Wildflower

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Because it was Al’s last week as a bachelorette, we girlfriends decided to (finally) meet up for tea at Arteastiq. There was a strange sense of lingering bittersweetness as we listened to each of us share about our present stage of life. Almost fifteen years ago, we still donned our short haircuts looking like awkward schoolgirls on the edge of puberty, carrying our heavy schoolbags and making our way to school. Now years later, we have experimented with all sorts of hairstyles and lengths, negotiated fashion trends, and exchanged our boxy schoolbags for totes and hobos. Time has been kind to us; we have grown up well.

I listened in to the various conversation threads at our tea table. We recognise that life is not all roses and chocolates and pastel colour shades. There are realities of wedding days that people may gloss over due to the hype and celebrations; there is unflattering truth that I have ballooned twice in size since I graduated from University. There is the private emptiness when a happy marriage has not bred children a few years later. There is that nagging torment that beneath our seemingly successful jobs, we are not all that happy, and looking for the next turn in life is at the corner of our minds. There is also that swell of courage that we need to brace ourselves with, when we get ready to welcome the possibility of change.

I am becoming more excited at the prospect of possible change, and am becoming more convinced that there is no harm in entertaining that possibility. Perhaps when time is ripe, circumstances will allow me to be more forthcoming in sharing.

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How Can We Live No Differently?

I met up with an old old friend and sister-in-Christ this evening, only to be asked some really hard questions. I did not need to play ignorant or pretend that my current lifestyle and mental/emotional health is not reflective of my spiritual state. She knew the void that I was struggling with and how I desperately wanted to fix my eyes on something more — something higher than what I could see.

I shared with her my fear that I would still be in the same position, working equally hard, but still as a teacher, years from now. And she asked directly, Why do you need to know how you will advance? That question caught me unexpectedly, and I had no sure answer. Why did it matter so much that I know where I would be headed three years from now? Why did it matter that I ensured I advanced in my career, either on a teaching or leadership track? Things are different for us as Christians, she posited.

She also asked, What is your weakness? For her she confessed it boiled down to two things: Pride, in wanting to be in control, and the Desire for approval from others. I had not thought about it prior to hearing this question in my face. Why was I trying to do so much, what was keeping me from leaning on God?

I think it is a sense of self-pride, of wanting to be in control. I want to know where I am headed, and what I am capable of, and what is in store in the future. I also think it is slothfulness. Rather than spending my time efficiently, I give myself excuses far too easily to watch a movie, enjoy a good meal, or catch up on sleep. I think diligence should not come only in the form of long working hours, but time spent in a focus and driven manner as well.

Having established that, I realised that the way we make life decisions should differ from the way others do, as sound and solid their advice might be. Just like how we check ourselves when we wait for a partner for life, waiting in faith for God’s timeline to unfold in our lives, we should also have patience and godliness as we listen and humbly submit to His Will – even if I have no idea where my current life decisions will take me.

It is truly a time to kick myself awake and start making changes to my life. So how can we live no different from others, when we have the ultimate promise in an eternal living God? How can I struggle with the same jadedness and cynicism towards life and work, how can I claim to be a child of God, when I fight the same inner-demons to do my work with conviction and joy?

It is a troubling and embarrassing testimony of the power to freedom we have in Christ. I need to live a victorious life, and take on my challenges with wisdom and patience and humility. Colleagues may be difficult and challenges may be tough. But if God opens a way and I prayerfully submit to His will, I can only be certain that His good and perfect plan will unfold.

Time for change, hoshao. Time for change and plenty of prayer.

Hello Twenty Fifteen!

Last evening before the new year countdown, about a hundred and twenty family and friends from our church gathered to share our thanksgivings for 2014. It is my promise that I count my blessings for 2014 in words, even if I do not share it.

