This week’s reflection

This week has been a mix of happy and sad for me. I’m putting in more time and effort in my lesson planning because I realized how important it is for me to be absolutely prepared for my classes. I had 3 classes on Tuesday, and every single class was just amazing!

My stronger class was top notch that day. I prepared an activity for them where they had to move around different stations to solve different clues before they could tackle the final mystery. The topic that day was understanding graphic materials (advertisements, notices, maps etc), but if I just got them to sit down and do the questions, they’ll really hate English. They loved it and moved around seamlessly whenever the timer (Mr Chicken) rang.

My second class was a weaker class and we did pronouns. I realized, while explaining the different rules of when to use what, that ENGLISH IS FREAKING CONFUSING AND DIFFICULT TO LEARN. So I decided to scrap the whole explanation and just played a pronoun game with them. We sang Bruno Mars’ Just The Way You Are together and circled all the pronouns. I personally don’t remember learning pronouns (or grammar for that matter) by memorizing the rules but just by gut feeling after seeing how it’s used many times. Then, I put them into groups and gave them a homemade whiteboard each. I put up questions on the blackboard and they have to compete by answering the questions on their own board and raise them up. I use this all the time and the kids love it!

My most challenging class was also super well-behaved that day! I’d given two kids special pens I bought from Singapore because they were amazing in the class before, and they’d gone back to brag to their other friends. So everyone was really good that day because they all wanted special pens too!

It’s hard to explain the special moments I had in that class that day, but I can never forget this kid, Rizal’s face when he became a superstar that day. He completed his worksheet in half the time other kids took, and spent the rest of the time standing next to me to help me mark other kids’ papers! T______T Rizal is the naughtiest but cutest kid in that class, and I was so proud of him. I saw him and his dad that night at the mamak, so I told his dad that he’s very lucky to have such a bright kid. Rizal was just smiling like crazy behind his dad and when I told his dad that Rizal is doing very well and is really intelligent (it’s true, he’s in the “last” class but this kid is brilliant), his dad couldn’t even believe it. I think I made his night 😀

So overall, Tuesday was just a really good day for me. I felt like finally, the kids are learning and showing progress (albeit veryyyy slowly but I’ll take it).

Then Wednesday came and it was just a HORRIBLE day I wanted to cry. I found out that some teachers might not like me very much because I don’t help out enough with other work like decorating the halls, preparing for meetings, admin work etc. I’m already super worn out from preparing like crazy for my classes, so I don’t know how to find time to do those things! Apparently I should have brought my kids to the hall DURING my lesson so I could decorate the hall. This made me very angry but I can’t say much because it’s the reality that teachers have to do so much and it’s not the other teachers’ fault *bites lips

And my classes went really bad that day too. The kids were very agitated and tired because half of them went for some olahraga thing and had spent all their energy running and sprinting. I went to this somewhat ok class but that day they were just driving me up the wall. I slept really late the night before to prepare for this class, and seeing how they don’t give two hoots about my effort just made me really sad. I told them twice that if they continue talking while I’m talking, I don’t think today is a good day to learn. I gave them consequences, gave them yellow cards for first warning, put them in the focus chair etc but nothing worked.

So midway through my lesson where only about half the class was listening, I packed my things and told them that’s it, I can’t teach anymore. I told them to just copy the notes and study on their own for their exam next week. And for the first time ever since I’ve started teaching, I walked out of a class. I’ve wanted to do this many times with my challenging classes, but I’ve never actually done it.

Some of the kids came running after me and begged me to come back. They were at the corridor, some crying, some pulling me, some apologizing. I told them to go back in because they were causing a commotion, but they wouldn’t let me go. I was really mad at that class, but I realized I was being unfair to half the class who wanted to learn. So I walked back in, told them to sit down and just do their own work while I sit there to make sure they don’t loiter around.

One boy stood up, said “Stand up class” and tried to get everyone to apologize as a class but they were too afraid to stand/speak. One girl, who is sick that day and whom I spent two hours with at the clinic the day before, came to me with tears and asked me to forgive the class. I was this close to just bawling my eyes out to be honest wtf

Anyway, I took a few minutes to calm down while I prepared the materials for the activity, stood up and pasted papers around the class for the activity. I gathered everyone (who was all shocked and confused – “cikgu bukan tengah marah ke?”) and told them that we’re gonna play a game and the class went alright after that. Midway through, one boy came to me and asked me to forgive him, and I said I already did, that’s why we’re playing a game. (also wanted to cry at this point *crybaby)

Before I walked out of the class, I apologized to everyone for walking out and for being angry at them. I don’t want to be a teacher who likes scolding her students, and I told them to not make me be that kind of teacher. I just want to play games and have fun with them because learning IS supposed to be fun. The kids then came to “salam” me and told me they’ll not do it again.

