Buried Deep

Dear Friend,

I am writing this during my Principle’s retirement ceremony.

I do not know where to begin to tell you about my week. Things have been crazy busy. I only got time for two meals a day. I do not have time to cook. In school I’m pack with 7 to 8 periods a day. By the time I go down to get food, it’s all sold out. So I drink water to make my hunger go away.

I feel like it’s last year away all over again. I feel I’m tired. I’m so tired, it’s right up till neck making it harder for me to breathe. I have so many deadlines to meet, so many things to organize, so many parents to call and tell them about their children.

Every morning I’m in school to train for Red House. I’ll come back and then prepare last minute lessons and head back to school. I should consider just staying in school this whole week. It seems like I’m there more than I am at home.

This whole week itself was not just stressful in terms of timing but my students were giving me hard time too. This week was the beginning of the changes of classrooms. Students are placed in different classes. So I have almost 80% new students. My heart aches. I miss my old students. It’s going to get a while till I’m used to this new bunch. 

I also had to give one to one talk to a few students who misbehaved in my class. It was difficult.I have to be accountable to the things I said and I also have to validate them at the same time and hold them accountable. It’s hard because I am also in the process of growing. And I have to help them grow too. 

This week has been the toughest so far. The fact that I survived is surely a testament of the greatness of the divine. 

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin, like again house of cards one blow from caving in?
Do you ever feel already buried deep,  six feet underscreams but no one seems to hear a thing? 

Tomorrow maybe I’ll get back my life on track. I mean it’s the weekend! 🙂

The thing about Vulnerability

Dear Friend,

I am not a big fan of Lady Gaga. But I just watched her peformance for Superbowl and I was mindblown. I have never seen anyone dance, sing and entertain flawlessly. That brought me to her song “Milion Reasons.” If you haven’t listened to it, you should. It’s different. It’s deep. It’s beautiful. Because she decided to be vulnerable.

Speaking of vulnerability, today I made my students present their work in front. I knew they would be scared, but I didn’t expect them to be that scared. They were terrified that they kept pushing everyone in their group to present. They kept bugging each other and I could feel my veins tighten. I took a deep breath and told them “It’s okay. Go and sit back in your places..” I lectured them about teamwork and that regardless of their product everyone should be accountable for it and that includes presenting.

At that moment I realize I fail to understand that this is their first time ever presenting in front. They’re only 13 years old. I can’t remember when I first presented. But I know everytime before I present I’d be shitting bricks. Yeah. even now. Although technically I kinda present everyday. Poor children. I wished I was a little bit more kind today.

I mean, I will be 27 this year. I realize the older I get, the harder is it to put myself in my student’s shoes. And for me to put myself in their shoes requires me to vulnerable. Allowing myself to be vulnerable is not easy. It demands me to break down my walls and dig deep into my fears, convincing myself that I have overcome it. When you’re dealing with children and teenagers, they need to feel safe with you. They need to know you understand. Once you’ve won them, they will bloom like little dasies.

Nevertheless, I have 10 more months to journey with them. I hope to pave a safe path, that they may someday develop skills and confident in speaking in a crowd. I hope they too will learn to be vulnerable. Because the thing about vulnerability, it is a gift. It takes courage to open this gift and skills to stay with it and once you have mastered it, you too can bloom where you’re planted.

Every heartbreak makes it hard to keep the faith
But baby, I just need one good one
Good one, good one, good one, good one, good one

When I bow down to pray
I try to make the worse seem better
Lord, show me the way
To cut through all his worn out leather
I’ve got a hundred million reasons to walk away
But baby, I just need one good one, good one
Tell me that you’ll be the good one, good one
Baby, I just need one good one to stay…

Back Again!

Dear Friend,

If you wonder why I have been quiet for a week, it’s because this teacher was on break. That means I had a lot to share with you but it has nothing to do with teaching. One week break passed by like the speed of light. I remember counting days till I had that break, but now that it has passed, I forgot it even happened.

