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Who am I?
My posting to AI is my second tour of duty as principal. Students often ask what led to me being appointed as one of the younger principals they have met. Ironical as it may seem, I did not rise to this position on multiple successes. On the contrary, it was setbacks and disappointments that shaped me to who I am today.
This journey began with a personal disappointment of not fulfilling my aspiration to qualify for Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools after my PSLE. My peers who had performed worse than I did in the Preliminary Exams eventually did better than me for PSLE. I was filled with anger and self-doubt.
Four years later, I realized that it was a blessing in disguise. Not qualifying for a SAP school gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a completely different culture where many of my friends spoke English fluently. I read English Literature for the ‘O’ levels. I experienced literacy appreciation days and participated in mass-dancing after the examinations. I also had the opportunity to lead my class in the school funfair. Unbeknownst to me, these experiences empowered me with leadership skills and helped shaped myself and my classmates into leaders of the future.
My disappointment of my PSLE result had forced me to step out of my comfort zone and pushed me to reflect on what I could have done better and ensured that I did not repeat my mistakes for my ‘O’ levels. I progressed to post-secondary, doing well academically and beyond. Although I struggled with General Paper at first in JC, I eventually did reasonably well for it through remediation. During my university years, I struggled to complete my Masters thesis because I abandoned my Honours year project to start on a new one. I was well behind my peers in terms of progress. But I persevered. This was only possible because of my prior disappointments.
My next major setback was when I was posted out from MOE Headquarters. I did not receive any offers from schools despite applying and going for interviews. At this point, all my self-doubt from my younger days came back to me. But my years of maturity taught me that what I do with my disappointment is more important that the disappointment itself. This time, I was more aware of who I was as a person and the kindness that can help raise me up when I fall. A Principal was kind enough to take me in. Having only taught in a JC before, transiting to secondary school was difficult. But I had the mentorship of my principal and fellow colleagues. An important lesson I learnt came from my Vice Principal at that time, who told me that she was helping me to ‘pack my parachute’ and the time will come when I will help others to pack theirs.
Years later, I became the Principal of Woodlands Secondary School. I was introduced to someone who wanted to bring the experience of sailing to neighbourhood school students. AI students benefitted from this programme. Through this person’s contacts, they even got to visit Lamborghini. Strangely, the one who introduced this person to me was a principal who many years back had rejected my application. This proves that life can surprise you through its disappointments.
I am who I am, not because of what I do for a living, but how I have gone through the surprises and disappointments in life. According to Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of ‘Peaks and Valleys’, one must appreciate and manage good times wisely, by being humble and grateful. Humble and grateful for what, you may ask. It is for the errors that one makes in today’s good times because they create tomorrow’s bad times. Then find and use the good hidden in bad times, for the wise things we do in today’s bad times, create tomorrow’s good times.
I am thankful for the opportunity and look forward to impacting your years in AI.
Ms Tan Ke-Xin