Mr Wong Zi Heng is an educator and a member of SPD’s Services Committee. A recipient of the Alice and Peter Tan Scholarship and valedictorian for the NUS Faculty of Science in 2017, Mr Wong completed his undergraduate studies amid coping with an acquired disability from a spinal cord injury and taking a year off from school after the accident for rehabilitation.
This Teachers’ Day, Mr Wong shares a heartfelt letter to his students.
Being able to be your teacher is not something that I take for granted. It is something that I deeply treasure. Due to my injury, my lungs are actually functioning at half its capacity. I would get breathless easily when I first got injured and it took time and practice to be able to talk at length as I do now in class. Due to my injury, I am unable to perspire. My body temperature would increase to beyond 38 degrees at times as I am unable to cool down on my own. Due to my injury, I am paralysed from chest down and will need to use a wheelchair. Sitting in a wheelchair for extended periods of time makes me prone to pressure sores and that’s why you always see me moving about in my chair attempting to relieve some pressure. The list can go on, and as it goes on, it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be able to be your teacher.
There are so many things that I wished I could do for you as your teacher. I wish I could show you exciting science demonstrations by myself. I wish I could accompany you out on learning journeys. I wish I could join you in whatever sports and games you play. However, I also realised and had to come to terms that perhaps, there may be other things that I can do for you.
I hope that I am able to show you that persons with disabilities are just like anyone else. I hope that I am able to make you feel comfortable approaching someone who is in need and extending your helping hand. I hope that I am able to teach you to be kind towards everyone you encounter. I hope that I am able to let you comprehend that while life can be filled with challenges, all you need to do is to do your best. And I hope that I am able to do all these, and more, by being myself and being there for you. Maybe the best thing that I can offer you is my time, as time is simply a portion of life.
I cherish the times that we spend together as I really don’t know how long my health will enable me to do what I am doing now. While it is not easy being a teacher, many times, a simple hello, goodbye, thank you or even a smile, is enough to make everything worthwhile. It is really fulfilling to have the opportunity to watch you grow, to see your face of enlightenment when you can understand a concept that I taught, to share your happiness when you are able to achieve your goals.
I don’t profess to remember everything but I really hope that I can remember as many moments with you as I can. I am thankful that you allowed me to be your teacher for who I am, allowed me to be a part of your journey, allowed me to learn from you and trusted me to be your teacher. For a teacher is not a teacher if he or she does not have any students.
Wong Zi Heng