What's in a Teacher?

Singapore StrengthsFinder CliftonStrengths Article by Gallup Coach Victor Seet Whats in a teacher

I have always admired what teachers do. I married a teacher, and I have so many good friends who chose this vocation.

As a StrengthsFinder coach in Singapore, I also have the added privilege of working with many school leaders and teachers, conducting Strengths-based Leadership Workshops for teachers and partnering with them in conducting Strengths-based student development programs. 

Being a teacher is a high calling. To many Singaporeans, the profession entails imparting knowledge and developing the students’ potential.

But to me, it’s so much more than that.

The long hours, the intense marking of scripts, the pressure of managing a group of vastly different (and easily distracted) students every day, and the increasing administrative workloads make this vocation an extremely challenging one.

In fact, many teachers suffer burn-out because of the intense day-to-day demands. I’ve often heard first-hand the challenges faced by teachers, and I’ve grown to develop much respect for these teachers.

As we celebrate Teachers’ Day this week, I’m asking myself this question: “What’s in a teacher? What kind of strengths do teachers in Singapore have?

Driven by that question, I took some time to compile data on different teachers in Singapore. I’ve coached almost all of them or conducted Strengths-based Leadership Workshops for. 

In this analysis, I look into a sample size of 1,200 teachers spanning 30 different Singaporean government schools, including primary, secondary, and junior colleges.

What were my findings? 

Amongst all the teachers I’ve worked with, the Responsibility talent theme is the most common. Out of the sample size of 1,200, 39% of them had the Responsibility theme in their Top 5 profiles.

The second most common strength is the Learner theme, coming in at 33%.

From there, Relator, Connectedness, and Harmony are the next most common themes (in that order). These three StrengthsFinder themes are found amongst 26-27% of the teacher population. (The difference in percentages was so small as to be negligible, although a larger sample size might reveal a greater disparity.)

On the other end of the spectrum, the rarest strength amongst Singaporean teachers is the Competition StrengthsFinder theme. Only 1% of the teachers in the sample had this theme.

The second rarest strength is the Significance StrengthsFinder theme, coming in at 2%.

What does this data tell us about teachers in Singapore?

1. Singaporean teachers are dedicated and committed.

This is evident from the Responsibility theme. This finding comes as no surprise, given what I’ve observed on a regular basis.

The high sense of ownership drives many teachers to have a deep dedication to their work. Pushing hard (often to the point of working on weekends) is incredibly normal to many teachers. The dedication to impact students often means going the extra mile too.

Married to a teacher wife whose number 1 strength is Responsibility, I often observe how this deep sense of dedication plays out. I have seen many times how she went beyond her duty to help her students with other aspects of their lives (beyond the academic portion). I imagined that many teachers are doing the same. There are so many stories I have heard from friends recounting how different teachers have impacted their lives. With my Responsibility strength ranked at number 22, I'm amazed at how powerful the deep sense of psychological ownership can be.

I think we should all celebrate the fact that as a nation, Singapore is full of dedicated teachers! 

2. Singaporean teachers embody lifelong learning.

When we talk about Singapore’s vision to cultivate a “Learning Nation,” these are people who truly walk the talk. This comes from the strong Learner theme within the demographic.

I am also mindful that the unique wiring of those with the Learner theme gives them the inclination to pursue this calling as a teacher. Many Learners enjoy the process of learning and they desire to impart their knowledge and skills to others as well.

I learnt a lot about Learners by observing my wife in action. Her motivation to make sure our kids pick up knowledge and skill sets from a very young age sets her apart from me (I'm quite low on the Learner theme). She spends quite a bit of time learning about how she can create better activities for the kids to learn more effectively, as well as creating platforms for the kids to pick up new knowledge and skills. This is in stark contrast to me – I do enjoy learning, but am often not very intentional about it. With the combination of Responsibility and Learner as her top 2 strengths, I’m thankful and assured that the teachers in our nation take extremely high ownership of their own learning and those of the kids.