I have nothing much to share with you today. Just thought of telling you that I am back. The first month has been good in terms of teaching. Emotionally, though it wasn’t so good. But the fact is I sailed through. This is where I would give myself a pat and say, “Good Job Juan! You’re amazing!!” 🙂

So here are my tasks for the next 11 months

SCHOOL: 

  1. Class Teacher
  2. PAJASK Teacher
  3. Head of APD room
  4. Kadet Remaja Sekolah Head
  5. Red House Assistant Head
  6. Cultural Club Teacher
  7. Kabaddi Club Teacher (Don’t ask. Apparently my skin colour speaks for its own rather than my voice) 😛

IPG (Institut Pendidikan Guru) – where I am currently completing my post-graduate diploma in education

  1. Practicum (FEB – APRIL)
  2. Bina Insan Guru (MAY)

TFM

  1. Artspire Initiative
  2. APD room Initiative
  3. Blog Initiative – Personal
  4. FAB

Well, that screams “no-life,” right? But I think I’m going to enjoy the next 10 months. Why? Because teaching is not a job. It is a vocation. It is a calling. Am I called? I don’t know, yet. But I do know, where ever I am now, I am exactly where I am meant to be and I want to explore this journey further.

Sukan Tara esok! Being the kiasu teacher I am, Red House is getting number one again, this year! 🙂

Cheers!

God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To open my hands up
And give You control
I give You control

Sad I ams

Dear Friend,

It is still raining. It didn’t stop. I wonder what is troubling the sky..or could it read the sadness on our face that it decided to feel with us too?

Anyway, I made a student cry and another student sad today. If you’re in form 1, you would know the poem ‘Sad I ams.’ The poem is all about sadness. Duh!

So I asked my class, have you been sad? They all replied “Yes.” One particular student replied, “Yes!! Everyday!” Her answer caught my attention. I thought maybe she dislike coming to school. So I probed further. “Why are you sad, everyday?” She replied, “Because of my mother. She doesn’t take care of me.”

There was an akward moment of silent in the whole class. My head warned me “Juan, that is a teritory you’re not capable to enter yet. Back off!” So I did. Usually I’m a rebel. I do everything my head tells me not to do.  This time, I knew it was not the right time.

So I said, “We all face all kinds of sadness. Some of us are sad because our parents don’t care about us. Some of us are sad because our friends always pick on us… but the question is, how do deal with sadness?”

I went on talking about the author of SAD I AMS who channeled his sadness through this poem and used his students as his inspirations.

I showed a video of the poem. As they were watching, I read the poem out loud. When I was done, two students had tears in their eyes. 

That’s when I realized how much I missed poetry. I missed writing poems. I miss listening to people reciting a poem. It’s breathtaking.

Teaching poetry though is not easy but it seems exciting.  My next task is asking them to draw what the poet is saying. 🙂

These are the days where my heart is full. Because I wasn’t teaching knowledge. I allowed my students to explore emotions. When you don’t explore and hold your emotions, you have a tendency to become numb.

Okay! Next Class! 

On rainy days

Dear Friend,

I wanted to tell you that I love the rain. I still do but today, the rain was angry. Probably we didn’t give it much credit, so it said, “naahhh,  maybe now you will appreciate me..” and it poured non-stop from morning till now.

So the first blow for today is, I realized I left both my umbrellas in my car. I hoped the rain would stop by the time I left for school, but nope, it got heavier and heavier. That’s when I realized my room was leaking from the window. Second blow of the day.  I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, because I already have so much going on on my plate, what’s one more, right?

I snapped a few pics and sent an SOS text to my landlord, hoping the problem can be rectified soon because I need to sleep on a dry bed. 😦

I packed my school bags and opened my front door and saw a stream of water. I already felt drizzles. Just for your information, I am staying at a 12th floor apartment. I took tiny steps hoping not to splash anything on my baju kurung. I Thank God my laptop bag was water proof. Only during these times you appreciate the little things in life.

When I reached the ground floor, my car was parked about 80m away. The rain was heavy. I took a deep breath and while carrying 3 bags with me, I ran in my Baju kurung fiercely. I pictured myself running through life fighting every hurdle. Yes I am dramatic like that.

 I stopped near the management office, realizing this wasn’t the best idea also for a break before I run through the next chapter. Then I ran again. I opened my car door, chucked my bags. My hair was dripping,  my shoes were disgusting to walk in.. and here’s the best part, my car key was missing. 