I am closing in on the end of four years of my first career. A lot of people say that you tend to face an ‘existential drought’ at the end of the first four years of your career, resulting in many switching careers. I reckon that it may not be true, but at the same time, 2014 was a year of questions, answered mainly with frustrations and disappointments. It did lead to a lot of personal reflection, taking the time to slow down and rethink my raison d’etre.

In 2014, I lost the friendship of someone very dear to me. But through it, I learnt that everything is volatile, and as cliche it sounds, change is the only constant in life. I learnt that I need to cherish every person in my life, and not take their friendships for granted.

In 2014, I also learnt that God is sovereign. He has always been and always will be. He works in the hearts and minds of not just our peers but our students, and although it may not be clear, it is clear to me that He was there when W, N X and H struggled to come to school and fight their own shadows. It gives me much peace and comfort to know that He is Lord and I can pray and commit all my little students’ futures to Him. There is always a way out, a way that the Lord has prepared for each child.

I learnt that words can be cheap, but they can also cut deep. But my run-ins with some people only made me more certain of my purpose and abilities. Despite all the challenges, God sustained me through the love of close friends and family. Every little success and failure that happened in 2014 is a result of His mercy and grace. Praise the Lord!

I am thankful for the privilege to watch my little kids grow from when they were twelve to when they graduate at sixteen, making decisions concerning their future, preparing to chase their dreams.

I know that no matter what challenge 2015 flings at me, God is able to catch me and His sovereignty and love will empower me to tide through all of that! There are a lot of new changes to welcome and embrace this year, not to mention that 2015 is Singapore’s 50th year! I pray that I walk more closely with the Lord, and listen to His leading.

Take My Life

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I sat across from my two teacher friends at Bakers & Cook last week hearing them take turns to tell their moving and empowering tales on Teachers’ Day. As one friend recounted her experience, the other friend wiped tears off her cheeks, gushing at the sentimentality of the moment. As they recounted their versions of Teachers’ Day 2014, my mind was working to find a way to divert their attention onto something else. I had no inspirational Teacher’s Day story or memorable gift from a student that reaffirmed my calling, and I did not want to be in the position to have to answer another, “So, how was your Teachers’ Day?” question. My Teachers’ Day was spent ordinarily. My form class gave me an obligatory Teachers’ Day notebook, most of the messages reading “Happy Teachers’ Day!”. I walked into class and distributed their results slips, and they behaved the exact same way they usually do.

I know we are not in this job for the recognition, praise or thanks, but truth be told, sometimes that is what we need to keep us going. And this year, I felt trashy and tired and tired of having to keep up with the smiles and grins. I feel under-appreciated by the school, and by the students. I need to find my bearings again. I need to refuel my soul and remember why I am in this profession. I have spent this entire week savouring the times spent alone and with friends, and wondering if it is time to move on. But half the time I spend beating myself up over why such a question even exists to plague me. If I believed with all my heart that teaching is a calling, then why do I struggle so hard to find out if it is time to change courses and move on? It is either I commit what I do every day into the Lord’s hands, no matter the amount of acknowledgement or praise because I want to labour for the Lord; or I have taken it upon myself to decide what career and future I want.

My principal wrote and shared a personal poem with us on Teachers’ Day. It may have been the most meaningful point that day for me:

Dear God, who am I to be so blessed
with this motley crew who call me ‘captain’
That You in Your infinite wisdom
gifted me when my posting did happen?
In my third year now, I give you thanks
for this precious gift, wondrously fine,
of colleagues, with loving hearts of gold,
Team _, one I’m proud to call mine.

Teachers, on this, most sacred of days,
may the ideals which influenced your choice
of this noble profession remain
and give cause to make your hearts rejoice
May today be a gentle reminder
that while rocky days may un-inspire,
you are much loved and held dear, for truly
you have the power to set hearts afire!

I pray you’ll enjoy, until you retire
many more years to lead, care and inspire! 