I can safely conclude that the MOE mission of cultivating lifelong learners is a corporate mission that resonates deeply with our teachers. With Learner as one of their top themes, it’s more of an intrinsic desire than a job that needs to be done. Thank God that we have so many educators who have the Learner theme! 

3. Singaporean teachers build deep lasting relationships.

This is a result of having such a large group of teachers possess the Relator theme.

Relators are those who build deep and lasting relationships. In a world where we are experiencing increasing number of broken families, some of the deep friendships that the teachers have forged with their students will make a huge lasting impact. I believe many of the Singapore teachers will look back and realized the trust and belief they give to their students will empower them to choose the right path.

Relators also value authenticity. This finding tells me that in the development of students, teachers will inevitably challenge and teach students to embrace the full measure of their own unique identities rather than trying to make them be like someone else.

With the growing increase of a narrative telling young people to pursue a quick shot at stardom, this trait is especially important, in my opinion. We, as a nation, need teachers who can help young people combat the lure of trying to be like their idols. We need teachers who can model authenticity to young people. Relators have that gift.

4. Singaporean teachers see the bigger picture behind their individual work.

There is a greater purpose and meaning to this vocation. This comes from the Connectedness theme. Teachers are not merely raising the quality of students. They are building a nation. They are equipping the future generations of Singapore.

It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. The teachers with Connectedness probably understand the depth of such a phrase. There is now more and more emphasis on collaborative work with different stakeholders to help strengthen the development of our youth. There are more parent dialogue sessions. There are more internship arrangements with companies and different industry partners.

As the Founder of Strengths School™, I am very encouraged to find so many school leaders and teachers who are willing to partner with us to impact the lives of the students. Rather than simply seeing us as vendors providing a service, many teachers view us as partners who also contribute to the work of building up our future generations.

It is heartening to see so many teachers with this theme. We need teachers who are gifted in connecting the dots. Rather than seeing education as a pursuit of paper qualifications, this finding tells me that our teachers are driven to help young people understand the impact of education on the different areas of their lives! That is worth giving thanks for!

5. Singaporean teachers embrace the collaborative narrative.

This comes from the Harmony theme. People with Harmony enjoy collaborative work. Rather than tearing ideas down, they seek to find alignment and consensus within the different voices.

In a world dominated by "I," "me," and "mine," it is so important that our future generations have teachers who can emphasize the "we" and "us" and what it means to work closely with others.

It is said that the increase of technology usage and social media has a direct impact in lowering the level of social skills of our future generations. I am glad to find that so many of our teachers are hard wired to seek for consensus and collaboration. This tells me that it will be natural for many teachers to teach and model teamwork and community building for the students. That will be such an important aspect moving forward. Our teachers are armed with the strength to counter the individualistic culture through the Harmony theme.

Other than building a collaborative narrative, people with Harmony are also people who desire to bring peace. In a world where racism is still a norm in many nations, we need teachers who can help the young cultivate a sense of respect for people regardless of race, language or religion. The lack of racial harmony has wrecked many nations. I’m thankful that a large group of our Singapore teachers intrinsically value peace and collaboration.

Concluding thoughts: After highlighting the 5 most common strengths found among our teachers, I discovered something interesting about the other spectrum. While there is a sizeable number of Singaporeans with the Competition StrengthsFinder theme, only 1% of our teachers have this theme.

This tells me that the teachers in Singapore are not likely to be obsessed with benchmarking. While the current system puts a certain pressure on students to go all out in pursuing stellar academic results, our Singaporean teachers might not enjoy such a system. There has been a gradual shift in the focus by MOE to move away from giving too much emphasis to the academic successes of our students. I’m guessing many of our teachers are quietly smiling in their hearts.


What are your thoughts?

Do you resonate with the findings? I'd be happy to hear your thoughts!

Regardless, join me in thanking all the teachers in Singapore for their dedication and passion to invest in the young and helping them to be "Future-Ready!" 


Read another teacher article: 
"Using StrengthsFinder for Work: Reflections of a Teacher" featuring Charmain Han.