Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Lim Tze Dean (18J13) and Yuan Chen Xin (18J15)
In his younger days as a competitive swimmer, Mr Kwok Ying Liang would respond negatively to any races that he lost. At one point, he was so overwhelmed with dejection that he stopped competing completely. But over time, River Valley High School’s new Vice Principal began to realise why he had enjoyed the sport so much in the first place.
“It liberated me. It allowed me to reflect and think, and to shut off my worries,” he said.
Overcoming his setbacks in the past, Mr Kwok still swims regularly and, when work allows, competes in races.
“I even have my favourite swimmers too, similar to how many students might have a favourite sports person or artist. It’s quite exciting to see them win their competitions,” he added.
Joining River Valley High School earlier this year, The Student Editorial Club had the opportunity to spend some time with Mr Kwok and found out more about what makes him tick.
Besides being a Vice Principal, what academic subjects have you got the most interest in or had taught before?
I’m a Chemistry teacher, so I enjoy A level Chemistry quite a fair bit. In fact, I really like nucleophilic substitution reactions. I think that reaction mechanisms in organic chemistry are most interesting to me, because it is about pattern recognition. When teaching organic chemistry, I do not see it as content focused; I feel it is akin to deciphering a pattern. And I apply it in other things in work, life or situations where I aim to identify if there’s a recurring pattern and whether a solution can be applied to it.
Do you miss teaching the subject?
To a certain extent, I do. The classroom environment offers direct interaction with students — the reason why I decided to be a teacher in the first place. When you move on to more managerial roles, you tend to get a little more distanced from the students. However, your sphere of influence increases because you get to influence teachers, to encourage them to become better in their craft and therefore ultimately benefit the students, which is the goal why we are in the teaching profession — because we want to help the student improve, and make them better people in the future.
What aspirations do you have for RV?
I want Rvians to remember that you’ll grow up to be leaders of distinctions. This must be coupled with a good set of values. When you eventually go to work, the problems you will face might not have the clear cut between right and wrong. Instead, some of the challenges students will face are often such right and right decisions. This makes it very difficult to determine your route, and is very dependent on your own value systems. The belief of being leaders of distinction usually comes with certain trade-offs, but I do hope that students will be able to counter them when the time comes.
How do you think we can further place emphasis on these values so that the students can retain them in their minds after leaving school?
I think that is exactly what’s being done in our classrooms today. We put a lot of emphasis on knowing what you are learning, so we have systems like the Cultures Of Thinking environment that actually provides a platform to air your views. This is done through talking and discussion, to clarify what we know and believe in. Then, what we believe in will in turn shape our own individual value systems.
What else would you want students to know about?
The schooling experience is always seemingly long, but actually short. So, treasure your schooling experience very much, appreciate all the good thoughts your teachers have for you, and do not forget them. Remember to learn and internalise the lessons learnt well as they will put you in good stead for the future.