Lord, what is this? I asked. Some kinda joke? Well it ain’t funny. I talked to myself, frustratingly.

I ransacked my purse, and I was thinking there’s a chance I need this go back up to get it. Well at least my umbrellas are with me, I thought to myself. And I finally I found my keys, stuck in one of the zip. I started my car, and embarked on a journey to safe Malaysia through my classes. :p With all these feminist rally going around, let’s infiltrate the system from within.

My streak of bad luck wasn’t over. I reached my school and for some reason it was so crowded. I went up to my usual parking spot and it was gone. 😦 I drove back down the hill and parked, that means I have to walk back the hill with three backs and an umbrella in the rain.

On my way I saw students all wet. But they were happy. I wondered how come I’m so bitter?  Oh yeah,  because I have to face a total 100 kids today. Being dry helps.

Takeaway: Thank God it’s just rain and not cow dunk. I don’t want to be wet and also stink at the same time.

I have another story to tell you. But I have to stop here, I have to mark books. 

Talk to you later. :*

5 things I learned about being a teacher

Dear Friend,

I want to tell you  so many things but I can’t. Some things are not meant to be said out loud. But it has been 3 weeks since school started, so I’ll take this as my checkpoint to see how am I progressing as a teacher. So here are 5 things that changed, once I became a teacher

  1. I became more organized. This year, files are my best friends. I have 3 files. One file is solely for my class teacher role where I keep attendance, MCs etc. The other file is for more personal documents AND meetings that I have attended and lastly are the files for the classes that I am teaching where I put in my handouts and trackers for each student. Just incase you were wondering, I am probably one of the last person to be organized. Organization cringes my heart. I work best under pressure, under mess. But last yeartaught me, that sometimes being organized helps me stay sane.
  2. I crack more lame jokes. I consider myself as somewhat funny. Sometimes people laugh at the things I say and do and I don’t even know what is so funny. I came to understand that most of the time they’re laughing at me. I take it as a gift, because hey, can you make people laugh by just being you? 😛 But yes, becoming a teacher made it easier to make a fool of myself. I’ll make weird expressions and change my voice to get their attention. When they laugh, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. If they don’t, I feel like I have just made a fool out of myself. But now, I’m totally fine with acting goofy even if no one finds it funny. I’m so fine with embarrassing myself. A huge boost for my self-esteem
  3. Speaking of self-esteem, I think even since I became a teacher, I grew tremendousnly in that area. I have kids calling me all sorts of name. I have kids talking behind my back all the time. I have kids commenting on my colour, body shape, height and the fact that I am Indian and I cannot speak proper tamil. I learned to not take it personally and do more self care. Believe it or not, every morning after my prayers I pat myself by saying, “Juan, I am so proud you. You’ve come so far. You’re amazing in what you do. You’re strong. You’re so worthy and I love you.” Try that every morning and see how you grow in ways you never taught you would.
  4. I learned how to say NO. See, I am the type that can’t say NO. Even now, I can’t say NO. But you wanna know who taught me how to say NO? My kidss!! “Teacher, I want to go fill my bottle.” ……”NO! That should be done during recess”….. “Teacher, I want to be in the same group with C” ……”NO! There is a reason why I placed you in this group, so that you can come out of your comfort zone..” ….. “Teacher, can I get more chocolates…” ……. “NO! These are only for students who answer my question. Answer my questions the next time, I’ll give you one..” Sometimes saying NO shows tough love, it shows that there limits and boundaries and that as a teacher, you are still in charge.
  5. I learn to validate more. Students hunger for validation. Students yearn for someone to say, “I am proud of you..”  I did not use to be the girl who validated often. It’s very hard to get a compliment from me because I had too much pride in me. But becoming a teacher taught me that it’s not about me. It’s about what’s best for them. It’s not about results, its about the effort they put in. Nowadays, you hear me say, “Good job” to my students all the time. I even taught them a chant where we all say to each other, “We are proud of you!!”

I want to write more but I’ll save it for the end of the year.

Have a great weekend!!

