“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

“Oi Pondann!!”

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.

🙂

 

 

 

Weekend

Missed me?

Its the weekend. Yes, welcome to Johore, where Friday and Saturday are our weekends and we work on Sunday. (Don’t worry, 12 months and I’m still not use to it). I am in the midst of doing my weekly lesson plan, but I thought of clearning my some space in my brain by telling you something that happened this week….

See I am the class teacher of the weakest class in form 2. Now unlike every other class, this particular class is special. Almost 95% of them are the ones I taught last year. 70% of them, I taught for 8 periods a week. (1 period is 30 mins. That means, a total 240 mins per week). Because they know me so well, the “first impression” doesn’t work on them. That means every time I have class with them, I will start perspiring, I will have an increase of heart-rate and I will have to ensure I am emotionally and mentally stable to face them. Now they’re not monsters. They’re sweethearts. But they are all 14 year olds, trying to find a place in this world. They’re confused. They’re struggliing. They are also  loud. LOUD. VERY VERY LOUD.

It was two days ago, where we had our ko-kurikulum registration. I would love to tell you a miracle happened and everyone was obediently seated and listened to me. Nope. It was chaotic. It was a nightmare.

I had their name list prepared. I gave clear instructions. I wrote all the sports and clubs for them choose. In the beggining, it was smooth sailing. Halfway through the storm started. I had at least 8 students crowding around me. Two of them were playing football with a bottle. A group of students at the back almost got into a fight. At the same time I heard about 10 times…

“Cikgu!… Cikgu, saya nak masuk kelab komputer…” ….”Cikguuuu!! Saya nak sama dengan dia!”….. “Cikgu saya nak pergi tandas!!!!” …..”Cikgu,…. baju cikgu tak betul!!!”

I stood up and I wanted to scream at the top of my voice. But nothing came out. I had lost my voice. I ransacked my bag for my bottle. I had a little water left, about 50ml. Finished it and still I couldn’t find my voice. With a cracked voice, and teary eyes (because I was choking out of air), I said, “Saya kira sehingga 10, duduk tempat awak!”… Take note, counting always worked. The scrambled to their seats and I continued, “If I see anyone off their seat, I will find you and I will follow you back to your house today!”…Good thing about being a class teacher, you have their address and their parent’s number.

The class was quiet for about 5 mins. Well that was the longest.

Once I was done, I dismissed them. I sat down. I was exhausted. I was helpless. I said a silent pray,

“Lord, how am I to take care of them for the next 12 months, when I myself am in a mess..”

That was probably the worst day of the week. But hey, don’t worry, we have 50 more weeks to compare it with.

Why did I choose to tell you that? Because I am struggling. I want to record these struggles. It’s how I can grow with my struggles.

Anyway, here are my to-do task for the next two days:

  1. Complete Weekly Lesson Plan
  2. Complete Content for my Lesson Plans
  3. Complete my offer letter and contracts for my kids
  4. Design seating arrangement for my class
  5. Visit HARRIS for Sejarah reference book and more files
  6. Clean my room and the house
  7. Cook for the week
  8. Iron for the week
  9. Spend time with housemates
  10. Visit my happy place
  11. Pray

Have a great weekend!

That boy

Second day of school and I am proud to say my life is still on track. My lessons are still planned, my lunch is still on going and I even have time to apply a little lip gloss.

So today a peculiar thing happened. One class which was 70% Chinese, didn’t greet me properly. So I made them wish me, “good afternoon” for three times straight. After every greeting they bowed. The first time they did it, I wanted to burst out laughing. Second and third time, I wanted to run to each one of them and say, “Hey, you don’t have to do that. I am not a queen.” Nevertheless, I think it is a humbling and polite gesture that they choose to honour teachers by bowing in comparison to students who showed me a “middle finger.” last year.

So I want to tell you about the boy. In every class, there will be a boy or girl that will make you want to pull of all your hair from your head. Their main aim is to piss you off. More than often, they succeed. (If only they put that much effort in learning…..). And if this particular person  is absent, wow… the class is top notch. You can reach your objectives, everything goes according to plan and you will have a smile plastered on your face.

So today, this one boy from last year who made me cry and scream inside my head most of the time (I never cried over any boy this much) barge into my class and asked me, “cikgu, ajar kelas saya tak?”… I replied, “tak”.. He said, “yesss!”… and went of. Naturally, in front of my new students, I felt embarrassed.

Then I did something I shouldn’t have. The minute the boy left, I exclaimed, “YESSSS!” I was estatic that I wasn’t teaching him. But I shouldn’t have exclaimed it out loud. Indirectly, I am telling my other students, I do not like this student and that is not okay.

Yes, teachers are humans. But a student can never know that you do not like him or her. They can never know that you do not like to teach them, that you feel like squashing them with a fly bat. Why? Because it can be very damaging to a student. Believe me, they have feelings. They don’t show it but they hurt deeply when someone refuses to acknowledge their existence. Who doesn’t?

Our most difficult students are the ones that needs us the most. They need to hear kind words. They need to be loved tenderly. Why? Most probably the reason why they’re difficult, because everyone has been difficult towards them. So they learn to be as how they were treated.

So what do you do? A poker, calm face. When you feel a fire raging within, control it. Tone your voice. Tell them nicely.  Everyone has been shouting at them, throwing unkind words. So when they hear calmness and patient in your voice, they be shocked. But they will listen. If they don’t, they will soon begin too. Because kindness cures and rome wasn’t built in a day! Shaping behaviour takes time.

Cheers!