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RULER   :   Archive   :   1999   :   SG Schools May 1999


School CP - May 1999

Corpun file 3632


The Straits Times, Singapore, 11 May 1999

From fearsome 'Monster' to friendly 'Tweety'

THE first few days at Mayflower Secondary for former Singapore Armed Forces officer Tan Yong Soon, 45, were tough.

"It was a total change, like going to a new land," he said.

Some students disliked him and called him "monster".

"Initially, I was not accepted. I am used to shouting at NSmen. When I tried that here, students said I was harassing them. They often hid from me," he said.

He changed tack and earned their trust by making himself approachable.

"When the students saw that I was open and friendly, they became less intimidated," he said.

The name-calling has not stopped but the students do it affectionately now.

"They call me "potato" and "Tweety" because of my rounded figure," said Mr Tan with a laugh.

He lives with his wife and three children aged 23, 20 and 14, in a three-room flat in Ang Mo Kio. He joined the school last September, after 27 years in the SAF as a medical trainer.

In school, he said the biggest problem was catching smokers.

"You have to chase the students sometimes because they play hide-and-seek with you.

"It is tough to catch them as there are many of them," he said.

After catching them, he would confiscate their cigarettes and inform their parents.

Boys who are caught for the first time are given one stroke of the cane. Repeat offenders are given more strokes of the cane, either by him or the discipline head.

Girls, however, are made to clean classrooms for three hours over a period of three days.

However, the girls are disciplined by the assistant discipline mistress.

To solve more serious problems of serious juvenile delinquency, he keeps in touch with the officers of the CID Secret Society Branch.

The CID officers alert him of gang fights in the area and Mr Tan checks if his students are involved.

"There have only been a few and I helped by counselling the students," he said.

Army experience useful

'I have been exposed to soldiers who can be quite a handful to deal with. Some of them were drug addicts and others had emotional problems.

Although I am sometimes shocked by the behaviour of some teenagers, I have seen worse in the army. It taught me to handle all kinds of people.'
-- Mr Stanley Wong, 49, Westlake Secondary, Operations Manager

Corpun file 3631


The Straits Times, Singapore, 11 May 1999

No-nonsense discipline master, but well-liked

WHEN Mr Zainal Haron, 45, joined Teck Whye Secondary six months ago as an Operations Manager, he had no problems settling in.

He had been there to give talks when he was head of Choa Chu Kang Neighbourhood Police Post.

His no-nonsense attitude to discipline has gone down well with students.

"When it comes to discipline, there are no two ways about it.

"If students do something wrong, they know they will be punished by me, I stand firm no matter what," he said.

As part of his work, he stations himself at void decks, two or three times a week.

"I have to make my presence felt in the area. This will deter the street corner gangs from recruiting students from my school," he said.

Mohamad Khailany, 16, said that even though he was caned twice by Mr Zainal for smoking, he still likes the man.

"He told me that he felt sad to cane me but he had to as it was his job. I am not angry with him, he did the right thing. I don't smoke in school any more," said the youth.

Teck Whye principal, Miss Mah Yoke Ying, said the students respected Mr Zainal. "He is like a father figure."

Rayvathi Manogaran, 13, said: "We call him 'Uncle'. If we are sad, he will try to make us laugh."

Mr Zainal, who has three children aged 10, 14 and 18, lives in a four-room flat in Bukit Batok. His wife is a housewife.

He said he tries to make himself approachable. "I don't label the students 'useless' or 'bad'. I don't treat them like they are criminals. They are children."

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