It’s Teacher’s Day today.
Image from here.
4 years ago, this day never meant much to me – it was just another day. Today, it is a day I think about what it means to be a teacher.
In our lives, we come across all sorts of teachers. Our parents were our first teachers. They taught us right from wrong, good from bad and everything else in between. Then came formal school – kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, etc.
There were teachers that I was afraid to breathe in front of:
- Mrs Tay in Primary 2 scared the living daylight out of me because she would always stare menacingly at me for something or the other.
- Mrs Cecile Tan (yes, I remember her full name) in secondary school could make the entire netball team (and we are talking a very large proportion of the school population!) keep quiet just by looking at them.
There were teachers I was inspired by:
- Mrs Lau Hay Pin taught me Literature and she brought the subject alive. She spoke like the characters in our textbook (Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mocking Bird) and it was easy to imagine the scene coming alive in my head. Her passion for the subject brought about an interest in Literature I never knew existed.
There were teachers who cared in their own ways:
- Mrs Gunaratnam, who taught me Mathematics. She was tiny petite lady but you don’t mess with her. She probably grew a few extra white hair at my total failure at comprehending E. Maths. I remember looking forlornly at the netball girls on the court right outside the classroom where I was having remedial lessons in E.Maths and wondering when I’d be released from her clutches. She would also call on me very often in class to solve some Maths problem on the board in front of 39 other girls. Argh! Needless to say, I usually couldn’t solve them and had to rely on my (really nice and helpful) classmates to come to some sort of decent answer on the board.
And then there are teachers who put me to sleep all the time with their monologues during class, or the ones who constantly looked like they hated us. Always made me wonder why they’re in the profession if they hated students that much!
I never thought I’d be an educator. Really. My childhood dream was to become a lawyer (that’s a story for another day). The thought of being in education never crossed my mind until much later in life when I realised that I enjoyed giving presentations and seeing the “students” learn a new concept. My dad was in disbelieve when I told him that I was becoming a lecturer. His exact words: Huh? You’re so impatient. How to become teacher?!”
It’s been 4 years since I started teaching in the polytechnic. I’m still here and everytime someone asks: So are you still enjoying teaching? I am happy to say with convinction that yes, I still do enjoy teaching. Very much so.
Of course, it gets trying on certain days.
When stacks of assignments, tests, etc are stacked high on the table and the deadline is looming.
When you’re mentally and physically exhausted but still have two 2-hour classes back-to-back.
When a student fails to see why a certain decision has to be taken (usually unpleasant) despite repeated counselling and chat sessions.
When students are not bothered by what you are trying to teach but are more interested in ending the lesson early so that they can go party.
And the list goes on.
I do not claim to be a good teacher. I get impatient and other little bits get to me. However, I like to think that for every class I go to, I try my best to make the lesson interesting because I thoroughly remember what I did not like as a student, hence I try not to put the class to sleep. Reading feedback from students about my teaching used to upset me because a small handful of students will not be happy with something I did/said. But a senior colleague reminded me that we can’t please everyone and as long as the majority is happy, we have done our jobs.
At the end of it all, it just takes ONE student to appreciate the effort that you have put in to make it all worthwhile. There is no need for fancy bouquets of flowers or any elaborate gifts. A simple “Thank you, cher” is enough to put a smile on my face and a warm glow in my heart.
Happy Teacher’s Day.