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Impact 0294: Touching hearts and changing lives as an educator

Diana Goh · 16 December 2021
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 I’m Diana Goh and I am 32 this year! I am a school teacher, teaching Biology and General Sciences at secondary school level. During my nine years as an educator, I have had the most fulfilling journey and I love my job very much.

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I was born an orphan and I was adopted. Growing up, my childhood was a tumultuous period. I was diagnosed with a structural defect in my heart and went through three heart surgeries at a young age. With those experiences, coupled with my strong belief in the power of education, I wanted to do a lot more for orphaned children as well as those with debilitating illnesses. 

Over the past 15 years I have committed myself to serving the less fortunate on different platforms, both locally and overseas. I was blessed enough to have gotten the chance to work with teams of inspiring individuals. Together, we have built clinics, libraries, and classrooms, brick by brick. We transported food and stationery to orphanages after Cyclone Nargis left many parts of Myanmar in debris.

In Singapore, I have befriended the elderly at a nursing home, given tuition to kids with terminal illnesses, volunteered my time at a hospital and taught life skills to the intellectually disabled community. 

My journey as a volunteer all these years has been nothing short of life-changing. It has shown me that a life of purpose is not self-absorbed soul-searching. It is simply opening our eyes with care and compassion and asking, “What can we do to make a difference to someone’s life?” I couldn’t have articulated this at a younger age, but I had discovered the paradoxical truth that pouring out fills us to the point of overflowing, and that we can only know how much value we have when we choose to add value to the world.

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Besides community work, I have also given motivational talks at various institutions. I share about my life with my audience in hope that they will find inspiration to live their own lives more courageously. 

In this social media dominated age, where people share the pleasant aspects of their lives, suffering can seem sudden and very unreal when it strikes. I think it is important for us to break this veneer of pleasantness and pleasure, and dig deep to talk about life’s adversities and our stories of triumph. 

Those in similar situations will then know that they are not alone in their pain, and that others have gone through worse and come out even stronger than before. When you tell your story of how you have overcome whatever you have gone through, your story becomes part of someone else’s survival guide.

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My philosophy towards education was shaped by my roots as an adopted child, my experience battling a heart disease, as well as my experiences as a volunteer. Over the years, I have realised that the biggest lesson I have learnt from my parents was about unconditional love. The way they showered me with all the love I wasn’t born to deserve throughout my health struggles taught me a lot about appreciating people and the importance of treating others with sincerity. 

I apply this lesson every day to both my personal life and my work as a teacher, and it has been the most rewarding journey for all the years that I have been in this profession. I realised that I could achieve many of the goals I set out to achieve as long as I always remember to put people at the centre of everything that I do.

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The conversations I have had with parents at teacher-parent conferences have made me realise that character building occurs most reliably when the heart is warmed, when we come into contact with people we admire and love. 

This truth was hammered home to me when I recalled how all the people whom I respect and admire have actually made a world of a difference in my own personal growth. I also came to a realisation that moral education is impossible without the habitual vision of greatness. 

People are usually apt to think of moral failure as a result of a weakness of character, but more often it is due to an inadequate ideal. The habit of reverence – for ancient heroes, for the elderly, for leaders and mentors in one’s own life – is essential in offering a visual knowledge of what greatness looks like in reality. 

Rooted in this belief I find myself in a constant pursuit to forge authentic ties with my students not just as a classroom teacher but as a mentor in their lives. I strive to model the way and inspire them by example.

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Every time I look around a classroom, I can never tell who learnt how to crawl first, who could walk before turning one or spoke in sentences by 15 months. I can never tell who was ever in gifted education and who was not – every kid seems to be a perfect gift in this world. 

I sincerely believe that on top of the conversations we have that can stretch a child’s potential, we must also make time to ask questions like “How is my child as a person? Is she kind? Does she include others? Is she happy at school?” 

It’s easy to get stuck on the failure to perform academically, on the opportunities missed, or the kid who does better than this kid. I believe that at the end of the day, it is all about raising a good person. 

As a teacher, I will always be concerned with the lives of my students and not simply their grades. I strongly believe in developing a child’s character because to me, a meaningful life is not about being rich, being popular, being highly educated, or being perfect. It is about being real, being humble, being strong, being able to share of ourselves and touch the lives of others… in all, being a good human being.

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