Rose Thorn & Sword


Rose Thorn & Sword

A heartfelt letter.

Dear Mr Lee,

How are you, sir? I am well, only that I am feeling sad as I am leaving a school I have taught for three years. I am an adjunct teacher and only very recently, there are new beginning teachers who are about to join the school. I teach Humanities (History, Social Studies etc), but my core subjects have always been History and English Literature. I have recently completed the second cycle of the new history syllabus for Lower Secondary students. It have been a rewarding experience.

However, I would like to move on to talk about more serious matters.

When I first signed as a Ministry of Education teacher, I was excited. I was finally going to teach, something which I enjoy, as I like the interaction with children. I was bonded for three years and I attended NIE to obtain my PDGE (Secondary) diploma. I was assigned to Tampines Junior College in 2003.

In December 2002, I married my then-fiance. It felt like a dream. I was eager to start my probationary year in Tampines Junior College. Imagine my joy when I conceived and became pregnant in March 2003.

Unfortunately, 2003 proved to be a very difficult year. It was when SARS devastated the emotional and psychological landscape of Singapore. It was also when I developed pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) as well as placenta previa. For three trimesters, I experienced bleeding and had enforced rest (and repeated hospitalization).

This boded ill for my probation as I was constantly unable to teach my JC1 History students and even when I was discharged and went back to the school, I was also not up to 100%. As a result, my head of department marked me down to a D grade. I was later advised by my principal to transfer to a secondary school after the birth of my daughter, as quote “it was easier for me”.

The transfer to Siglap Secondary School turned out to be the year that broke me emotionally and psychologically. Still new and coping with a new infant, I had to straddle a few levels and teach a few subjects. I was literally thrown into the deep end of the pool. Unknown to me then, I was already suffering from post-partum depression. It affected my teaching. I tried my best, but I failed. Again, I was marked down to a D grade.

The entire experience broke me, Mr Lee. I was left feeling that the school management was uncaring, the senior teaching staff draconian and demanding. At the end, I broke my bond and my father paid the rest of the remaining sum. I ‘resigned’ because the other option given to me was termination.

I finally went back to adjunct teaching by 2006-2007, after a brief stint in textbook publishing. But, my employment was unstable. My income as a result was also determined by my length of employment in the said school. My clinical depression, a product of the harrowing time in Siglap Secondary School, worsened and I had to seek professional help.

Fortunately now, I am declared well, due to the support of my family. Because as an adjunct teacher, I had the opportunity to develop my skills as a General Paper tutor, a Project Work supervisor and recently, spearheading the Lower Secondary history syllabus.

However, the pregnancy discrimination has been a constant thorn at my side. There is something wrong, something not right. I kept silent, because I felt the system was oppressive and I had no one to turn to for help. I cannot shake off the unpleasant feeling that as a bond-breaker, I am deemed a failure and hence, I have gained a ‘black mark’ which in turn impeded my teaching career, that all ministries take a dim view of bond-breakers. Now all I know is that I need to seek justice and recourse for a deeply wounding experience. What if the schools have been more compassionate? Women do not recover from pregnancy and childbirth overnight, and expected to be on tip top condition the next day. It took me ten years to recover. It took me six years or more to have my second girl, because it was so deeply traumatic for the first pregnancy. What if the schools have a more tactful and nurturing approach? What if such practices had made a difference in my life then?

I am not going to name names of the management and teachers. The past is the past. Perhaps they too were products of an eco-system that is ultimately toxic and cumbersome at the end, and they were constrained by unfair policies that hampered judgement and proper evaluation.

What I hope for the future is a kinder and compassionate Ministry of Education, where teachers (full-time and adjunct) are not just statistics.We are all flesh-and-blood human beings and have lives, dreams of our own. What I have heard that things are changing, hopefully for the better. I just wish it was so in my time as a full-time teacher.

Yours sincerely,
Ms. Chng Siok Hwee
GEO 1.




This is most pleasing.

2016 WISB Awards.

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I am being let go at my workplace, simply because the education ministry found full-time teachers to fill in the slots and adjunct teachers are just extra help. Granted I did spend three years in this school…

So, yes, I will be without a job in the near future. But I have skills and I can plan my future(s).

But I do have a Patreon if you are so inclined to help, because I do have med fees to pay as well:

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Dark Claw

If you are curious, read a sampler here.

New story up.


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The Seed In Me

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