Music and Art Therapy in Class

Dear Friend,

I don’t usually blog at this hour. But I am so inspired that I have to share it with someone. Would you care to listen? 

So today I assigned my students to create posters in pair. I assigned them with a student of another race and they have to come up with a New Year Poster. It can be Awal Muharam, Chinese New Year, Indian New Year or the normal New Year.

This morning, I had the inspiration to play music while they are doing their work. I decided to use music to see their behaviour also hoping they would draw some inspiration. 

To my surprise, they were quiet as they did their work (although it was group). They were so calm that I can hear what the teacher from the other class is teaching. 

The music I chose is Disney Piano Classical Music.

Here take a look..

Cheers to music for helping me today.  🙂

“Teacher, she’s sick…”

Dear Friend,

I cannot get enough of James Arthur. Say you won’t let go, is on replay.

Anyway, I had a pretty dramatic day. On my way to school, I received a text from my PKHem asking me to drop by his office when I arrived. I had a panic-attack for a brief period. I thought of all the things I have said and done for the past two weeks. Mental-imaging and disecting every content, searching if there are any mistakes I’ve committed.

We do that all the time, don’t we? Over-thiking and assuming what is not there and convincing ourself that it is. Because just a second later, I received another text saying, “X’s sister is here to see you.” Just for your information, X is my student and I’m the class teacher. I had a breath of relief and scolded myself for overthinking.

X is known to be a problematic student. Her sister came to check her attendance. For that I dragged my four bags back and forth to the disipline room and the final decision is that I’m assigned to counsel X. It’s funny because, I think I myself need counselling. Oh well, may the words of my mouth be as God willed it..

As the day went on, I found out two of my classes had at least 6 to 7 of them who didn’t finish their homework. I put on a strict face and nagged for about 5 mins.

Came to one particular class, one student was asleep. Her whole class said, “Teacher!! She’s sick!!” I looked over and said, “Okay, I will talk to her later. Now the rest please pay attention!”

Once I gave them work, I walked over to the girl who is sick. I urged her to take a rest in the Medical Room. She said she already did that. So I asked, “Why don’t you call your parents to come and get you. You look very pale.” She answered, “No, my dad will scold me if I called.” My blood rushed through my veins and I took a deep breath, swallowing my anger and holding my judgements against her dad. I didn’t want to make her situation any worst. So I gave her permission to sleep in my class.

10 minutes later, she asked permission to go out to the washroom. 20  minutes passed by, and I saw no sight of her. I got worried, the whole class started to worry. I calmed them and said, “Whatever happens, don’t worry, I’m in charge. You just do your work.”

The minute I said that, I saw her walking in the corridor, and my heart leaped for joy. I was under the impression maybe she fainted somewhere or something.

After class, I asked her, “Where did you go for so long?” She replied, “I went to meet the teacher in-duty and I called home.” I was like “Okay, that’s good. What did they say? Are they coming to fetch you?” Then I saw, one of the most heart-breaking faces I have seen in years, “My grandma answered the phone. She said no one can fetch me, because they all just had a fight.”

I looked into her eyes and I saw tears.

I gathered all my courage and said, “I’m sorry this is happening. I’m sorry you have to go through this..  I’m sorry I cannot do much as your teacher. I’m not allowed to leave and send you back. But I am just in the other room. Please, please find me if you need anything..”

She gave a faint smile and said, “Okay,”

These are the kids who have the courage to say that something is happening at home. What about those keep it all inside and plaster a smile? What about those who shows it through anger and bullying? What about those who turn to self-harm?

I thought my problems are huge. But the takeaway for today, is that there are children who suffers so much that we can’t see it. They keep it all hidden. But I’m not a saviour. I cannot save them. I cannot save them all. And that breaks me.

Lord,

I lift up all the children in this world who never had the chance to live in a loving and caring environment, who ever had anyone validated them, whose houses are hell rather than home. I pray that despite everything that is happening, they will find the courage in the midst of this storm. I pray You will guide them. I pray You will guide me to guide them. Because for sure, I cannot do this alone.

Somebody cries in the middle of the night
The neighbors hear, but they turn out the lights
A fragile soul caught in the hands of fate
When morning comes it’ll be too late

Through the wind and the rain
She stands hard as a stone
In a world that she can’t rise above
But her dreams give her wings
And she flies to a place where she’s loved
Concrete angel

Remember, merentas desa?