My career this year (and hilariously by extension, my life) seems to have paled in comparison to previous years. I wish I relied on God in the pursuit of my career achievements and choices. I wish I had prayed before I took on roles and responsibilities, before I decided to binge and mark, before I decided to run my life in a way that I approved of. I had allowed my emotions to cloud my judgment in my job and at many points, probably was not in the best shape to give my students my all. I feel ashamed when I see the extent to which my friends have given up my holiday and time and sleep to work with their students to build them up.

I do have plans for change, but God needs to to come before those plans first. It never is easy to put your thoughts in words, especially when it is this close to midnight. My prayer is just that I continue to seek out God’s will and figure out all these infinite possibilities with His direction.

Restlessness

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I googled “restlessness” for apt images related to my current status and settled on this discomforting photograph of an empty bed, sheets unfolded and creases intact. Whether it is a scene of a person’s bed before, during and after sleep we cannot tell. We only know as much as the fact that it is in media res, it is at a point of incompletion, it mirrors the yet to be.

They say the three year mark is the point where one wavers the most in their career. You either choose to stay, or choose to leave. We are at our most volatile, because we crave for more – more excitement, more drama, more adrenaline rushes and challenges. We crave for differentiation and change, we crave for new things to anticipate, we run away from stagnation, from the mechanics of routine, and we try not to remain in the same place at one time.

This restlessness is hard to put in words. But I shall try.

I do not know what God has in store for me at this present moment of my life. I am twenty-seven years old this year, and yet I have no clue what God wants or what I want to do with my life. I am beginning to feel boredom in the routine of things we do. Do not get me wrong, I still love being in the classroom and interacting with my students. I find all that meaningful and valuable time spent. I glow when I see the students grow. Yet I feel weary at the writing of reports, the meetings, the presentations, the emails and the office politics.

I have been urged to consider moving ahead in the leadership track in education. I have been encouraged to think about my professional development. I have been blessed to be looked upon rather favourably by the leaders in the school, and hence given opportunities to attend workshops and developmental courses. But when I stop to consider what I want for myself, I cringe in confusion. I don’t think I want to pursue further study in Literature or in teaching Literature. I could – but at this point I have not gathered enough experience to make an informed decision about my interest and capacity for it. I could take on CELTA to earn myself an added qualification from BC, but the teaching of English Language does not fuel my soul and interest. I have had moments where I thought of going to childhood or preschool education, or special education, this (more of) idealism stemming from my inspirational mum, who had an undeniable passion for those two areas in education.

I am in charge of the career guidance programme in my school and yet I remain so tentative and unsure about my own future and career progression.

Recently I surfed around some websites and found a specific area of interest – children’s literature. For some reason, this specialisation calls out to me more than others. It seems like an intersection of some of my favourite areas of interest – Literature, childhood and sociology. If I was keen, I might be able to make it through the applications and interviews to get a postgraduate scholarship, enough to finance most if not all of my further study. If the application failed, I may still likely be able to secure a study loan at the very least. The catch? Children’s Literature seems like a rare breed and I have only read of courses overseas in the UK or US. Thinking of a year abroad to pursue a Masters degree is even more imminent a decision to make.

I also want to carve out some time to well, be available. The elusive new friend I met at the end of last year still creeps into my mind at times and I wonder when God will allow Mister Shao to come into my life. Perhaps I am not yet ready, and my heart and soul is not yet settled in the Lord.

Restlessness? What better word than to describe my current state of being?

 

 

Straight Talk I

In all honesty this has been an issue talked about to death since i started working. But that does not invalidate its importance.

I am twenty six (for a moment i typed 27.) this year, and am really seeking for a way to have a healthy social life (of which family and church comes under) and work life. There is a recent Facebook post that says if you have those two, you cannot have enough sleep – you can only pick two out of three.

As teachers, we have tons of teacher-friends on facebook, and I have to admit that not all of us are the happiest beings on earth. We are often bearing the gripe of marking our homework over the weekends, commiserating in the same poor fate together.

