Today I’d like you to meet Edwin Khoo, another of my fellow TLP coursemates. This is a Father’s Day Special, because Edwin is also a father to four kids (Elson, 6; Lyla, 5; Meyer, 3; Reuel, 1) at home – definitely high by Singaporean standards! He’s happily married to his wife, Yian Ling. In school, he carries the portfolio of Senior Teacher in Character and Citizenship Education (ST/CCE). Read on to find out how he goes about balancing work and family!
Edwin shared that his goals are to help his students find hope in life, and for his colleagues to find joy in working in school. He teaches Biology as a subject, and also works quite closely with Normal Technical students in school. In fact, he sees the subjects that he teaches as a platform to help his students grow to be better versions of themselves.
When he gets free time, he would try to spend them with sports like Basketball or Badminton. Fortunately, his school knows this, and deployed him be one of the teachers in charge for Basketball, where he would occasionally spar with the players.
Without further ado, let’s hop into the interview proper!
God’s Calling for the Season
Marcus: Edwin, thank you for doing this interview with me. How would you describe God’s calling for you at this season of your life?
Edwin: Currently, I think God’s call for me is to be faithful in growing others and to model Christ-likeness at work and at home.
Edwin: As educators, growing others is the core of what we do on a daily basis. We want to help our students grow and develop into who they can be.
But for this season of my life, God is opening up opportunities for me to grow not just the students, but also my colleagues.
For starters, my interactions with my friends in school are not limited to work. Often, it would venture into topics like family, relationships, life, meaning, and purpose. In these conversations, I can listen to what matters to my friends, ask difficult questions, and sometimes provide perspectives that help to shape their worldviews.
It can be quite tempting sometimes to just do the talking and give answers to people because solutions seem apparent to us.
But I see growth as people becoming better able to cope with the issues that they are currently facing. By providing solutions directly, it may not help them to grow as much as allowing them to mull over, grapple, and come to terms with the solutions they derived by themselves.
This process of helping others grow from the inside out can be a rather slow and arduous process. Sometimes we can get a little impatient. And our impatience might manifest itself in frustration. And that is where God’s second calling comes in.
Edwin: In helping others grow, I want to model Christlikeness. Because Christ has been very patient with me with my growth, I too, want to be patient with others’ growth.
This modelling of Christlikeness during this season is also for my children. I don’t just want to tell them about Jesus. I want them to see Jesus daily through the things that their papa and mama do daily.
And through trying to emulate Christ’s grace, mercy, justice, patience, gentleness, and most of all love, I hope that one day, the people that I interact with will come to see that these values that I display do not originate from within me, but flow from my Lord.
My calling is to be faithful in growing others and to model Christ-likeness at work and at home.– Edwin Khoo
Championing Facilitation as a ST/CCE
Marcus: That’s a lot of clarity around your calling! I can feel the sense of purpose and mission you bring to your work and home. Let’s talk about your role in school. Tell us more about what you do as a Senior Teacher in Character and Citizenship Education (ST/CCE).
Edwin: In a nutshell, what I currently do as ST/CCE is to champion facilitation. Of course, there are all the other stuff like coordinating events, mentoring, designing and curating CCE resources, etc. But all these serve to further the capacity of the staff in my school to facilitate conversations. That is, to be the guide by the side rather than the sage on the stage.
What I currently do as ST/CCE is to champion facilitation… [helping teachers] to be the guide by the side rather than the sage on the stage.– Edwin Khoo
The interesting thing about being an ST/CCE is that we don’t just work with the CCE Committee. In fact, since every teacher is a CCE teacher, every teacher may be a potential person we have to work with.
And currently, one of the challenges in CCE is the transition towards CCE 2021, where lessons are more facilitative and less didactic.
This is not easy. Because if we were to break it down, it would seem that allowing our participants to speak their minds, and encouraging them to do so, might lead us away from where we intend to go in the conversation. And not every teacher is comfortable with this uncertainty of navigating through uncharted conversations.
It is something that not only requires teachers to make adjustments, but also requires specific skill-sets in order for the lessons to be carried out in the form that it was meant to be.
Other than organising and providing the training for teachers to be more skilled at facilitation, I try to model facilitation in school. This takes the form of:
- asking questions during conversations,
- trying to get different teachers to contribute their thoughts,
- being a little more comfortable in not knowing where a conversation is going by adopting a posture of curiosity, and
- finding landing points that are probably acceptable to most people after a conversation.
