Today’s thoughts

After my very fulfilling and well-rested holiday, I had mixed feelings about coming back to school. On one hand, I was really excited to meet my students again and to see their joyful faces and happy smiles. On another, I was nervous and apprehensive too because..well, I have some very challenging kids. Kids whom I’ve tried my darnest trying to get to them, kids who test my patience every single day, kids whose parents I’ve met and kids whom I’ve spent most of my free time giving extra classes to. These are the kids I’ve paid way too much attention to but they are also the same people who are not showing progress at all.

Going back to school is daunting and scary. I woke up to the realization that I only have four more months left of 2012, and most of my kids have not shown progress at all. What am I to do?? I try my best everyday, they too have tried their best (most of the time), but none of this has bore fruit. My kids who can’t read STILL can’t read. My kids who can’t write STILL can’t write. My kids who can’t speak STILL can’t speak.

Their exam results are not improving, their behaviors are still unchanged. What have I not done?

Yes, sometimes I get the occasional ray of hope, the silver lining, but it is really not enough.

Teaching IS rocket science. There are so many elements to it and even if I’ve checked all the boxes, sometimes it’s still hardly enough. How do some teachers do it? I have passion, A TRUCKLOAD of it. I have persevered, every single freaking day. I have planned for many excruciating hours. I have invested my kids. I have reflected and have written points to improve on, and yet, it still feels like I’m back at square one.

Take today for example.

There was this boy, let’s call him A. He is usually quite defiant in class but in a quiet way. He doesn’t disrupt the class but doesn’t like doing his work. He’s alright in English, not failing but not getting As either. Today, he slept when I gave out work. This is one of the better classes, so I cannot tolerate having a student sleep in this class.

I walked to him, asked him to take out his book. He ignored me. I gently tapped his arm and asked him politely to take out his book. He ignored me. All his friends kept calling his name, telling him that he’s being rude, he ignored them. Finally, I raised my voice and said he’s following me to the principal’s office after class. He woke up, stared at me angrily and kept his stare the entire lesson.

When the bell rang, I walked to him and asked him to follow me. He didn’t budge. Everyone was around us now at this point and when moments like this arise, it really feels to me that I’m playing a very risky strategy game. In fact, I feel like I’m playing a strategy game in school everyday. Every move I make has to be thought through carefully first, everything I should say or do has to go through an elimination process in my head. If I don’t deliberate all my actions cautiously, my actions may backfire and may not have the intended outcome.

In this situation, I know I can’t back down. If I just leave him be, no one would take me seriously when I give out my consequences next time. But if I have a screaming match with him, he would win because I would be embarrassing myself. While all this is going through my head, he left the class.

He freaking walked out on me.

I’m glad that it was a good class and I have some pretty rational and respectful kids. They went after him to talk to him and asked him to follow me. Finally, I walked to him with my box and asked if he could help me with it. He just needs to bring it to the office for me. He took it grudgingly and followed me.

Yay!! Suet – 1

Ok, now, if I bring him to the principal, she’s just going to lecture him and maybe even cane him. He’d hate me after, and would only do as told in class due to fear. That’s not what I want either. So I sat him down in an empty room and told him that I want to hear from him. I want to know why he’s acting that way in class, how can I help him better, how can we work together etc. He did not open his mouth at all.

I asked him where he lives. Silence.

I asked him if he hates me. He shook his head slowly.

I asked him if he would tell me why he doesn’t want to do his work. Silence.

This went on for the next one hour. ONE HOUR. I sat with him, him with his head down, me with my gaze on him and hand clicking on a pen. After a while, the silence is beginning to bore me so I babbled on about my life. I told him why I wanted to be a teacher, where I was from, my college. I told him that there are other students who are crying for help because they’re so weak, but despite me helping them it’s still really hard for them. I talked about kids his age who can’t even spell, who can’t even write.

After a while, my stomach groaned. I haven’t eaten all day and it was already past lunch time. I told him I was starving, and that he’ll do my stomach a favour if he speaks up. Silence.

I told him I will never give up on him. Even if I die of starvation. Silence.

Then, another teacher came in and asked what happened. I told her that A slept in my class and immediately, she came towards him and pinched his arm really hard. “You’re lucky your teacher doesn’t beat you, but let me help her” she said. I was kinda glad she did this because maybe this kid really needs a spanking but I will never hit a child so it’s good that she did it haha.

Finally, I had to leave for another class. I asked him if he has anything to say to me before I let him go. He nodded slowly.

He licked his dry mouth, cleared his throat quietly and muttered “I’m sorry teacher”

“What are you sorry for?”

Silence.

“There are other kids who need me as much as you do, A, I’ve waited one hour for you to say something, anything, so better say it fast!”

Silence.

Suddenly, a tear rolled down his cheek. He took out his glasses and wiped his tears, but remained silent. I had to look away because seeing him cry makes me want to cry too T____T #weak teacher

The bell had already rung. I’m entering my weakest class after this, the class with kids who don’t even know what’s “big” or “small”. I told him to write  to me what he can’t say today, and that I will be waiting for his letter.

“Bye, A. I’m sorry too.” I said quietly when he stood up to walk out.

He didn’t look back.

I watched him walk down the stairs and back into his classroom, took my box and went to my other class.

—–

I’m writing all this down with every detail that I can remember because I’m going to miss these moments when I’m done with teaching. I don’t know if what I did with A was right but I have a feeling that he will open up to me in due time. Heck, I gave up my lunch time for him, he better! hahaha.

