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Some of us are able to do many things — perform a musical instrument, dance or play a sport — because of guidance from a coach or instructor.
They aren’t teachers, but they certainly help shape our lives!
These educators help us pick up new skills outside the classroom. Some help unlock our hidden talents. Others help us be better versions of ourselves.
The National Instructors & Coaches Association (NICA) helps support and celebrate these coaches and instructors. They may teach different skills to different people, but they all have one thing in common: Demonstrating kindness while they teach.
Let’s meet some of them who have taken their mentoring duties to the next level.
Piloxing: Being a #kakspiration!
“The thing is, I really love my job,” Rasidah laughs as I ask her about her challenges as a piloxing instructor.
Piloxing, a combination of pilates, boxing and dance, is a group-based high intensity cardio workout. It has been gaining popularity in Singapore due to its accessibility regardless of age, gender, and fitness background.
Rasidah Caudal, 45, has been teaching piloxing for the past eight years. She is also a lecturer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), where she helps certify fitness instructors.
Before becoming a fitness instructor, Rasidah was a nurse for five years. Despite being a healthcare worker, she was overweight and diabetic. So at 31, she decided to take control over her health.
She started with Zumba lessons but picked up piloxing to challenge herself. Seeing her enthusiasm, her instructor encouraged her to become a trainer. She made the career switch and never looked back.
Since then, she has found joy in teaching her students.
“I like seeing their expressions when they are able to complete piloxing moves. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing. I love seeing the small changes that lead to bigger changes,” Rasidah explains.
She believes that keeping fit isn’t just for physical health, but has mental benefits too.
“Some students start out shy and uncomfortable, but as they attend more lessons, they make friends and feel part of a community,” she tells The Pride.
She recounts how one of her students would slouch into classes because she had body image issues. Once she realised that everyone else was also just there to learn, she became more comfortable in her own skin.
Exclaims Rasidah: “In fact, she became an instructor, and teaches on stage now. It is amazing, isn’t it?”
That, to her is a #kakspiration. And she laughs when I ask her about what that hashtag means, since it’s dotted all over her social media.
“Kak means ‘sister’ in Malay, because I am half-Malay, half-Indian. ‘Inspiration’ because I think inspiring people is important.”
“You don’t have to be perfect to be an inspiration. Just by going out of your house for a class, you’re already an inspiration to your friends and families,” she adds.
Rasidah has also been using her piloxing passion for a good cause.
In March 2020, Rasidah and Piloxing Singapore Team raised $20,000 for a ten-year-old boy with an intracranial haemorrhage. Last September, she took part in a fundraising event for children in South Africa.
Apart from fundraising, Rasidah also gathers local piloxing instructors to give back to the community.
Call themselves PILOXING SG Cares, the team of around 30 instructors carries out volunteering activities thrice a year.
Last year, they raised $4,500 through a charity bake sale for PPIS Singapore Muslim Women’s Association and Care Singapore.
Their most recent activity was a charity drive in May. With donations from students, they managed to distribute 240 bags of essential items to underprivileged families and the elderly.
“We get paid for our coaching work but we also want to give back to the community,” says Rasidah.
Music: Sharing his passion with students on the spectrum
For the past four years, Johnson Lee, 52, has been a band instructor at Pathlight School.
It all began when a friend at the school for children with high-functioning autism asked him to help organise a two-day music camp for the students.
“It got me interested in children with special needs. They behave differently from other kids but at the same time they’re all very talented; some of them have perfect pitch,” Johnson tells The Pride.
One of his most memorable moments was when he used an unconventional way to teach a student.
“He could not read music at all, but he could play a piece on the piano just by listening,” Johnson says.
So, he recorded the music piece and sent the audio to the student, who took only two playbacks to memorise and play the song on the piano!
Another time, he had a student who was sensitive to sounds with low vibrations; any note below middle C would cause her stomach to hurt. So he tweaked the music score so that she could enjoy playing the piano.
He says: “Who knew there is such a phenomenon that someone could have tummy aches from hearing certain notes being played?”
It has been quite a journey for Johnson, who started playing the clarinet in his school band and was the Director of Music for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from 1995 to 2020.
Now, he says, teaching children with special needs is one of the most meaningful decisions he has made.
When the pandemic hit, and schools had to go online, it was a rough patch in his education journey. He overcame many of the challenges through redesigning and making adjustments to the delivery of lessons.
Children on the autism spectrum tend to have shorter attention spans and home-based learning can have many distractions. Not only that, Zoom meetings were less effective as children with autism tend to learn better with visual cues.
“Afterall, it was worth seeing that the kids could cope with learning online”, Johnson tells The Pride.
Despite these obstacles, Johnson still loves teaching his students with special needs and the feeling is mutual. Their rapport can be easily seen as their band sessions at Pathlight are always filled with laughter and joy.
“Once you understand them and get into their groove, that is when the music will flow, and you can take their talent to a higher level,” says Johnson.
Coding: Finding common ground with troubled youths
Wenna Tay conducts coding to primary to secondary school students in Singapore.
But apart from that, the CEO of Graphite Academy also helps vulnerable and troubled youths. Since 2019, she has been giving coding lessons at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
She teaches basic coding skills to small groups ranging from three to 15 students, in three 3-hour sessions.
These lessons are paid by YMCA, as part of its Project Bridge’s Y Explore programme, a five-month intervention initiative that helps at-risk youths to develop skills such as academic knowledge and life skills to help integrate them back into school.
It happened from a happy coincidence, says Wenna.
She was already teaching Kin-Ball – a team sport that promotes agility as well as team coordination – to a group of at-risk youths. When she heard that YMCA was looking to expand its youth outreach with other programmes, she suggested coding as one of the options.
“These kids really just need people to care about them, give them attention. They are actually good kids,” Wenna tells The Pride.
Perhaps it’s because the 31-year-old sees a lot of herself in them.
She recounts how she used to be a student who would be constantly late for school. Like her youths at YMCA, she didn’t like studying and was focused on co-curricular activities (CCAs) instead.
Youths, especially those from troubled households, tend to get distracted easily and be indifferent to learning. To engage them, Wenna has learnt to be their friend, and find out more about their interests. This made them realise that she was genuinely interested in them and cared for them.
“I won’t say it is a challenge to teach them, because I find it motivating to get them to listen to me in class,” Wenna says.
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Finding common ground was helpful too. For example, some of her students liked playing video games, so she told them about how video games are created — through programming and coding!
That got them interested in the subject.
Even though teaching youths-at-risk requires more patience and understanding, Wenna still enjoys teaching them as she believes that coding would benefit them in the long run.
“It really is about passing on the knowledge to them, in order to help them in the future,” says Wenna.
NICA represents and advances the collective interests of coaches and instructors to work better, live well, and unlock new opportunities. If you are a professional coach or instructor for sports, outdoor learning and adventure, visual and performing arts, fitness and wellness, or enrichment, you can visit them on Facebook or Instagram for more information.