Get to know: Mavis Quah, Head of Department - Science

November 25, 2022

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How do you think a teacher can make a difference to a student's life? Can you share examples from your teaching career?

A teacher who is able to recognise and correctly assess situations and know what the student needs at that time can make a big difference. For example, a student who is having difficulty meeting deadlines needs to be observed and supported in meeting the deadlines as expected. 

Often teachers are perceived as heroes who save a student's day from a bully or mistreatment, and that makes a difference, but it diverges from reality when we engage in this image of a heroic teacher. I think being there to support students by preparing lessons well, making connections to real life, and getting them to think about why they are learning makes a big difference. 

Sometimes you have to make personal sacrifices that go beyond the lesson, such as providing students with extra material to review, pointing them to resources they can use for research, and going the extra mile by buying candy/writing small cards and putting it on their tables to remind them that you care.

What makes you passionate about your subject / specialisation? How do you foster an interest in this subject in students? 

I enjoy Science because it is a logical and disciplined subject. I hope that students will continue to ask questions and not look for fixed model answers, because in reality there are no absolutely right/correct answers. I like to look at the world from different angles, and everyone has different values and perspectives, and we should accept those differences. 

Science is a way of knowing, it is not the way to knowledge and definitely not the only way of knowing the world. Other fields and areas of knowledge should be equally respected. Just because you know more about Science does not make you a better and more knowledgeable person.

I will encourage students to think about and question experimental observations, methods and scientific concepts and theories, and not be afraid to take the first step to figure things out, make mistakes, and figure out why. This empowers learners by giving them the freedom to ask questions and explore.

Authentic science should be taught in this way, i.e., with open-ended questions and investigations where students plan and investigate a concept that may not give them clear-cut answers. Sometimes it throws us off when things do not move in a certain direction, and we have to find a way to come to terms with our value judgement and logical scientific reasoning - this is a process of reflecting on metacognitive processes. 

Authentic scientific inquiry teaches resilience and integrates ATL approaches as students seek to develop the skills - research, communication, collaboration, social thinking, and self-management - that are critical to our creativity and knowledge in the digitised world of technology.

What does a day at work look like for you (as an HoD and teacher)? What do you enjoy about it?

Very challenging with covers and unexpected twists. I have experienced personal growth, and in some ways, have become more humble, stronger and humorous (even if some do not appreciate my sense of humour).

What do you hope OWIS students will remember about you? 

I would rather the students remember the Science lessons they learned in OWIS than me. I want them to feel and learn that a strong team has a stronger and lasting impact that goes farther and longer than that of a single exceptional person.

Who was your most memorable teacher and why?

I have some, and they are unique and inspiring in their own way. I do not want to highlight the person, but the qualities that make them memorable - they are determined, focused and passionate about their craft. They do not just look at material gain, but are driven by a strong sense of purpose and an unwavering spirit of hope that their craft will give meaning to the world.

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