An interview with Mdm Joann Teo Siu Wern, Head of Curriculum at Between The Lines.
Kiasuparents caught up with Mdm Joann Teo Siu Wern after her recent talk at Rise & Shine Superkids’ Symposium 2016. Mdm Joann Teo was formerly a MOE Teaching Award Scholarship holder and Head of Department for Pupil Welfare. Awarded with the Outstanding Youth in Education Award 2005, she now leverages her wealth of experience as the Head of Curriculum at Between The Lines (BTL) Learning Centre.
Q: Why do we find so many parents struggling with children who are bored and frankly, unwilling to learn?
Unfortunately, learning in Singapore has become performance-oriented, where it’s all about the output – the grades. So many children lose sight of the purpose of their learning and are faced with endless drills that attempt to perfect the technicality of answering correctly, it’s no wonder they are bored and unmotivated to learn!
Q: Yes, I noticed that Between The Lines (BTL) is an English Language Centre that promotes “Learning with Passion & Purpose”. Just how do you do that?
BTL is founded by a group of experienced MOE teachers who are passionate about igniting the spark in our children’s learning. Here, the English Language is not seen as a series of technical grammar or vocabulary just to score well in the exams, but it’s what allows our students to articulate and express who they are and what they stand for. We know that students learn best when their hearts and minds are engaged through the language. So often, as adults we forget that the whole person is both emotion and thought – inseparable, our emotions are the ignition that powers our critical thinking and learning!
Q: It’s interesting you put emotions at the forefront of learning, as the heart that engages the mind – how is this done?
At BTL, our students’ hearts and minds are engaged through an integrated study on real-world themes. Whether it’s Malala fighting for the rights for female education, Jane Goodall’s passion for animal rights, or Joseph Schooling’s determination that led to the Olympic Gold, we use award-winning literature that are age-appropriate to bring these real-world characters and their journeys to life. The relevance of who they were, what they stood for, and how they could identify with each one spurred our students’ hearts to know and understand the different world or experience they lived in.
This heart-relevance powers them through the difficult process of inquiry required for deep, inferential reading that stumbles so many in Comprehension. As they build their higher-order thinking through this, our lessons reach further into their hearts by helping them internalize their own thoughts and feelings to the real-world accounts. Each real-world event or character study is integrated with Listening and Oral as our students hear about and then, speak of their own position on the topic. As we encourage our students to see how the same issues are relevant to their own lives, they write their Composition with zeal – the narrative and vocabulary learnt take a real life and excitement of their own!
Q: What does it mean, though, for this to be translated into Passion and Purpose?
Purpose is rooted in an awareness of who I am and what value or contribution I make to the world around me. At BTL, we use only real-world issues to build our students’ critical understanding of the world we live in, and make sense of the growing challenges and issues they face.
When their Mind is connected to the Heart – in terms of what they think and how they feel – students begin to take ownership and their self-identity is strengthened, they develop Passion. Put simply, Passion is the strength of their emotion and will, to persist and persevere towards their own goals.
The first sign of Purpose and Passion is evident when parents see their children leave our classrooms enthusiastic to share about what they’ve learnt, and brimming with expectation for the next lesson! Our parents have told us how their children would now take initiative to read and discuss world events, and in turn relate these to Singapore and themselves.
When our students take ownership of their own learning in this way, parents are freed from “pushing” their children, leaving room for their love relationships to grow. Most importantly, a wholly-engaged and motivated student is also one who would strive for Excellence – more than half of our students have improved by one grade or more after only 3 to 4 months at BTL.
See what BTL parents and students have been saying about BTLhere.