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To Change Lives, Believe in Others and Be Like Kumar

Ministry of Education 2012 Ad “Kumar”

A true story of a Singaporean teacher, Mr Kumar and his ex-student Glenn Yeo who was arrested at the age of 18 for involving in gang fights and was sentenced to jail.

Teachers like Mr Kumar are a source of inspiration. He looked at his student and saw something different from everyone else.

While others saw bad habits, lack of upbringing, poor behaviour – Mr Kumar saw a talented young man full of hidden potential. He changed a life.

We have the ability to believe in others and be a Mr Kumar for them. 

Some of us are parents. some elder siblings. Some of us are leaders in church. Some of us, are teachers or home tutors.

Whether we like it or not, we are looked upon by our students who are younger than us for support and inspiration.

Yet, how many of us have changed a life because we believed in someone? How many of us, at positions of authority, looked at those below us and saw them for their good instead of their bad?

Or have we carelessly labelled others “stupid”, “lazy”, “destined to fail” simply because we just can’t be bothered?

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If you made a decision to be a good mentor, a good leader, and a good teacher for others, this article is for you. In fact, this article is not just for teachers and leaders. Even as friends, we have the ability to change someone else’s life and be a great mentor and supporter of others. Here’s how:

1. Seek First to Understand

When you see someone behaving in a way that seems unacceptable, refrain from judging them. Instead, seek first to understand them. See them with an open mind and a kind heart, and find out more about them.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that some of the toughest kids to teach come from very difficult home situations – Inconsistent housing, absentee parent(s), lack of resources, and violence are only a few examples of what some of these students have to face every day. Kids that are neglected at home can act out in school to receive attention, good or bad. They want someone to notice them and take an interest in their lives.

2. Build a Personal Relationship


Part of being a great mentor is your ability to make connections with these tough kids. Since these students sometimes don’t have anyone encouraging them or taking an interest in their lives, have a real conversation about their future or dreams. If they have nothing to share, start talking about their interests — sports, music, movies, food, clothing, friends, siblings, etc. Find a way to connect so that they can relate to you. Start off small and show a genuine interest in what they have to say. Once you’ve made a positive connection and the student can trust you, you’d be surprised how fast they might open up to talking about their hopes, fears, home life, etc.

(This is when you need to exercise professional discretion if need be, and be prepared for what the student might bring up. Explain that you do not want to violate his or her trust but that, as an educator, you are required by law to report certain things.)

3. Believe in Them

Once you have developed a good understanding and built a strong personal relationship with the student, you are now in a position of influence over them. You need to tell them verbally that you believe in them. That you expect and believe that they’ll change for the better and contribute to society.

Expect the student to be uneasy and shocked at first. Often you will be the first person ever in their lives who believed in them sincerely. Having someone whom they feel connected to believe in them is a powerful thing.

4. Wipe the Slate Clean Each Time They Fall

Often, these students who are “troublemakers” can feel disrespected because their teachers already have preconceived ideas about how they are the troublemakers. They constantly behave poorly because this is what is expected of them.

When they do something wrong, you need to explain that you’re disappointed in their actions and that you know they can do better. But don’t write them off. Tough kids are used to being dismissed as hopeless. Instead, show them that you care and are willing to work with them. Helping a tough kid overcome personal issues isn’t something that happens overnight, but it is a worthwhile investment in his or her future.

5. Be a Personal Mentor

Don’t forget how important you are in helping your students develop not just academically, but also socially. Make an effort to show you care about them, not just their grades. Be proactive instead of reactive. The key to being a good mentor is to be positive, available, and trustworthy. By being a good mentor and counsellor, you can create a lasting, positive impact on a tough kid’s life.

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When you follow the 5 steps outlined in this article, you’ll soon find yourself being looked upon as a great teacher and leader. While there are sacrifices to be made, it is all worth it when you see someone else’s life changed because of you.

Share this article with your friends and make a difference in society!

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.