So I guess…everything went ok…but I was really upset at myself for being so emotional that day. I can’t believe I let my emotions get the better of me and was so unfair to the kids who wanted to learn. I was tired and frustrated, but they are still kids after all.

I’m sorry this post is so long, but I want to record down everything that happened this week!

Today was thankfully a good day. There is this one very quiet kid in my really weak class who can’t read at all. This class is full of very noisy hyperactive kids, and I almost always miss this boy from my radar. Today I saw his work and realized that he hasn’t done anything all day. I got frustrated because he just sat there staring at me blankly despite not understanding anything! I told him (quite harshly) that I will see him in his dorm tonight to teach him what we’ve done today.

I didn’t think too much about it, but I heard from another teacher that he went to her with a huge smile and told her that he’s very happy because I’m going to teach him tonight. He said he wants to be good in English so he can go overseas. When I heard that, my heart melted into a big gooey mess. I can’t believe that despite my frustrated tone, despite my harshness, this silly boy was still so happy that I’ll teach him!

So I sat down with him during my dinner at the local mamak and we went through all the flashcards together. He cannot even read RUN and TRASH and ROAD and we just spent the 2 hours reading them again and again. Even the waitress kakak joined us and did it together with him! I could tell that he was getting frustrated for not knowing how to read but he went on and on. I told him to take a break, but he continued flipping the cards and trying to read them, his milo ais untouched.

Today, Loga has taught me so many lessons to be a better teacher. His patience and determination inspire me to try harder despite my bad days in school. His happiness to learn, despite me being frustrated at him, showed me that deep down inside, every kid wants to learn and wants to experience success. This is why I teach for Malaysia.

————————–

Here are two videos I’d like to share!

This is a combination of three of my classes singing songs and working in groups. (these are my stronger classes)

If you remember, I’m actually tone deaf and I can’t sing to save my life. But I’ve been using a lot of songs and have to always sing the loudest so the kids would sing along. I realize that if you want to have fun with your classes, you’ll have to make a fool of yourself first so the kids would feel more comfortable in class. Everytime I hear my voice I feel like cringing but they have never made fun of me *touched

TV3 came to one of my classes for an interview that day! Thank you Nazrul for this, my kids really enjoyed being filmed 😀 And the camera really added 10lbs to my face FML T___T

158 comments

  1. TBC says:

    Suet Li, you are truly an inspiration in life. Reading your experiences always put me in awe of your passion and energy. All the best to your efforts in becoming the best teacher!

  2. ap says:

    hey i watched finis the video even though i can only understand ten words of malay even though my father is indonesian wtf *shining eyes anywayz u look great on cam albeit fatter than i remember lolll #inspirationalpostagainnnn

  3. MoonFlower says:

    Hi Sweat Lee, ive been a blog reader of yours for the past 4/5 years. Just want to let ure a true inspiration. So proud of you! I dont think i will ever have the courage/determination to do what youve done for all these kids =) x

  4. Amanda says:

    Suet, you’re amazing. Your passion is genuine. How many Malaysians who graduate from the States would be willing to go all the way back to a Malaysian kampung to teach? You’re just an inspirational figure.

  5. Jocelyn Teo says:

    I was like awed when listening to you speak Malay in the video! Okay granted I can’t speak the lang at all (I’m a Singaporean Chi) but you sounded incredibly fluent. Were you that good even before Teach For Msia or did teaching help you in that area too?

    And I wanted to say, despite the blog being about less silly stuffs or fashion or funny stuffs etc, I still read your blog because like what you said, you’ve grown up, and it really is reflected in your posts. Also, I’m inspired everytime you share your stories about your students, colleagues etc. It makes me want to make a difference to my society as well, and I think you’re doing a wonderful job because your heart is in the right place. ♥

    Jiayou Teacher Suet Li! Will be cheering for you.

  6. cybelle says:

    Hi Cikgu Suet!

    I wish I had a teacher like you. School would’ve been more fun. =D

    Anyways, just want to let you know that when you feel like you’re tired and it’s hard to go on, remember you have all of us readers rooting for you.

