting Kai pressed on, knowing how important it was for teachers to be given a voice and to have their thoughts and opinions heard. The dialogue fortunately proceeded to take place at the end of the year, albeit on a smaller scale.
He is looking forward to an event that is taking place soon - one that gives voice to teachers’ workload and harassment. Aside from getting teachers of all ages to attend this talk, it serves as an open conversation between teachers and MOE in the hopes that they may be able to find common ground to lessen the load, especially in the area of Home-based Learning (HBL).
No Stranger to Adversity
A music teacher in St Gabriel’s Secondary School, Ting Kai plans hands-on activities on percussion and string instruments as well as teach music tech like Garage Band. Finding out that he was experiencing hearing loss - he currently wears hearing aids in both ears - was doubly devastating as a music teacher and musician. However, he used it as his motivation to think beyond his situation and overcome it. His takeaway from his personal circumstance provided the basis for him to encourage his peers when being a teacher became more challenging than ever. He wanted them to realise that they did not have to feel stuck and that there are in fact many things they can do to overcome the obstacles they face.
Rooted in Community
Ting Kai’s heart for people extends far beyond his teaching colleagues. As a nEbO member back in his schooling days, he used to visit old folks’ homes to play the flute for the elderly. His wife also currently works in nEbO. After attending a mental wellness talk for teachers by Young NTUC, online yoga sessions for STU members and participating in talks for new teachers on career progression, stepping up to be a UL felt like a natural step. He’s on a mission to let teachers know that they are here to help.
Taking part in Common Ground, he met many like-minded individuals, equally passionate in helping workers. Workers not just from their respective industries, but workers as a whole. Meeting people like him inspires him to do more and brings conviction that much can be achieved as long as they work at it together.
Moving Forward Together
As a UL, he has the unique position of being on the ground and speaking up on issues while finding potential solutions. Referencing his favourite quote “Ask not what the company can do for you but what you can do for the company”, the goal is not to ask what the union can do for teachers but what the teachers in the union can do together.
Ting Kai’s tips for future leaders, a reminder to always:
- Understand: Everyone faces challenges of their own, even if they are not struggling visibly
- Plan: Figure out what the next steps are instead of charging forward recklessly
- Celebrate: Small wins are worth acknowledging as achievements, even if just a 5-10% improvement
Want to join us as a Union Leader? Sign up to be a member and experience our events and activities. Express your interest to be a leader so you can play a more active role in planning. Like Ting Kai, you too can be the voice for your generation. Connect with Young NTUC today and subscribe to our Digi-Fam e-newsletter to access career resources, support networks and our latest updates!