Helping them grow more confident in this area of facilitation would inevitably help them become better teachers of CCE!
Designing Values-based Lessons (VBLs)
Marcus: In what ways do you see yourself fulfilling God’s call for you at work?
Edwin: In the past few years, I had the privilege of anchoring this piece of CCE called Values-Based Lessons (VBLs) in my school. Through these lessons, we hope to help our students grow in awareness of the values they hold on to, and nurture in them our four school values.
So for VBLs, my team and I get to design lessons from scratch. Because we didn’t have any templates we needed to follow, it was really a blank canvas for us to work on.
Having such freedom, it was quite normal for us to spend lots of time thinking and designing great lessons for students.
But I set a target for my team, that we designed VBLs not only for the students, but also for the teachers who are conducting the lessons. We want the teachers to run the lesson, and in the process of running their lessons with their students, get personally inspired by it.
Marcus: Sounds like a double-win situation! How has it turned out so far?
Edwin: Thank God, it has been very rewarding so far. We’ve had teachers looking for us after the lessons to tell us of their experience, of how they really were moved by the resource, or how they really liked how the lessons were designed to lead their minds and hearts.
One especially memorable episode was of a teacher who dropped me a message to thank me for the lesson, because after she delivered the lesson, her students gave her a standing ovation for how the lesson was carried out. And even though she was thanking us for the lesson, I could just sense the pride she felt in herself because she knew she had delivered a great lesson. Just revisiting these thoughts gives me a warm feeling throughout! =)
Balancing Work and Family Commitments
Marcus: You’re also called to be a father of 4 children. That’s a big responsibility! Tell us how you juggle or balance these 2 heavy roles at work and at home.
Edwin: It’s tough! I don’t want to oversimplify things just by giving a few tips. When it comes to parenting, what works for me may not work for others. I hope that readers will read this part with an understanding that I’m not offering silver bullets. These are merely things that had worked for me and my family.
One thing that kept me sane was the help from our parents. I really want to honour my parents and my in-laws, because they have done so much for us. My in-laws are retired and they are able to help pick up the slack when my wife (who’s also working) and I are unable to. They make dinner for us, and help to send and fetch the kids from school when we aren’t able to. They even teach the kids to practice speaking in Mandarin. I am so grateful to them for these! So on our part, we try to care for the children as much as we can. If we do not have to trouble them, we don’t.
Dying to Self
Edwin: My marriage mentor used to say that marriage is one of the biggest discipleship journeys. I think parenthood is even more so. And the biggest challenge is the part of dying to self.
With 4 kids, I know I have to deprioritise a lot of my personal wants. And a big part of that is to accurately set expectations for myself.
For instance, me-time. I do not expect to spend any me-time in a day. I expect time for work, time for family, and time for sleep. And when I do get me-time, it is a bonus.
When I have such a mindset, I do not feel entitled to getting this me-time, and I don’t grow that resentful over my lack of time to decompress.
Edwin: Another way to cope with having 4 kids is to pre-set boundaries. In my mind, I made a decision that I would not do work at home. So once I knock off work at around 5pm, I should ideally be spending time with my family (or for my family).
So, this boundary helps me make decisions and guides my actions at work. I try to do all the work that needs to be done in school. This means that during lessons, I try to make my lessons with my students as efficacious as they can be. This reduces the need for supplementary lessons and remedial etc.
And once I get some free time, I’ll be trying to clear the work that had been given to me.
But Wei Woon, you’re right to ask about the question on calling as the first question, because as I am clearing my work, I always try to keep my eye on the calling of the season.
So, while I am clearing work, and an opportunity pops up to help a colleague grow in some ways, I would most of the time drop my own work to fulfill this more important work of the season.
While I do this, I have the faith that God will honor the time I spent with people to grow them, and multiply my capacity to finish the work that I had put on hold.
I have the faith that God will honor the time I spent with people to grow them, and multiply my capacity to finish the work that I had put on hold.– Edwin Khoo
Having a Routine
Edwin: Having a routine makes a lot of sense. Once I am at home, there is a routine to get the kids to eat, bathe, play, wash up, read and pray.
Even though this routine is quite difficult to maintain sometimes, especially when I am really tired after the day of work, my heart is usually quite full by the time we finish it, because I think I have spent some quality time with the kids.