    *tepuk tangan untuk Cikgu Suet*

  7. Jan says:

    Hi Suet, i am honestly very touched… what you’re doing is very, very meaningful and it will change ppl’s lives.
    we all support you :):) take good care of yourself too..

  8. Vanessa says:

    Keep it up Sweat Lee! Indeed being a teacher is not an easy task but the encouragement and impact a teacher left on a student could make a difference in their life. Your sacrfice and hardwork to these kids is an inspiration to your readers!

  9. suraya says:

    Hi Suet, i tried not tear up but this post is so touching and i feel bad for all the frustrations you had. I wish I’m one of the kids in your class. I never had a fun teacher back in school days. It was always either reading, copy notes or quiz. What you are doing to these kids are inspirational and amazing. *pat shoulder & thumbs up* Keep it up! 🙂

  10. Smeech says:

    I was skeptical at first when you wanted to do this programme cos that’d be such a waste of your talent! *shallow

    But after reading this post and watching the video, I really look up to you. Not many would give up their easy lives and promising careers to teach in a village; I know I wouldn’t. So, thank you Cikgu Suet, for doing this for our children! <3

  11. Cass says:

    Hey suet li!!! I’m so glad your week turned out great overall! Your account of your students’ progress is very positive and I hope your subsequent days with them will keep getting better! Btw, I’m super envious of your trilingualism!

  12. bs says:

    eh your lessons sound damn fun la!!! i wanna attend also can or not wtf

    and so damn proud of you lor seriously, wanna cry already T_T also your BM damn fasih T_T

    don’t beat yourself up too much for being emotional! you are after all, human. and it’s your great passion and dedication that makes you such an awesome teacher so of course you’re emotionally invested! you’re just doing your best and that, is more than most could ask for. <3

  13. tina says:

    hello suet,
    I’ve been following your blog since your freshman year of college..and I have got to say that the transformation you go through is astounding. I remember looking at your blog and being baffled by a girl talking about how fat she is and lamenting about the calories in a tangerine. and kind of laughing while rolling my eyes simultaneously. But I have got to say that its hard to find very many people with the kind of passion you have now a days. Its especially refreshing that a pretty girl who is interested in fashion, makeup, and all the trappings of vanity is not choosing those above objectives as a profession and the only thing to be passionate about. I don’t know. It’s refreshing. Seriously kudos to you. I can feel your passion and I can feel that you care. Seeing that you care so much is stimulating the compassion receptors in my own brain. Go slow and steady so as you don’t burn out. Good luck!

  14. Goingkookies says:

    There are going to be lots of down days but the good days will more than make up for it. To do great things are always never easy.. look what our parents had to go through to bring us up right! 😉

    You are definitely an inspiration to us all for giving your time, your life in trying to better the world.. even if it is some ulu place in some kampung.

    But take heart that you will sow what you reap and maybe you won’t always see immediate results and might at times wonder why are you doing so much and if it’s worth it at all.. but 1 year down the road, 2 years, you will definitely have impacted at least one child.. and even that itself is a lot.

    There will be many unbelievers.. many ppl who may not support your decisions too or ur methods.. u might face ‘envy’ among other teachers when u do well with ur students.. but i pray that u’ll be able to stay strong for ur children.. and know that u’re making a difference.

    Hugs for all the late nights and for all the bad days ahead.. may u know that u re an inspiration in Malaysia, Australia and all over the world when people read your posts!

  15. ..*AnNiE*.. says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it’s because I’ve started my practicum and I know exactly how hard it is to plan for lessons and teach. But you’re truly an inspiration. During the first three weeks of my practicum, there were times that I felt like giving up. I questioned myself the decision of becoming a teacher. I even doubted myself. But when that happened, I told myself to look up to you. (Yes, I’m a little fans of yours wtf.)

    They say a mediocre teacher tells, a good teacher explains and a great teacher inspires. Without a doubt you’re a great teacher. Jia you Liew Suet Li! (Must write in full name baru got ooomph wtf. =D)

  16. Amanda says:

    On a bad day, you might think that whatever you’ve put in is in vain. Never. You have touched many kids’ lives. Even if it might not initially show on their report cards, you have personally touched their lives. Your enthusiasm and contributions really, really mean a lot to them. Don’t give up, suet.

  17. s.ting says:

    I wonder what makes you choose this teaching pathway .or have you been thinking about doing this even before you have graduated? you’re so different from others, what you act, what you think. and you’re doing things that is really inspiring. despite it is really hard, you never give up, I have to salute you for that. I think even you keeping your blog updated, is a way of good influence to your blog readers.