The more I think about it though, the more I felt that something isn’t too right. How could such a big proportion of teachers, albeit from my perspective, be taxed as such? It is hard for someone who isn’t a teacher to understand. Many parents and members of the public have contributed their fair share to the discussion of the workload and expectations of a teacher. But without an authentic understanding of the reality going on in an actual classroom, whatever remark or advice just comes across as tacky and based in ignorance. Someone recently mentioned that as teachers we should learn to “manage expectations”. That stirred up some frustration amongst some teachers because it implies an incompetence to do what we should be able to do.

I also realised in increasing measure, that we are not quite doing what we signed up for as educators. I would like to become more adept at doing my thing in the classroom, but there are many other things drawing our attention away from the actual practice in class. I find myself drained and because I’m drained, I find myself settling. Settling for minimum effort, and thinking less about how to maximise learning.

I do try. I believe I do take pride in what I do, although at times, we face situational constraints that compels us to make choices, just like the choice between a career, a social life, and good well being.

But truth be told these are sentiments I am not proud of. Why should our thoughts be always so bleak? If we are facing constraints, do our minds need to be similarly so?

In the past week, a colleague had approached a friend and I for help to be substitute oral examiners on a few afternoons. This led to a conversation that sparked off some thoughts for me. My friend was quite upset that people seemed unaware of the work we had done on the other afternoons when we have had to help cover for them in duty. There were other alternatives, taxing us was just one of a few other reasonable alternatives. We had committed slightly more than 2 weeks of afternoons 3 to 6+ doing oral testing. As much as I was glad someone was voicing out a similar displeasure, I felt uncomfortable by it too. Shouldn’t a department work together in mutual support? It was my responsibility to support the learning and assessment of my students, sometimes at the expense of my afternoons, my holidays, my personal and social lives. Should we be defining our job scope in the workplace in order to “protect” ourselves? Does it really have to come down to that? That seemed to run contrary to what I believed a calling is. If everyone began drawing boundaries to work, the world would be terribly unpleasant.

But I am far from being noble. I find that I am much inclined to being grouchy about the workload we are given. Is there any guiding principle that will help me decide where the meaning and joy is in all these? 

Just this morning a few good friends (and inspirational teacher figures) shared an article on Facebook that seemed to specially acknowledge and speak to my concerns and gripes. But the article sounded a very optimistic outlook – one that called for young, noble, aspiring educators to stand together and fight hard for change. It sounded very … fresh-faced and ideal. I do agree that we need people who are in it for the right reasons (not the money, the lifestyle, or even the acknowledgement from the kids) to help lift up this foreboding shadow of teacher-hood off our shoulders. But the article seems also to deal with the issues on a very idealistic and generic level. What about the individual teachers who are willing to fight for an education which they believed in? How long can they last?

Not everyone is made for this. Then I find myself asking: am I?

“Get Busy Living”

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne

I have spent 25 years living a very predictable Singaporean life. I grew up in an upper-middle class home with parents who worked pretty regularly high-paying office jobs that paid for our shift from a condominium to a semi-detached private residence. My childhood was made up of taking the kindergarten bus and singing kindergarten songs, buying a huge cake and donning a pretty dress on my birthday to celebrate with the entire kindergarten, weekend breakfasts to A&W (the one that used to be at Ang Mo Kio), the community library, and my constant companion all the way up to Primary school was a domestic helper. In order to make sure their daughter had a secure place in a Secondary school, I was enrolled into a primary school with a secondary school affiliation. I always took the school bus until I discovered I could walk home and found enjoyment in that period of solitude. My secondary school was a girls’ mission school and taught us that it was “always better to the safe than sorry”. It comes as no surprise that we grew up with the mentality that our decisions have high stakes and we should usually just “go with the flow” to avoid incurring costs. So I “worked hard”, even though I did not quite understand Science and managed to clear my O Levels rather decently. I went to a very “safe” junior college because a junior college is where all able students go after their O Levels. In fact, the better the grade I received, the better a school I had to go to. We threshed about helplessly in the first three-quarters of a year or so in junior college, until we discovered our talents (or passions) in some areas. Then having done well enough at A Levels, I secured a scholarship to support my university education, and completed a degree in Singapore. Afterwhich I studied and obtained a post-graduate diploma and am now a teacher – a typical, predictable, “go with the flow”, “better to be safe than sorry” lifestyle. Which I find increasingly problematic.

