Vincent Lam is a mathematics teacher who encourages students to excel in their studies but also encourages them to play – soccer in particular – in his role as CLC soccer team manager. The team has grown to almost 30 under his tenure.
Why did you choose to work at Catholic Ladies’ College?
Previously I was at St Kevin’s College, which is the same school that I went to, so it was really the only school I knew. I decided it was time to challenge myself and I wanted to work at either a girls’ school or co-ed because I figured if I switched to another boys’ school then I may as well have stayed where I was.
It has also been interesting to learn a new approach to teaching. It’s not so much about the difference in teaching boys versus girls, it’s more about the fact that every school has its own culture that you need to understand.
I like to be straight down the line but sympathetic as well.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until I was in year 12 to be honest. I had quite an enjoyable year and I did much better than I thought I would do, and I put that down to a few teachers who really pushed me in a good way. I decided that was the kind of environment I wanted to be in. There was one teacher who used to pull us up if we were taking it easy and he taught me a lot about handling pressure.
It is something I tell the girls now; that there will be times you will have to perform under pressure and it is better to face it rather than run from it.
Were there any teachers who influenced you?
There were a few. My history teacher was one of them, he taught me the importance of working hard and there was also an English teacher who would mark my practice essays to give me a hand. I was not naturally that strong at English but I ended up gaining a better score than I thought because of their support.
Tell me a bit more about your teaching philosophy
There is a quote I have pinned to my wall that reads “quality is the exclusion of coincidence”.
In order to create quality, you need to work very hard for it. But, more than that, you need to take responsibility for your work, which is why I often ask students how they react when they get a mark they’re not happy with. Do they get upset or do they take responsibility?
If you take responsibility you can always find a way out of that situation. And, of course, teachers are there to help, but at the end of the day it is up to the students.
What is the biggest challenge of being a teacher these days?
It’s a constant balancing act and there are so many co-curricular activities that we are involved in so you really need to be a very good time manager. I spend a third of my time teaching and the remaining two-thirds are spent fulfilling my leadership role and also coaching the soccer team.
What is the best way to handle a student who tells you they don’t like maths?
I gradually try and tease out of them the reason why they don’t like it. For some students it is because they don’t think they are very good at it and I will tell them, ‘You don’t have to be the best so long as you try your best’.
I encourage them to book an appointment with me to go over their maths; I am always offering myself to help any students who wants to improve their understanding and skills.