Following my own path, and finding contentment in what I do
Is it OK to pursue a path less travelled, and find success on your own terms? For the final learning session of the Singapore Children's Forum (SCF) 2021/2022 on 18 September, we heard from Ms Faith Ng, Associate Artistic Director at Checkpoint Theatre.
Faith typically writes stories for the stage and she had poured her personal experiences with education in Singapore into a play titled Normal, which was first staged in 2015 and restaged in 2017. The play is inspired by her journey as a Normal Stream student and explores what happens when students fail to fit the mould.
Faith drew insights from these personal experiences in her candid sharing with the youths. She believes that being in the Normal Stream had shaped her perspectives fro the better and, in helping the youths understand the importance of embracing their own journeys, she highlighted four life lessons she would have told her younger, teenage self:
It's ok to make mistakes – Sometimes we might be afraid to make mistakes, but how we pick ourselves up after that is often more important than the mistake itself. Mistakes also help us to grow more mature, empathetic and forgiving of other people's mistakes.
It's okay to not have all the answers. It's brave to say, 'I don't know' and 'I'm still figuring it out' when you feel uncertain about the future, and how it might turn out. Life is a journey through highs and lows.
Spend time with yourself. Doing so allows us to ask ourselves 'Who am I?' and 'What do I like or dislike?', instead of following the crowd. Asking ourselves 'What kind of learner am I?' (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic etc.) is useful as well, not just for learning in school, but for shifting our perspectives and helping us develop a growth mindset when we encounter challenging situations that take us out of our comfort zones.
Surround yourself with friends who lift you up. People around us make us who we are. Ask for help when we need it and remember that we are not alone in our struggles.
Plenty of time was given during the session for the youths to share their own experiences with schooling and education in Singapore as well. Parallels could be drawn between the experiences of the youths from the more renowned schools and those from other school. Academic pressures and the need to fulfil expectations, in particular, are common issues experiences by students across all school types.
Even so, the youths pointed out that learning should not be limited to schools, and that they can take initiatives to learn more about what interests them outside of school. Faith also stressed the importance of being gracious to ourselves when we fail and giving ourselves the space to try again.
Many of the youths felt encouraged by Faith's sharing and felt grateful to have already discovered where their interests and talents lie – be it in podcasting, dance, biomedical science or another field. Beyond grades, the ultimate goal should be to find contentment and satisfaction in whatever we do.
At the close of the session, it was apparent that there is a need for platforms like the SCF for children and youths to share their views on issues that matter to them. Hopefully, through more of such platforms for open discussion, we will develop policies, initiatives and programmes that truly focus on upholding the best interests of our children and youths