Monday, January 12, 2015

Sharing Session (TFM Leadership Seminar 4)

    Sharing Session In Regent International School, Sungai Petani.
    ( Teach For Malaysia Leadership Seminar 4)

    Our school is in small town of Padang Serai, where I grew up in but spent many years of schooling outside. This is the school I passed through for the last 24 years but never step my foot into the school's compound. This sport school has nearly 2,000 students with average multicultural tolerance.

        I know a former student of this school who is not willing to further his post-SPM study. He lost his motivation and has settled for less. He was offered to several public and private universities but decided not to go. ''I could not survive through English classes'' he said. Another time, he said he prefer working rather than going to college.  His excuses went on and on. Now he is working in one of Penang's local councils. This 20-year-old boy is my brother and he is the reason I Teach for Malaysia. I realized that as much as I want to help him, he must first help himself. After four months of working, reality hits him hard and now he said he aims to be in college one fine day. I was relieved to able to hear his 'one day' mission.

       Being posted to my hometown and my brother's previous school, I believe I am in a perfect place for a significant change.

          Each teacher can recount numerous highs and lows in their teaching career. There were days when I ended so happy and enthusiastic that I knew I had selected the right profession. On the other hand, I had days where I definitely questioned teaching as a career. These were days where the students seemed uninterested, too talkative, or even worse a blow up occurred and nothing got accomplished. Thankfully the average combined with the positive days outshine my negative days.
          A boy from my aspiring class was loud and obnoxious. Let's call him Amin. His class is the 12th streamed class. The first three months into the year, I was beating my head against the wall trying to connect with him. I could at least get his friends to be involved or at the very least to sit quietly. He sat in the back row. I would ask questions of students, picking up some names. Unfortunately, every time i called on him he would respond with a flip answer. If he got an answer wrong, he would get angry. He also called me as his girlfriend, trying to win me over, left lot of missed calls, returned his scholar dollars because a friend accused him of stealing them and explore through my personal stuff and handbag. One day, he was shouting to me during lesson and when failed to get my attention, he kicked chairs and tables and disrupted the whole lesson. I sent him to the discipline teacher. His anger and mumbled words were almost too much for me.

      He missed class for two days and we got a lot accomplished during his hiatus but I began dreading for his return. On the day of his return, I met him in the staff room. I told him that I care about him but not him alone. The other 31 students still need me and they want to learn. I gave him permission that if he felt like he was going to lose control in class he could step right outside the door for a moment to collect himself.

      From that point on, Amin was a changed student in my classroom. He listened, he participated. I could finally get to see the creative side in him. His math solving skill is unique. He is very happy to get a LINUS numeracy workbook I took from my mom, to work on his own. He never, ever used the privilege I had given him to leave the class for a moment. I believe that just giving him the power to decide for himself made all the difference. The irony is this boy, Amin shared the same first name as my brother.

      In the end, this experience touched me as a teacher. Students are people who have feelings and who don't want to feel cornered. They want to learn but they also want to feel as if they have some control over themselves. I tried not to make assumptions again about a student before going into their class. Every student is different; no two students react in the same way. It is our tasks as teachers to find not only what motivates each student to learn but also what motivates them to misbehave. If we can meet them at that point and take away that motivation, we can go a long way towards a more effective classroom and learning experience. Fellow friends, teachers are like band aid, that sometimes we do more than teach, that we help heal hurt feelings, broken dreams, and lend an ear to a problem.