Now you did not need to read all of the above in order to figure out that I want to create some change in my life and “get busy living”. It is not that I am dissatisfied with the life I am currently living, or even that I have some unspeakable regret which I need to confront. I simply feel that I have lived a life without question for 25 years. That fact alone throws me slightly off-balance.

Today (it is one of the many days I have thought of this) I finally recognized that I do not want to be a teacher for life. Now some people can say that with such confidence I respect them. But I cannot even bring myself to think about that possibility of being a teacher for life (haha). Again, it is not that I am dissatisfied with my present career or working environment. I just don’t think I will be teaching my entire life, and I definitely will not be working under M.OE my entire life – that would be just sad.

But today is also the day I realized I do not know what else I want to / could possible be if not an educator. (gasp.)

Horror of horrors I suddenly realized my identity as a being is tied so much to my job that I cannot imagine doing anything else but that! (It is not mutually exclusive to say that I cannot imagine doing anything else but teaching, and I cannot imagine teaching my entire life.) The very thought that I had no thoughts about how to “get busy living” other than teach, freaked me out. How can someone not have an opinion about such a matter, seriously? 

I tried to recall this: What did I want to do as a kid? One time I told the world (the world being the participants and mentor at this motivational workshop for primary school kids) that I wanted to be either a Mathematics teacher, or a counselor. (Wahh, my fate to work with young people have been sealed since then?) Then I dropped the idea of being a Mathematics teacher and moved towards the idea of a psychologist. In secondary school I found interest in art and visual design, and played with the possibility of pursuing a diploma in a polytechnic. (Of course it did not materialise.) In university I thought of becoming a social worker, a counselor, a tuition teacher with a specific skills set. All these I toyed with, until my scholarship grant from M.OE was offered me.

After that time, I am now a teacher. But is this all I want to try in my life?

What do I want to do with my life? And again, I find myself without a voice to answer. Maybe I should start with a bucket list, and not be afraid to share it.

I Love What I Do

Because I don’t want to ever look back and think, “you shouldn’t have, hoshao”, I want to write that I love what I do. 

I love how the students past and present come up to you for advice on various matters – academic and non-academic. I have not taught that many students, but already I realize that as educators we are in a prime position to influence and guide them children in the littlest ways that will shape their lives. When they are late, we are often in the best place to admonish them and rationalize their selfish behavior. When they have done well, we are often in the best place to praise them and encourage them to go further. And, although them kids may not act like they do, they often listen. 

I love the conversations I can have with my students, because they look up to you as a teacher, an older sister, a mother (well, I don’t know about mother), someone who can mentor and guide them when they have questions. Often they do, and we decide how to handle them to help them best learn. 

I love it that this job is dynamic and fluid. One day the students are crazy monsters, but the next they can be gentle giants. This job allows you to work with real people, real kids, real lives that matter. It allows you to be you, to an extent. 

I love it that there are many like-minded like-hearted people where I work at. The awful twitter trend is disgusting and foolish and disgraceful (plus all the other words I cannot care to name) but believe it or not I love the community that God has led me to be a part of. I may not be the best teacher I can be right now (definitely, surely not) but I certainly want to move in that direction. 

I love it that I can learn so much from the students too. They may be young and amateurish in many regards, but there are moments when they touch you and they teach you things too. The interactors did an awesome job at the food distribution drive event this afternoon, I am proud of them. 

I love too how some students are amazing role models for me as well. Their dedication and commitment is exemplary even among us teachers. 

