“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.

🙂

 

 

 

Letter 1

Sometimes the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just
Where you are..

The people you love will change you..
The things you have learned will guide you..
And nothing on earth can silence..
The quiet voice still inside you..
And when that voice starts to whisper
You’ve come so far..
Listen..
Do you know who you are?

Dear Juan,

I haven’t written to you in ages. I think we need to have that talk again, where I tell you stuff, and you keep your thoughts to yourself and listen. I know it’s hard because you always have something to say, but hey, remember, silence is powerful. Silence is magical.

You may not know me, but I know you. I watched you grow. I’ve heard and still hearing your lame jokes. I watched you struggle, I was there with you when you did. I watched you voice out your opinion. I watched you embarrassed yourself a million times. I know because I laughed out loud when that happened. I felt your scars and wounds. Infact I help bandaged them. Sometimes I succeed, but most of the time I fail.

I fail because you always stop me. Did you know when you believe in yourself, that is when I am the strongest most? When you believe you’re worthy, I become unstoppable. When you believe you’re enough and important, I take with me my shield and sword for you. When you know you’re beautiful,  I bloom like a morning glory from the depths of your soul.

So can you do me a favour? Can you start believing again? Can you quiet the voices in your head and find the will to listen to the voice within?  Can you don’t hurt me with your words? Can you help me, to help you? Can you love me a little bit more? Only when you love me in all my failures and success, you can learn to love others completely.  Can you be kind to me? Your unkind words are piecing and they hinder me from holding all of your pieces. I might have mispalced a few and I am sorry about that.

I want you to know, that I love you. You have come so far and you will go further. You’re amazing. You’re beautiful. You’re important. You’re enough. I am proud of you. You also have 200+ kids relying on you for love, for care, for validation, for someone to hold them when the whole world is against them. 🙂

They call you..

Love,

The other Juan, the voice within

Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island
I’m the girl who loves the sea
It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me..

I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it calls me..
And the call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart, you’ll remind me
That come what may…
I know the way

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!

Beautifully broken

The thing about being a teacher, somedays you have it all under control. Your routine is flawless, your students actually listen and you were not given a pile of paper work to complete by tomorrow. When this happen, treasure it because they don’t happen that often.

The rest of the time, you don’t have it under control. Your projector refuse to work, you realize your student don’t know the meaning of “rules,” and your whole lesson plan falls apart and you suddenly have a ko-kurikulum list to type and hand in by tomorrow. Yes, you guessed it. This was today.

Somedays we feel like the world’s hero, when a student who never uttered an English word, speaks to you, “Teacher, I want to go toilet!” We feel like screaming and shouting out of joy. We feel like you can go through this journey again.

Somedays, we feel crushed. We feel there’s no point in teaching, because they are years behind. We lose it and scream at the class, “If you don’t sit down at your places, I will bring the discipline teacher in!” We hold our tears and rush to the toilet cubicle and cry in silence. At night we curl up into a ball, thinking of our life decision all over again.

Not only we have to deal with dramas in school, we also a personal life that needs attention. The worst days are the days where you’re hurting inside and you still walk in the class, put a smile on your face, and begin teaching. But in a way though, the hurt becomes less painful. It’s like treating it with a balm, when you choose the help, regardless of what’s happening  on the inside. That my friend, makes you beautifully broken.

Here’s to all teachers who still choose to discipline a rude child, wipe the tears of a crying child and teach with an innermost, admirable courage regardless of what they’re feeling on the inside.

🙂

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!

First Day

I was thinking of starting off with a formal introduction, but I am afraid you might get bored and leave. So to make the story short, I am a teacher. I have been a teacher unofficially for the past 25 years of life (technically, we have all been teaching unofficially. Just that no one labelled us as a teacher. Not yet, at least). Officially though, as I write this post, I am a 12 month old teacher.

Why I am doing this? Easy. I like teaching. I love writing. So this is a space where I combine both.

I am a Malaysian born, teaching in a Malaysian school. I am not an expert in teaching, but everyday I experience something new and it would be a waste to not share it with you. So  if you’re bored, or if you are a teacher and you’re hoping you’re not in this journey alone, I give you permision to have a peek inside my head. There’s a lot going on in there. But do get your popcorns and pillows ready, because you’re about to read some of the funniest, scarriest and joyful moments of a teacher.

There are so many things that happened today but I have limited time left for tomorrow’s lesson planning. So I will try to make it short.

During assembly which is the last period, I was sharing with a teacher how I was unable to enjoy my new year because I was preparing lesson. She asked me, “what lesson? It’s the first day.” I said, “I was typing out class rules on my slides.” She chuckled and I immediately felt insecure. I wondered if I did anything wrong. I mean, aren’t rules important for students to know what they should do and shouldn’t do?

Classroom Culture

See, last year my classes were chaotic because I didnt have a proper classroom culture. This year, I had a game plan. Laugh all you want, but my classes were pin-drop silent today. Of course, they are only Form 1 and it is the first day of school. I am well aware those claws and fangs should be out in a week or two. But for once, it was amazing to see all of their eyes glued to me as I explained my classroom culture. Of course, when you give me attention, I get excited and I go on and on and on talking about why we should have rules, till the teachers outside have to remind me that my time is up.

If you’re a class teacher, a new one that is, have procedures. Have rules. Have a consequences. It does’t only makes teaching easier, but it gives a sense of structure to your students. There’s a reason why cookie cutter exist. Because without it, your cookies become deformed. You have the power to form your students. To mold them. To direct them. Whatever you say, and do, especially how you make them feel, they will remember.

As a class teacher, I have a few roles in my class to help me manage my classroom. I have a monitor, an assistant monitor, three cleanliness leaders and a documentation head. Today I selected the students for each and defined their roles. I think it is important that they know what they must do.

We live in a world where people think it is okay to stay in a gray area. Yes it is, but not all the time. Sometimes you need black and white. Sometimes you need structure.

My next plan is to give them appointment letters and a contract to sign to create a sense of responsibility so that they will take their task seriously. (No, I am not kidding)

First Impression

I always wondered, what kind of first impressions others had on me. But when I became a teacher, it has become one of the most important criteria.

As I was trying to show my strict face to one of the classes today,  I heard from outside, “Cikguuuu!!!” (Means teacher in Malay). I saw my former students entering my class and trying to be funny. In my heart, I was bursting in flames because they totally spoiled my strict nature. On the outside, I was giving a poker face. I walked over, calmly and said “Go back to your class, now.” I turned back and I saw my other students giggling. Part of me was happy that my former students greeted me, the other part was crushed, because that might have messed up my first impression.

First impressions are super important. It’s how your students will remember you for the rest of the year. Last year, I was nice. I was so nice, that my students treated me like their friend so much so they begin to lose respect. I guess the trick here is to find the balance between gentle and firm.

Be firm, but let them know that you care. Be gentle, but let them know you’re not someone they can mess with. Be kind. Always be kind. Because sometimes you might be the only one who is.

I want to write more. I want to share with you my self-made ice-breaker wheel. There!

whatsapp-image-2017-01-01-at-22-14-34

But time is my enemy.

Nevertheless, I’m giving a pat on my back, because for once, I am living up according to what I have planned. I plan to launch this blog on the 1st of January 2017. And tadaa! Here I am posting this up.

Hoping to post more teacher stories in time to come.