Dear friend,

Remember merentas desa? Well, I remember. I used to be super competitive because I wanted Red House to win. Strangely 14 years later, I’m exactly where I begun. 

So if you don’t know me that well, I like running.  Running teaches me a lot about life, especially when I feel like giving up. Every step whispers “A little bit more, Juan… you’ve come so far.”

So like last year, I decided to run again with my students for today’s cross country. At the starting point, one of my Chinese remove student  from last year, who is form 1 this year told me, “Teacher, I am going to run with you..”

I told her, “Don’t you want to run with your friends?”

She said, “No, I’ll follow you..”

I replied, “Alright, but don’t wait for me. Just run. Stop, if you’re tired. I will do the same..”

So we started running and running. Whenever I ran, she ran too. And I said, “Let’s run till the van.. ” … Whenever we stopped, I said, “We will walk till that tree, and we will run again..”

Halfway through, another Form 3 Malay student whom I have never taught, decided to follow us too. So the three of us ran through checkpoints, up the hill, down the hill..and towards the end, about 200 meters left, both my students left me and ran till the finish line near the field. I couldn’t keep up. They were fast.

So I made my way to the field and searched for them. They came running to me. One of them got number 24 and the other got number 17. 🙂 
Last year none of them received any number. This year though it was different.

What made the difference? No its not me. It’s them. They decided to leave their friends and join me. Sometimes, when you decide to not follow the crowd and be different, miracles happen.

Top 20 received medals. I couldn’t have been more proud of this girl here, who I journey with last year, who scolded because I might not teach after this year, who’s unique and amazing in every single way…

I was too excited, I didn’t realize my lenses were blocked.

But that is the second biggest take way for today. 

The biggest takeaway for today is that this girl, my Peralihan Chinese student decided to treat the Form 3 Malay student a drink after the run.

When I saw that, I was touched. I was touched because after a long time I see my Chinese student who never hung out with anyone other than her race buy a drink for someone of another race. :’)

Today are one of those days where  I felt like maybe.. just maybe.. I’m made to do this teacher thingy…

Cheers to sports, for bringing us all together. #1malaysia

Busy, busy, busy!

Dear Friend,

I do not know where to begin to tell you about my week. I can’t remember if I had time to actually realize I am breathing (I was that busy).

I’m not kidding, here is my Tuesday schedule:

8am – 10am : Red house practice.

10am – 11.30am: Prepare lunch, print out handouts, shower

11.30am – 12.30pm: Sejarah meeting

12.30pm – 6.45pm: School – That particular day I had 7 periods out of 10.

6.45pm – 7.45pm: Dinner & Shower

8pm – 10pm: TFM Christian Fellowship

In between my free time, I have 3 classes of English diagnostic test to mark. I decided to the attend the Christian Fellowship because I manage to finish marking 1 class. I’ll tell you more about it in another post.

Yesterday was worse. I am the head teacher for Kadat Remaja Sekolah. The whole day I felt like throwing up because I had to conduct the AGM for roughly 150+ members. I would love to share with you how it went, but currently my brain is screaming, “You need to shower Juan!! It’s 11.20 P.M. I need to sleep”

And yes, I just got back home too, after a long day. Today was the cherry on top of the cake. I barely had time to sit. We have to pass up our record book. I was running up and down to get it stamp and juggle 6 periods at the same time. And my dear students wanted to hand in their PIBG money and t-shirt money. I’m afraid to open my files because of the amount of money I am holding.

After school, I rushed to TFM office. We had our second initiative meeting. What is that? Ahemmm. Stay tuned.

My weekend. Ohh dear, don’t let me start on that. But I do have something interesting that happened today. Unfortunately, I lack the energy to type it. Perhaps tomorrow.

Takeaway for the day:

Find joy in the smallest things. Find joy when a student offers to help you. Find joy in the face of a student who is excited to receive chocolates. Feel the joy that my documents are still filed (It kills me to be organize but I need to be). Find joy when you chose to wish Good Afternoon to a student, even if they didn’t