There are just too many reasons why I love my job. Even though it bogs me down and screws up my body clock and makes me a dysfunctional member in my family (right now). I really enjoy what I do. Thank you naughty kids. I think you make me a more confident, compassionate, better person. 

#07_Empty Rooms or Uncharted Spaces

Ten years ago when I was in Secondary Two, studying Literature at Upper Secondary was one of the surest decisions I made. Heck,  it wasn’t even achoice because I knew for sure I wanted to study it for O Levels, and knew for sure that I could. But hearing from fellow teacher friends after their recent promotional meetings and seeing my Secondary Two students decide which subject combination to opt for during the streaming exercise sends a chilly excitement up my spine. The feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are just too familiar.

One promise we made before we were sent out to the various schools earlier this year was to keep the lit torch shining high and bright. Lit is dying – they told us – and urged us to keep the passion for lit alive. Some of us were sent, somewhat like the apostles in the early church, to schools that didn’t yet have the skeletal foundations in place to support the teaching and learning of Literature as an O/N Level subject. That is why you were sent there – our Literature prof said with such power that he nailed that very line to our hearts with steely conviction. Six months later I beg to paint a slightly grey and different picture than what I expected to see.

Upper Secondary Literature is teetering tottering on the edges of nonexistence. I heard that the students are struggling to cope with the demands of the subject – the intense readings, the rigour of writing and thought combined, the subtleties of the language – and the teacher is struggling to cope with the huge learning gap between student and exam requirement. There are several reasons to explain this huge disparity. The main reason is that students are automatically made to study Literature when they do not qualify to sit for other subjects in particular subject combinations. The same go for subjects like Art or D&T. (Out there, people think that as long as you have a paintbrush, paint and paper, you can be an artist. Smirk.) So students and teacher are suffering because of this incomprehensible pothole in the way the school’s streaming system works (or the options the school provides).

In any case, the school has decided to address this gap by not offering Literature at Upper Secondary level any more. Normal (Academic) students who have probably not written a full-length discussive essay in their entire lower secondary lives, will no longer be shell-shocked when they have to do so in their third year. Express students have also been made to think that Literature is a monster that will churn out X-es in your paper, because this troll will never find satisfaction in your language use.

What do I have to say about this?

Nothing. Not yet, at least. I understand the limitations of the school, the students and the system. I don’t think it is realistic to demand that we maintain Literature classes at Upper Secondary, because there is clearly a learning gap between Literature at Lower and Upper Secondary that needs desperately to be addressed and re-examined. Having taught the Secondary Twos this year, I know that not many of them have a flair for reading and/or writing, and it would be pushing it to open up an Upper Secondary Literature class next year. It is not practical, and it does not make sense.

However, because we lit fellow teachers have been so well-trained with the mantra that we must not give up holding the lit torch up high in difficult times when we face persecution (oh this religious analogy does grow in flavour), I know for sure that Lit is the way to go. Literature to my Secondary School was a compulsory subject, although everyone said it was the hardest to score being the most subjective of its Geog and History counterparts. Yet, that worked. Nobody had qualms doing Literature whether in its Pure or Elective form, because they knew from Day One that that was the catch you had to live with. And they worked at it. And I enjoyed my Secondary School days because of Literature.

Not (only) because I did well in it, but also because Literature opened my eyes to many more things. I enjoyed the Sciences and Mathematics because I had Literature to help me appreciate numbers through the rigour of appreciating words. I also believed that Literature was responsible for developing our school culture in a huge way. In making us sensitive, thinkers, writers, speakers, presenters. In developing our skill for language and oral communication and speeches. In adding value to the arts like Art and D&T and Home Economics. Literature was important – and in a big way – more than just books and technical elaborated linguistic jargon. Lit was about life, and it taught us to learn.

