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A beacon of light: Nurturing young minds in social work


Daniel (far right) with his Social Work studentsPhoto credits: Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) 

As a university student, Daniel started his first year of study aspiring to be a teacher in English literature. In the process of learning about social work as a discipline, he realised that the nature of the profession resonated greatly with what he would like to commit his life to. Daniel has not looked back since. 

Daniel started off as a social worker focusing on youth work, family work and training of counselling skills. His passion in working with youths shaped his next role as a school counsellor. Adopting a holistic approach, he became involved in providing training for parents and teachers. Later, Daniel became a counsellor for staff in the Ministry of Education where he also conducted professional development programmes. From being a social worker to educating students in social work, he experienced and took on different roles in the social work arena, staying true to his goal of continual learning and growth. 

Daniel recalls fondly a teacher who left a deep impact on him. His secondary school mathematics teacher, Mr Liew, offered to coach him upon learning that he was facing some challenges with the subject. To this day, he remains grateful for Mr Liew's patience and his words of encouragement during their one-to-one sessions. The belief and faith Mr Liew had in him allowed Daniel to see himself in a different light. Today, as an educator, he strives to be encouraging to his students and realise the potential in each of them. 

Daniel's journey at SUSS started when he became an adjunct lecturer in 2011, before joining full-time in 2018. At SUSS, he starts a typical day savouring a cup of robust black coffee while preparing for seminars or individual sessions with students. While reflecting on the previous sessions, he infuses the content with relevant examples and linkages to promote better understanding. Often, the preparation time takes up more time than the actual seminar or sessions. Similarly, he puts in more time during the marking of assignments as he uses it as a platform to craft comments and questions to deepen the learning process. This helps to facilitate his students' development as reflective practitioners. 

Guided by the realisation that he has "only one life to live and one life to give", he reflects from time to time on how he wants to live and what to dedicate his life to. He attributes his motivation to be an educator from his desire to create an education experience to give social workers-to-be a realistic expectation of their profession, and to develop competencies which will support them to thrive in their careers. 

Daniel shares his thoughts about social work: "It is distinctively different from volunteering as social work is a profession which requires at least a graduate diploma or a degree in social work. While one may enjoy volunteering, that may not necessarily mean that one will thrive as a social worker due to the diverse profile of clients faced and the varied responsibilities. 

As the core of social work entails the complexity of working with human beings, social work is both an art as well as a science.    

Being a social worker has its unique challenges. Often, it requires time, patience and a willingness to stay the course in journeying with the client. Ultimately, we seek to work with the clients' best interests in mind. This is at the heart of the social work profession. 

Hopefully, my engagement in this upstream work as an educator will support and prepare social work students to be more industry-ready and resilient to thrive as a social worker." 

As a social worker, he shares three words that resonate best with him – head, heart, and habit. 

Head – mastering professional competency with applied knowledge so that it can be translated into practice to help clients. 

Heart – social awareness to meet the needs of the society and placing clients at the centre of one's work and relating to them as human beings. 

Habit – stands for passion towards lifelong learning. 

For someone who wants more out of a career than just making a living, social work enables me (and you) to make a difference in the lives of others.