Dear Friend,

Is okay if I called you friend? It’s a little weird to not address my post to anyone. It’s like I’m talking to the wall or something. Anyway, I am in the midst of reading Anne Frank’s Diary and I feel guilty. She wrote her innermost thoughts in a diary, and I feel I am violating her private space. Yes, it may be a testament, but hey, I would burn all my diaries before I gave you the permission to read it. The words she wrote are hers. It’s sacred. It’s her sacred space. What if she wasn’t okay with sharing it with the whole world? Oh well, it’s a little too late now, cause my heart and soul left me. You can find it in the pages of Anne Frank’s diary.

Back to being a teacher, I would describe today as quite “shaky”. Emotionally, I am not doing too well. So I gathered the little courage I had, to enter in the first class. For some reason though, when I see my form 1 kid’s faces, all ready to study with their English books on their table, I suddenly had an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (It’s a Christian thing), and I taught rather well. In fact, slightly better than the days where I am well. Sometimes, your best teaching days, are when you didn’t plan that much.

Last two periods though, I had an English class with the weakest class in Form 1. I struggle with this class as I have to go really slow. They could barely understand a word I am saying. While I was walking around checking their work and explaining it to each person, I suddenly heard, “Oiii Pondann!” and reply of “Eh Monyet!!” Immediately, I stomped my feet and turned around asked loudly, “Who said that??” The class was pin-drop silent. I asked again, even firm, “Who said that? Stand up now!!” Two boys stood up.

I said outloud, “My third rule for you is ‘Always be kind!’

Of course, they still didn’t get it. So I allowed myself to speak in Malay. I use Malay to nag at them. I need to be sure that they get what I am saying. I lectured saying, “It is not okay for you to call names in my class. I will not tolerate this behaviour. I will write your names on the board. If I see you misbehave one more time, you will have to bear the consequence!” – (If you wonder how I translated all that in Malay.. well my Malay is somewhat better than my English. I spend a whole year teaching four Sejarah classes per week)

After that, the class was silent, but my thoughts weren’t. My conscience shouted out loud, alarming me, of the damage I have caused.

See what I should have done, is called the two boys apart and spoke to them privately. The fact that I called them out in front of everyone can be embarrassing to them. It is damaging to their self-esteem and might increase their “shyness” level. Just for your information, being shy is a social disorder. Introvert-ness and shy are too different things. And yes, I can be very shy in certain situation.

I should have asked them, “Hey can you help me understand what happened?”  I will continue with, “It is not right for you to call anyone names, regardless of who they are and what they did. How will you feel, if I called you with the same names? You will feel hurt and angry. That is the same way, your friend would feel. If you are angry at someone, tell me. I will teach you how to handle your emotions.”

I want to also tell them that this may seem like a small thing, but I have witnessed name calling last year. It hurts the one who is being called. Even sad, the one who is calling it, is also hurting. When you call someone, “gemuk or hitam” or equate them to animal,  you are firstly saying, it is WRONG to be fat or black. Erm, newsflash, I am dark and chubby. I had years to work on my esteem, to be proud of how I look. But what if you do not have the support you need? You will end up being fearful and teach your kids that it is “wrong” to be fat or black.

But the thing with being reflective and asking students to reflect, my kids lack maturity to digest what I’m trying to say. Don’t get me wrong, I am not putting them down. I am being real because I know what works and what wouldn’t. I need to find simpler words. I need most importantly, to lead by example.

Which means, I need to re-order my reflexes. Perhaps, my resolution for this year.






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