That is why I strongly believe that our school culture needs to be rooted in some kind of Lit thought. We are beyond discussing Literature as a subject combination here; I would like to suggest looking at Literature as an approach of thought and culture. We need to gun for aesthetic appreciation, performances, musicals, plays; a reflective culture, one that enjoys expressing their thoughts and feelings in words; a communicative body, one that enjoys sharing and airing personal views in public spaces; a compassionate entity, one that values the person’s morality and good character. We need to fire up a passion for reading, good vocabulary, for storytelling, for imagination. Not WOW or mindcraft imagination, but fireworks, beach parties, a whole new world kind of imagination. And I think if we keep shooting for these, the kind of students will change. They will become more appreciate of the arts, they will be more knowledgeable about performances, they will be better audiences and we can begin to groom creative thinkers and speakers and idealists from the lot that comes in with us.

I had a short chat with some EL teachers today, and we wandered into the risky desert space of talking about dreams and ideals. You can have ideals and dreams, he said, but you will find… Truth be told the rest of the sentence trailed off beneath or beyond my head into nothingness. I am not gunning for immediate change, I do not expect Literature classes to hatch in one or two years. I do not expect to see a change in our student’s language proficiency in the next one or two years.

But I do expect to keep holding up the Lit torch. Even if it just me doing so now, and even if I am not holding up a Literature class, but merely a shadow of the Literature classes that are to come. I think the school needs to move in a particular direction and we need to help students become more aware socially, emotionally, mentally and linguistically. And surely we cannot keep on doing the same thing and expect our students to grow in calibre and passion for Literature and the Arts? Hopefully this is where we can have a bigger part to play for school – be creators and thinkers rather than silent followers.

When Prof D told us that Lit is dying, he probably stated it as a generic claim. But perhaps in some schools, Lit is in its incubation period? Like eggs that need a period of time to incubate and warm themselves up, like chicks that need a period of time to flex their wings and learn to walk and subsequently fly, I think our school and our students need that time and space to become thinkers, learners and creators with a fairly good mastery of language. And because that the ability to use words to your advantage and knowing how to appreciate literature and the arts (and life) is so important, we will fight to give our students that.

Empty rooms or uncharted spaces?

I prefer to look at it as the latter.

#03_Thoughts on Teaching

Need to know my kids and fall in love with them, and not just the them in the classroom.

Facebook, my profile

After ten weeks of falling in and out of love with my students, I still have not learn to love my kids with all my heart. I lament that my love is so human in all its limitations and boundaries. It is so much easier loving students who are keen, responsible and respectful learners; while neglecting students who are unmotivated, uncooperative, and disrespectful. Yet, if we really think about it, it is the latter group of students who needs our love and attention, even if it means they first need to learn to learn. So this commitment to “know my kids and fall in love with them, and not just the them in the classroom”, still remains unfulfilled.

I was absent on Teachers’ Day, but when I returned to school during the holidays for a workshop and to pick up my worksheets and textbooks, I saw a few stranded teachers’ day cards in my pigeon hole. One of them was from a student I never expected. He was the boy I would call on without fail in the middle of every class for either (A) forgetting to bring a piece of work (B) disturbing his classmates (C) not participating and doing the assigned class work. He was the first boy I gave demerit points to, and the first student I sent for detention. He was the boy I spent recesses and lunches chasing after, giving pep talks and signing contractual agreements. He was the boy I was beginning to find hard to love because it is a challenge to understand him and make him understand me.

Perhaps rather than out of his own will, his parents made him drop me a note. Yet, receiving that unexpected note just warmed my heart. It made me realize that D may be a tough nut to understand with his really ridiculous decisions not to submit his work, but he was still a boy with a heart as big as his self.

Many times our kids are lovely kids who are misguided or who lacks guidance, which explains why they choose to do things based on their whims and fancies and emotions, and on which side of the bed they get up from. More on this to come. For now, as the forth term of the school year begins, may I keep the heart and conviction to see the best in every student, and love them because they are a creation of God, and they are special. I need to fall in love with them; and fall in love with my job.