  18. strawberry says:

    wow in the video, you look totally like a mafia boss ruling your class like that! very cool!

    actually, can you use the school’s copier machine to secretly photocopy the students’ notes now and then? so you won’t need to spend so much money every month? if it’s cos the copier is located in a very open area, no problem, i can teach you a secret method. you’re looking at the master of steal-office-materials-and-equipment-without-being-caught here wtf

    in fact, i just stole 1 scotch tape and 1 box of staple bullets from the office yesterday wtf *imitates freddie mercury’s victory fist

  19. strawberry says:

    *stapler

    come to think of it, maybe i can help you draw up a “strategy” to steal the school copier machine, so you can photocopy to your heart’s content in the comfort of your room wtf

  20. Jocelyn Toh says:

    There should be a ‘Like’ button for this post, and every other post that you’ve done for Teach for Malaysia, so that I can like them all. You’ve done an amazing job, and I hope you will continue to persevere, because anything worth doing is not easy. And you’re really courageous for choosing the road less taken.

  21. strawberry says:

    hello it’s me again wtf

    i feel pretty uneasy over my steal school copier comment cos i scare it’ll get you into trouble! please do delete it if you deem it inappropriate ok!

    Ryan Gosling is calling me to bed now so bye bye wtf

  22. HiLo says:

    Cikgu Sweat,
    Thanks for sharing your story. What i intended to say had already being said by your legion of fans. You have given me faith and courage to try a little harder to make a difference.

  23. don says:

    all the best and keep it up!
    been a reader since 4-5 years ago..

    and one of your colleagues, Angeline O.A is actly my secondary school classmate, just realize thru fb =.=”, nvr know she is doing awesome job like u also. AHAHAHA..

  24. Seow says:

    Miss Suet Li,

    It’s good to c u putting so much effort and passion in your teaching life… I hope u’ll keep it up and continue with the same positive mindset in years to come. Just a piece of my mind though, although u might not stay in this school for long, but in government settings, life gets smoother if u can keep ur relation with other teachers better.. So do try to spare some time for their activities (decorating, gotong-royong or whatever) buy them some kuihs sometimes, n keep a smile on ur face when facing them no matter how much u hated tht person, life should be easier n happier. Good luck!

  25. lily says:

    I wish i could have a teacher like you back at my secondary years! the kids are lucky enough! All the best to your teaching life! Very inspiring! 🙂 and yeah, you look great in the TV too~

  26. Charlotte says:

    I didn’t understand a word of the video, but you can see how 100% passionate you are when you teach. Even through the hard times and high emotions and lack of sleep, I hope you feel like you are making a difference and it is all worthwhile.

  27. yvonne says:

    I know many people have said this but you’re AMAZING and ur malay is really good! you inspired me to be a better teacher. im a young teacher too 🙂 keep moving on, you’re already making a difference within such a short span of time. your kids are VERY lucky to have you as their teacher. and i believe they will remember you for the rest of their life :)))

  28. norick says:

    suet li dear.. keep it up!! thanks for giving hope to the nation.. thanks for not giving up on those kids that need it very much.. u got me teary eyes reading this..

    pls have my salute…

  29. v says:

    i get your determination as i used to be a teacher (minus the creative part). when you went to primary school in rural area the challenge is the kids are less likely to behave. anyway i get the feeling seeing form 5 kids with nowhere to go, but fret not i believe they somehow will make it in life. when i come to this engineering job, i see some lower level working their ass off, feel the responsibility to earn money and build up family. just that, their way will remain a bit hard. regardless what, hardwork pays eventually. there’s future for everyone.

  30. Sarah says:

    Hey Suet Li,

    U might not remember me but I was from Inti College too. I find that what you do is really inspiring! After joining the “rat race” for 3 years ++ I’m still finding my purpose in life. Working day in day out I never felt what I have done so far have made an impact on people’s life nor has it made an impact to my personal growth. I’m glad despite your frustrations you still preservere and kept on trying to make a change to these kids lives. I really look up to you. Do not give up! 🙂

  31. Ling says:

    Hey suet! You’re so pretty in the video. The kids are so lucky to have a creative and dedicated teacher like you! Keep up the good work. I’ve so much of respect for you 😉 never give up!

  32. newfoundglory says:

    I have been reading your blog for quite sometime and frankly speaking, I have a new found respect for you and teachers as a whole… Keep on doing what you are doing… I’m rooting for you…

    Go suet 🙂

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