As Band Major of his school’s Boys’ Brigade company, Dominique Chan knows his juniors look up to him and expect him to be confident and self-assured in his role. Little did they know that he started off feeling inadequate and insecure – until his teacher affirmed him for his efforts. This Teachers’ Day, he thanks his teacher-officer Mr Gordon Oei, for his kind words that inspired him to serve on even after graduation.
When I was appointed Band Major of my school’s Boys’ Brigade in Secondary 3, I felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
It was a heavy responsibility and I formed high expectations for myself; at the same time, I felt insecure, even as a bagpipe player, because I felt I was still too much of a novice, and was afraid that I would not be able to execute my role well.
Over the next few months, even as I settled into my duties, I continued to grapple with my fears. I was always asking myself, what could I do to lead more effectively and be the Band Major my peers expect me to be?
I clearly remember the day when I set these fears aside. I was in Secondary 4 and my teacher-officer, Mr Gordon Oei, sat me down during one Parade to discuss my progress. He told me that I had displayed tenacity and resilience as Band Major and affirmed my efforts for the past months. His words meant a lot to me, and helped me see myself in a new light.
The conversation with Mr Oei not only boosted my confidence, but spurred me to pay it forward. Having experienced the value of spoken affirmation for myself, I made it a point to do the same for my team members and juniors in Boys’ Brigade throughout the rest of my term and beyond.
Yes, I chose to continue with the Boys’ Brigade even after secondary school. I believed that the Brigade allowed me to gain a wealth of hard and soft skills as a student. The adventure lessons, for example, taught me expedition and survival skills, while the many community service stints I got the chance to participate in shaped me to be a more empathetic individual.
One of the most cherished Brigade memories I have is delivering welfare hampers to elderly beneficiaries as it was a much-needed eye-opener to how others live in Singapore. I realised how many material provisions I had taken for granted and it forced me to seek to understand the needs of others.
All the activities instilled in me resilience and discipline, which are values I hold fast to. The camaraderie forged with my fellow cadets also gave meaning to my school life, and I treasure our friendships to this day.
Mr Oei continued to be a source of advice and counsel for me even after I graduated. He was always ready to listen and offer guidance when I served as a Cadet Lieutenant during junior college, where I assisted the Officers in conducting badgework lessons for the Boys and supervising activities including Company camps.
For the past six years, Mr Oei and I have been serving as Officers in Victoria School’s BB Company. He is still as generous with his counsel and encouragement as ever, throughout the different seasons in my life. The growth of each batch of cadets is testament to the immeasurable impact teacher-officers like Mr Oei have on their students’ lives.
For all the years of mentoring and guidance, I wish to say a huge thank you to him and a very happy Teachers’ Day!
This article is part of our six-part series on Uniformed Group Teacher-officers who inspired us. Check out the other stories here: