Recalibrating, reevaluating

Teaching is so unpredictable. The success of your lessons are hinged upon soooo many different factors. The mastery of the objective of the day is dependent on the curent dynamic of the teacher and students, which is actually dependent on how the teacher feels that particular day (whether she had enough sleep, whether she ate breakfast, whether she has prepared extensively for class etc), on outside factors (is this the last few periods and the kids are restless? are other kids running around outside your class? are they tired from other things like Merentas Desa, Takraw competition, Olahraga, yadda yadda) and especially on how the students feel that day (whether they ate, whether they were bullied by other kids, whether THEY are bullying other kids, whether they were scolded by parents/other teachers, whether they feel like studying that day, and a million other factors).

Sometimes I beat myself up so much when my day goes wrong (allllllll the freaking time) but I try to remain positive about it. There are a lot of things that are beyond my locus of control and despite me wanting so much for my kids, sometimes I have to resign to the fate that today is just not the right day for them to learn. I feel conflicted though, because we only have this many schooling days in a year and if today is not the day, and tomorrow is not the day, and the rest of this week is not the day, then WHEN is it the day for them to be good and to learn successfully??

Teaching is so tough and challenging. Sometimes I feel like if I had a chance to talk to my one-year ago self, I’ll tell her to NOT choose this. If I knew how much tears and sweat would go into this, if I knew sometimes, how little can a teacher actually do to help change circumstances, if I knew how broken down I’ll be, I would tell her to run far far away from making this decision.

Yes, my spirits are very low right now. My motivation level is hovering dangerously close to zero, encroaching slightly to the negative side. I am feeling very unorganized, there are a million and one things to do outside teaching and I have not done any of them successfully. That would have been okay if my teaching is going well, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m a lousy teacher. I used to think that although I’m nowhere close to being transformational, I’m still somewhat an effective teacher. That seems like an incredibly naive thought in retrospect.

But I know I have to be strong enough to pick myself up. To some of my kids, I may be their only chance to get help from. I know I can’t beat myself up if by the end of the day, my kids did not master English enough to make me a really transformational teacher in terms of boosting their grades. I know I’ve spent a lot of time making sure my kids are not driven by exams, I’ve spent class time not drilling them to answer exam questions but to tell them how the world is like beyond their village, to tell them what Psychology and Law and Medicine and Economics all about, to encourage them to do their best even if they fail their exams, to sing English songs so they recognize the words they hear on radio, to talk about love, to be there for them as a big sister.

And that for me, is enough for now.


  1. Faiz says:

    Dear Cikgu Suet Li,

    Almost a year ago, before I went to do my internship at PEMANDU, I read your blog. Almost a year after, while in the process of applying for Teach For Malaysia, I’m reading your blog again. In fact, I’ve been reading your blog again and again eversince I first read it almost a year ago. I would like to thank you for being a source of inspiration, at least that’s what I think of you. You might not feel anything reading this comment, but I just wanna say cheer up and keep up the good work inspiring other people! =)

  2. Zen says:

    While searching on the web for my dear good friend, I get into your blog. Yes, I did find her somewhere in your past blog during your college time. But I read your blog with a lot of interest. It’s not only a nice lecture because of your writing (without the wtf), the stories make me feel happy to realize that there are still a lot of young idealistic people with vision, passion and compassion.
    Keep doing what you believe and you just got another supporter.

  3. cy says:

    this is my first time commenting after reading your blog for such a long while.
    because after seeing what you’ve been through to give the kids a better future, I really think that you deserve a medal or some super huge nobel price =)
    it’s definitely not an easy road for you. no one can judge you or tell you what to do.
    but you come with a genuinely good heart, and i hope that good heart can keep you going as far as possible. stay strong.

  4. jimmy says:

    Hey, I think if you have the heart to make things better, you will surely be able to do it! dont give up just yet! It’s just a bad day, and doesnt make ur decision of teaching the next generation wrong! All the best and keep up the good work!

  5. yumii says:

    i will never understand what you are going through now because I am not you. but i can feel your stress and frustration through this post. Please don’t be let down by all the situations you are facing right now.

    You are a tough and strong person, we know. But some times, you are allowed to loosen up and shed a tear or two. At least, to release your tension.

    But always remember, follow your heart. “Never regret anything because it was exactly what you want at that moment” – ayumi hamasaki.

  6. Pensilpatah says:

    Suet Lee,

    Jangan sekali-kali pernah menyesali keputusan yang dibuat. Buktikan pada diri yang kita ini sudah cukup dewasa dan matang untuk membuat keputusan. Komen saya, awak telah membuat satu keputusan yang sangat baik. Bukan itu sahaja, malah luarbiasa. Satu keputusan yang mana bukan semua orang berani untuk memilih – tetapi awak dengan berani dan yakin, memilih untuk menjadi seorang warga pendidik.

    Sepertimana awak alami tekanan sekarang, seperti itu juga ayah, ibu, dan cikgu awak alami dulu. Awak harus tahu, tekanan ini adalah biasa. Awak tak akan dapat lari daripadanya, melainkan menempuhi tekanan atau dugaan ini untuk ke peringkat seterusnya.

    Tenangkan diri, tariklah nafas sedalam-dalamnya. Hanya dengan ketenangan yang boleh memberi penyelesaian kepada segala kekusutan. Kerisauan tidak akan membantu. Ambillah masa. Jangan terburu-buru. Perubahan memerlukan masa yang panjang. Melainkan kehendak Tuhan, maka perubahan itu akan berlaku sekelip mata.

    Bersabarlah.. 🙂

  7. grace says:

    Hi..just dropping few words to encourage you. Things are tough for you right now, that’s for sure. Afterall we are human and we have our limits. and you just had yours. Good things never come easy and it is never achieved overnight too. Today you did your best and thats all matter.

  8. Aimi says:

    “Verily, with hardship there is relief” (Qur’an 94:6)

    Be patient. *hug* ….speaking from experience, usually the first year is the toughest for a private center teacher, and most probably one year PLUS is tougher for public school teachers. 🙂

    just sharing these with all teachers (or soon to be teachers):

    Teach like a champion

    Bringing Out the best in people
    >> using positive reinforcement to motivate people

  9. Aimi says:

    Ops! Should have posted this first. With just several views of youtube videos, you’ll get an effective, data proven, teaching method. It’s called Direct Instruction Approach/method.

    It’s quite boring for the kids, but it definitely demonstrated how it’s four steps really work. I’m sure with your creativity, you’ll make it fun AND effective for the kids.

  10. Ed says:

    This just mean we are human after all. You to your kids may be the only means of seeing the world, you being there for them may be their only chance of hearing what the world has to offer. A year may be short, to some of them it could be their best so far. Growing roses on a rocky bed may be tough but when one even just one blossoms you will know they worth your while.

    I leave you this – Hope you will recover your spirit and strength for the days ahead.

    Talents are best nurtured in solitude. Character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.
    ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

  11. Chengyee says:

    Hello suet,

    Do you have an fb account? I’d really like to keep in touch with you. I’m a friend of Jolene’s friend, lie yuen. We met sometime long ago to shop from pasar seni to nichii. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember but I wanted to say I’m very proud to know what you are doing right now, keep it up and all the best.

    Cheng yee

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