We could Be Heroes

Real life heroes aren’t like the movies – they don’t paint themselves in glory and riches, they’re just the people who make the vital work of helping other people their everyday business. This National Day, we celebrate women whose jobs might be far from glamorous, but what they do ensures that the building blocks of society – our people – are taken care of.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Real life heroes aren’t like the movies – they don’t paint themselves in glory and riches, they’re just the people who make the vital work of helping other people their everyday business. This National Day, we celebrate women whose jobs might be far from glamorous, but what they do ensures that the building blocks of society – our people – are taken care of.

Photography Nyen.Makeup Eric Tan/PaletteInc and Manisa Tan/PaletteInc.
Photography Nyen.Makeup Eric Tan/PaletteInc and Manisa Tan/PaletteInc.

Not Just Child’s Play

Don’t assume it’s all fun and games when it comes to teaching preschoolers. Tan Chujun, 25, shares with us how challenging and rewarding moulding the future generation can be.

What made you want to work with children?

It may seem cliche, but I always knew I wanted to work with kids. I am calm by nature and I really love interacting with people, especially the younger ones. It’s their innocence. In the morning, when I enter the classroom, they’ll greet me, and rush over like they haven’t seen me in years. I’m a superhero in their eyes and that makes me look forward to going to work every day.

Learning the theory and actually handling a class can be quite different. Was it very difficult initially?

I was so not prepared for the actual teaching, despite all the classes I’d attended. When I did my first practicum during my studies, it was only 30 minutes with 10 children and it was a nightmare. [The children] were ignoring me and doing their own thing. Now my students listen to me because we have formed a relationship and they respect me. Getting good at your job doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a process.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Of course, seeing them graduate. But it’s really the little things that count. One of my ex-students, who’s now in Primary 3, still writes me e-mails to update me about herself. And it was the e-mail account that I helped her set up when she was five!

What did your parents have to say when you decided to go into a career in early childhood education?

My parents were really supportive and now they even help me collect materials for my classes! But I know my mum finds it really difficult to explain what I do to her friends. To the older generation, they think it’s a low-paying job and I’m just a nanny. But in recent years, the recognition for preschool teachers is getting better [because] parents are getting a lot more educated about what their children need and what we can offer. Teaching is not just about singing songs and ABCs. We have to plan the curriculum to ensure that the children get a holistic education. I have to be a PE teacher, art teacher, and a chef all at the same time.

Photography Nyen.Makeup Eric Tan/PaletteInc and Manisa Tan/PaletteInc.
Photography Nyen.Makeup Eric Tan/PaletteInc and Manisa Tan/PaletteInc.

The Pulse of Love

A career that involves changing diapers, bathing patients and dealing with graveyard shifts isn’t one most would sign up for in a heartbeat. But Cynthia Ko, 28, not only stepped up to the plate, she does all of that with a megawatt smile.

Bathing patients – that can’t be fun, can it?

I really like making my patients happy so I actually feel very good when I have to bathe my older patients. After washing up, they’re so refreshed and full of energy. I don’t bathe them often because I have paperwork and other administrative responsibilities to handle and I cannot cover everything in the ward. So whenever I get a chance to attend to my patients, I’m really happy about it.

What inspires you to care for other people?

Nursing is a passion, and for me, I think it probably built up over the years. I’ve always been very outgoing, and I love interacting with people and nursing seemed like a viable career path. Of course, I knew what it entailed – changing diapers, bathing patients – but those weren’t deterrents for me.

What makes the job so rewarding?

It’s the patients who make this job memorable. I’m very glad when I receive feedback or compliments from my patients even after they fly back home – they thank me, mention my name and have A career that involves changing diapers, bathing patients and dealing with graveyard shifts isn’t one most would sign up for in a heartbeat. But Cynthia Ko, 28, not only stepped up to the plate, she does all of that with a megawatt smile. The Pulse of Love even asked for HR to promote me. One of my regular patients is an old lady who comes in regularly for her checkups, and her granddaughter actually sends us a hamper every Christmas without fail!

Do you think people don’t give enough credit to nurses?

I think nursing is still very much seen as a low-class, low-end job. Even when I was interning at a public hospital, I realised how thankless and difficult it was. Sometimes, we can feel like maids – some patients with caregivers will even boss you around! It gets annoying because the caregiver and I have to work hand in hand, because how are they going to look after the patient once he or she is discharged?

What do you think it will take to change the current impression of nurses?

As a nurse, you have to be very sure of what you do. You need to know your patients and have the medical knowledge at your fingertips. Being confident also helps, but it’s a slow process. These changes in attitude will hopefully change the public’s impression slowly but surely.