Once in a while, I spice up the routine by challenging my children in different ways. One day, I had a lot of extra chores to do at night. So I got my eldest son Elson to lead his siblings in the nightly prayer. To my surprise, he did really well, and I was so pleased with it.
In the end, I think the key is to know what we deem to be important, and then make the daring decisions to prioritise these important things over other things that are similarly fighting for our time.
The key is to know what we deem to be important, and then make the daring decisions to prioritise these important things over other things that are similarly fighting for our time.– Edwin Khoo
The High and Low Points of Parenting
Marcus: These are really helpful advice! What are some high points you are grateful for in your journey so far?
Edwin: I really enjoy the trust given to me by my colleagues. Being able to speak and connect to them at a very personal level frequently reminds me of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us.
On my family front, I feel great satisfaction when my children learn to rely on God when they face difficulties.
When the Rain Would Not Stop!
Marcus: Tell us a time when that happened. What did you do?
Edwin: I recall vividly this time when I was bringing my kids out to the Sembawang Hot Spring Park. As we approached the hot springs, it started to rain cats and dogs. And instead of being totally bummed by it, my daughter said, “Papa, let’s pray for God to help us with the rain!” And my prayer was for us to let God’s will be done.
After the prayer, I reminded my kids that God will do His will, and if we can follow His will and be satisfied with it, we will always be able to find joy in the circumstances that we encounter.
God was really humourous. He didn’t stop the rain, and the rain persisted throughout our time at the hot springs.
But we had a really good time there, because it was so cold all around us, and we had very nice, warm spring water to soak ourselves in, and to cook eggs in.
My daughter exclaimed right at the end, “It’s the best day ever!”, and this is in spite of us being soaked wet, from head to toe.
God is always faithful, and it’s great when the kids witness it firsthand.
Asking God for a Rainbow
Edwin: There was this time when God really showed me how big He was, through a small and almost trivial episode. It was when my kids were all at home during the COVID period. We were teaching the kids that God listens to our prayers.
That afternoon, they just decided to pray and ask God for a rainbow. I overheard the prayer, and reminded them that God will do His will, as and when. And it doesn’t mean that if God heard our prayers, He would give us what we wanted.
But just as I was trying to ‘soften the landing’ for them not being able to see a rainbow, Lyla shouted from the window, “Gor gor (‘older brother’ in colloquial dialect)! A rainbow!!” I couldn’t believe my ears. Because, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE???
In disbelief, I walked to the window, expecting her to say, “Ah, tricked you!”.
But I was humbled. And in awe of God, when I saw this bright, beautiful rainbow, hanging proudly in the clear sky.
I remember hearing God tell me, “You are my steward for taking care of these children. And they are Mine. I will do my part in showing Myself to them, and you do yours to direct their eyes to see Me.” God is faithful indeed!
I remember hearing God tell me, “You are my steward for taking care of these children. And they are Mine. I will do my part in showing Myself to them, and you do yours to direct their eyes to see Me.”– Edwin Khoo
Facing the Challenges of Parenting
Marcus: What a beautiful story! What are some struggles or challenges you are still facing?
Edwin: Life is pretty stable when things run the way they are supposed to. It’s when things are not, that they become quite difficult.
For instance, at the time of this interview, my kids have been ill for a month already. Any parent would know that the childcare center is a reservoir for germs. And I’ve got 4 kids who would inherit germs from each of their classes and carry out ‘cross-pollination at home’! So this whole month has been a roller-coaster adventure that we embarked on. We barely had enough sleep!
Marcus: Yes, taking care of children when they are ill is definitely challenging for any parent! Finally, any words of encouragement for our readers who play the dual role of parent and teacher?
Edwin: Yes! Remember that we are stewards of the things that God has put in our lives. And in all that we do, we can rest assured knowing that God is in charge, and He is powerful enough to make all the difference in every area of our lives! This is why we can cast our burdens upon Him, knowing that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7
Oh, one more thing! Remember to spend time with your wife/husband! One of the best gifts to our children is happy parents. Don’t neglect this very important relationship!
Marcus: Very true, Edwin! When both husband and wife are of one heart and mind trusting the Lord, there is no trial they cannot overcome together! Really encouraged by your testimony and encouragement!
Edwin: My pleasure!