Inside the Brain of Mr Brian Chan


By S4WC(27) Ng Chin Wai Denise

In a school which has a staff of over 100 teachers, it’s not uncommon to see new faces popping up each year to replace the ones who have bid farewell. However, it’s not very often we see teachers who have actually wanted to be one since they were young. Such a rare event needs to be documented, and hence I bring forth Mr Brian Chan, a fresh graduate who’s only started teaching full-time this year.

Before teaching at our school, surprisingly, he’s already had 5 years of experience educating part-time at another prestigious institution. However, as he was merely a part-time teacher, he mainly tutored S6 pupils in remedial classes and enhancement courses. He has also guest-starred in the occasional Youtube video filmed by one of his friends, preaching words of wisdom on how to achieve top scores in LS.

However, his decision to become an educator was unquestionably not a rash one, as he realized his true calling ever since he was a wee child.

“I unearthed my passion for marking when teachers would tell you to correct the papers of your classmates - I adored every second of it. However, the best part would be when we could create our own question papers with the same format. Isn’t it just the best thing ever?”

Even though I can’t relate to this feeling, his ardour for this subject is evident in the way that he teaches. After one measly lesson, he managed to capture the hearts of his students and leave them anticipating his lessons full of boring graphs, data analysis and essays. How did he manage to achieve the impossible? And so, he unveils his big secret.

"During lessons, I like to raise examples that the students can associate with. Say, if we were to learn about import and export, I would ask students whether they have been to the trendy Japanese supermarket Don Don Donki. As the majority of the class has most likely heard of it already, they will be drawn in by the topic I am about to introduce. This can also act as an example which is easily understandable, reinforcing their knowledge of the topic."

Raise your hand if you have a mini panic attack whenever you open an LS test paper. Liberal studies is a subject that requires students to form logical coherent essays in a short period. And unlike Mr Chan, most of us simply do not have the BRAIN power to do so. 

Fear not, for although it is unbeknownst to many, Mr Chan himself faces the same difficulties when answering students’ questions. One feature of LS is that questions are usually open-ended. As the answers to the questions are usually very diverse, he gets very frantic trying to bide his time while trying to decipher unexpected answers. At the same time, that anxiety while being put on the spot gives him the adrenaline rush he craves, which makes teaching all the better.

With age comes wisdom, and though not perfect, it is something that Mr. Chan has accumulated and has so graciously shared with us. Now I shall present to you the holy grail, guidelines to acing LS as according to Mr Chan. Here goes:

Firstly, read the news. Download a news app, and get yourself familiarized with current news affairs. Although this tip may have been repeated by multiple of your LS teachers already, it cannot be stressed enough about how paramount this is. After all, how are you going to learn about world problems while being blissfully unaware of your surroundings?

Secondly, watch documentaries.  It doesn't even have to correlate to the LS curriculum - if there's one thing that documentaries have in common, it's that the narrative is unbiased. Learn from that, and apply that same logic to your essays. Furthermore, in documentaries, simple examples are often provided to explain a concept or as Mr Chan likes to call them, "key terms". Learn to break them down to their basic fundamentals, and rebuild them to become part of your essay.

Last but not least, be more proactive during lessons. Ask at least one question. If that isn't possible, you must jot something down. Maybe a key term, a simple explanation, doesn't matter. By asking questions and/or answering them, you can confirm your logic flow, thus stabilizing your foundation on the topic.

With that, I sincerely wish Mr Chan the best of luck. Hopefully, after a few more years of teaching, he can still retain his initial passion for teaching.