For a Comedy is the Greatest Tragedy of All

For a comedy is the greatest tragedy of all

This week has been an eye-opener, and mind-opener for me. I feel sorry being a teacher (sorry does not mean regret), because at this point, I can only see teachers sandwiched between two ungrateful layers of sourdough, forgive the weak pun.

My students, sitting for their national examinations in a few months time, have shown themselves to be made of little mettle in their heart, mind and soul. Let’s be honest, a machine functions by assumptions. It assumes that it will continue to function normally in the next hour, minute, second. If the assumption is wrong, a machine breaks down. But humans function by hope, not assumption. I discovered this almost a decade ago (golly, how old I must be!) when my Maths teacher walked into class with another test paper in her hand, and I realized the only reason why we all come to class is because of hope that the next question, or the next tutorial, or the next assessment will mark our improvement, an indicator of our success, however slight.

Similarly, a teacher will spend time and effort preparing for lessons the next day. During those occasions, many teachers do not do a skimpy job. When the situation calls for it, we have to create worksheets, source for materials, consider variations and other factors and preempt potential problems… and after all of that, coming to a class that is ill-prepared and not ready for the lesson you have painstakingly put your heart, mind and soul into…. very very simply, sucks.

Now pardon the language, but when it happens so often, and to a subject that you are so in love with, something just dies inside you after a while. The spot where hope used to spring from, now this single deathly-white rose just takes its place. Their attitude is killing the joy in teaching them. Perhaps at this point it is not about loving Literature anymore, it is about doing Literature, working Literature, making something Literature happen. Literature is now a subject, one of six or seven they sit for, not an idea.

Ungrateful students aside, I think some colleagues are worked unfairly hard. Pawn pieces of a chess set? I am starting to realize how flawed the structures are, and how they have gone strangely invisible or missed unless there is a pressing glaring need to address an issue, which will then be tackily patched up and chucked under someone’s wing. People are no longer happy workers, driven with a secret purpose to bring hope and joy and a good and sound education to make these young ones under our wing good people. I always believe that good character can never be replaced by academic excellence or similar quantifiable pursuits. But of course, because everyone talks in numbers around here, only numbers count.

They even build in an electronic care portal, as if it will make the youngsters feel more loved or cared for. How purposeful can such care and concern be when administered through such a system, honestly? The problem with technology is that it has diluted and reduced human relationships into something thin and mechanical and practical. But there is so so much more to a relationship between two persons that it cannot be measured by how much time you spend, or how much money you pay, or how big your house is, or how huge a spread at your wedding feast. Why do we like to quantify things so much? Is convenience really that important a factor we must let numbers rule our lives and rob us of our ideals?

What looks good and sounds good, may be functional, but can it be genuine, and honest and sincere, and self-sustaining with all of that?

The best part is, under this huge machine, we are the gears that manufactures the product for important clients. We give out survey forms to the same group of ungrateful people every term to ask them for feedback on our teaching, under the spirit of “helping us help you learn better”. The thing is, the students become so comfortable giving criticism, comments, remarks, complaints, they barely show appreciation or gratitude… and the more surveys they do, the idea that teachers ought to cater to their wants and desires is perpetuated and reinforced? “Oh, now is the time to blast that teacher!” their minds might go. Will they really think, “Here, let me write something really constructive because it will help this teacher who has a really good heart to help me score well in my examinations”? I honestly doubt so.

I think it is a joke, and truly, life is a tragedy and a comedy, in which we are all part of a jolly good musical.

Tomorrow, we wallow and weep for the love of our young ones and their parents – our customers we should pander to – for a comedy is the greatest tragedy of all.

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