The extensive exposure of Captain Cheong Kwee Thiam to the shipping industry is a valuable asset in his job as a teacher at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA).
He has worked on board a ship in roles ranging from deck cadet officer to Master Mariner (Captain) in a 16-year career at Neptune Ship Management Services. Subsequently, he gained considerable onshore experience in various positions, including stints such as marines commander and manager and company safety officer.
But in 2011 he made a decision to teach SMA instead.
"Whether at sea or on shore, I find joy in researching and sharing my knowledge with junior colleagues and trainees, and I realize that teaching at a polytechnic university will give me an early start in shaping the future & # 39; of my students by planting good seeds early, "he says.
"I think that SP is the right place to make my dream come true and also for those who want to excel in the maritime industry," says Captain Cheong, who has an academic background in maritime law and arbitration.
Leading through the example through volunteer work
Captain Cheong is very active in volunteering. He is enthusiastic about police-related work and has a passion for maintaining public order. Volunteering served as a way to tap that interest.
For about five years he served as a volunteer Special Constabulary (VSC) with the Singapore police in the Clementi Land Division, at least 16 hours per month.
For about a year he has been doing volunteer work as a police coastguard, intercepting suspects on the water and conducting training courses for marine police courses, such as navigation and seamanship for VSC coast guards.
He says: "Volunteers have the responsibility to spread good values to people in the community, and I hope to stimulate good values with my family members and students through my involvement in such activities."
"If it inspires them to also volunteer, the better," he says laughing.
He usually performs his tasks at the Police Coast Guard on weekends and public holidays, maintaining at least 16 hours per month. He juggles volunteering with education by planning his schedule at least one to two months in advance.
He says that these volunteer activities made him more empathetic and patient. This disposition helps him to better empathize with, be related to and make contact with students.
Welding with life experiences and volunteer work
These rich experiences with life and volunteer work have also made the lessons of Captain Cheong more interesting.
His maritime background helps him to combine his experiences from practice with theoretical insights for his students in the form of literature, self-study exercises and even exam questions.
Students appreciate that they learn from an expert teacher who is well versed in maritime affairs.
Captain Cheong says: "My students not only understand theories, but also think of additional theories that may be missing in textbooks."
During the lesson, when the subject in question occurs, Captain Cheong relates to the mediation skills of his students who are required to solve community disputes during his visit to the VSC.
"Over the years I have had a large part of the mediation in disputes at sea or on shore, and mediation as an alternative to dispute resolution (ADR) is a subject that is dealt with in one of the modules I give, so my VSC experience is useful, "he says.
He told about an experience when he was approached by an ex-student's father and told him how his son "continued to share life and share experiences I had learned in my family's lessons and how the son found them interesting and useful. for his understanding of the subjects he is studying ".
The desire of Captain Cheong to share his knowledge even led him to become an author. When he found some existing books too technical for newcomers to shipping, he was encouraged to make a simpler book.
The textbook that he wrote – Introduction to Shipping – is used in SP. The first edition was published in 2012 and the second edition in 2016.
He says: "I put myself in the shoes of the readers and constantly ask myself if they understand what I wrote, are they able to apply the literature in practice, is the book useful to the industry?"
Captain Cheong welcomes constructive criticism. "I am always grateful to those who criticize it, because life is about continuous improvement," he says.