But today has taught me something new about myself. I’ve never been a patient person AT ALL, not to my family or friends or anyone! But there I was sitting with this kid who only uttered two words in an hour, who tested my patience greatly, but I kept telling myself that I won’t give up. He needs to know that I care about him and what he did was unacceptable. I was the most patient I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I thought to myself this while A was still examining his nails in great concentration:

“I think I’ve found my calling. These kids are the bane of my existence sometimes but I love them with all my heart. I think I want to be a teacher for good. Maybe I won’t be a great teacher for now, but I will be.”

Sounds super cheesy but I really did think that wtf. Sometimes, I drive the two hours back home from this godforsaken place and all I can think of is my kids. I think of their smiles and their stubbornness and their defiance and their jokes, and I smile to myself. You can’t get anymore passionate than this, right? So why take a different path if you already know what makes you happiest? Some people go through life not finding their passion, but I’ve already found mine.

So scrap everything I said in the first few paragraphs. I may not be making progress now with my kids academically, but I will be soon. That day will come, I have to have faith that it will.

 

71 comments

  1. bs says:

    omg so gam dong T_T… I felt like I was watching a movie or sth wtf… sigh Suet my heart goes out to you and your kids, it’s a great thing that you’ve found your passion, and a pretty noble one at that! I hope everyone perseveres in doing what they love to do and never give up like you! *reminds self too*

  2. sandraC says:

    u have no idea how much i hate teaching right now. i’m also in a godforsaken place n i really wanna quit today. its only my 3rd day. my kids are ignorant n beyond help according to other teachers.
    are u there for long or on contract suetlee?

  3. Windy says:

    hey take heart, you’re doing a great job there. performance can’t be seen immediately in tests/exams but it’ll be there in the long run. and you’ll gain experience as years go by. i’m sure of it.

  4. Felicia~ says:

    “I think I’ve found my calling. These kids are the bane of my existence sometimes but I love them with all my heart. I think I want to be a teacher for good. Maybe I won’t be a great teacher for now, but I will be.

    are you kidding me? You ARE already a great teacher.
    a great teacher isn’t one who produces impressive academic performances, but one who inspires. The fact that you have inspired us, and definitely your kids, shows that your passion is infectious, and you are a great teacher deserving of respect.

    rooting for ya!

  5. Jan says:

    “A” doesn’t sound like too bad a kid. he’s troubled i guess. he did good by apologizing in the end. maybe there’s some trouble at home, maybe he’s depressed?
    and don’t be too depressed 😀 it takes time to make some changes. every little bit helps. you’re not doing this alone, there are other factors to consider like parents influence, peer influence, other teachers..
    do eat well and take care 😀

  6. phoebe says:

    I think the reason why I constantly come back to your blog despite your infrequent updates is because of the inspiring stories that you share here!

    I’ve been reading you since your mount holyoke days and boy, have you changed a lot! Thanks for sharing so much of your life with us!

  7. strawberry says:

    you made me feel like crying T___T
    i can’t even begin to describe the emotions that see-sawed through me after reading Fifty Shades of Grey secretly in office during lunch hour and then reading this T___T

  8. C says:

    Hi Suet!
    I’ve been a long-time reader of yours & I’ve never felt this inclined before to leave a comment on your blog until I read this post 🙂
    This post touched my heart in so many possible ways.
    I find it amazing how you devote so much of your energy & time towards teaching these kids despite the many other obstacles & challenges you face.
    Your post has truly opened my eyes to view teachers in a different light.
    My mother teaches in a teacher’s training college & sometimes when I help her out with the marking of exam scripts, I cringe at their grammatical errors & their silly English mistakes. I asked myself if these people were actually fit enough as English teachers after going through their answers & why, despite all their silly mistakes, would they still want to become an English teacher? Why not pursue other lucrative careers?
    But today, I believe I have found the answer.

    I just want to wish you all the best in your teaching path! It’s so great to see you putting in so much initiative to make a change in these students & I sincerely hope that with time, you’ll reap what you sow!

    All the best! 🙂

  9. yumii says:

    sigh, i wish i can give you a hug now and tell you how much i love you for being such an endearing and passionate teacher… ;___; thank you for helping these children.

  10. lv says:

    this post is so inspiring i almost tear up and my throat pain for holding up my tears kns. keep it up Cikgu Suet!! you are already a great teacher. kids might not appreciate or show progress now but in later days they will definitely remember you. very-very proud of you 🙂

  11. Lee says:

    Our country definitely needs more teachers like you suetlee. U’re definitely an inspiration to all of the kids out there. They might be ignorant due to their past or their surroundings thus it takes time for u to crack them. i really hope u find a great ‘strategy’ to improve them. even the weakest class. because i know u will. u earned my respect. seriously. all the best!!! dont give up!

  12. Jassy says:

    tips:

    try to understand what they are going through. find the learning style of the students. as much as possible try to incorporate all of the learning styles in a class. it’s okay to discipline them because it’s for their own good but i’m not into spanking kids either. the parents are the only people who should do that.

    try talking with his parents. they could help a lot in understanding him 🙂

    learning is holistic. 🙂

    goodluck and I am glad you have found your passion 🙂

  13. BellaS says:

    Check your blog everday to see if you have any updated. Yea you didn’t fail your reader, you are still my favourite blogger after so long, and dunno why i will always have faith in you that your teaching will be a revolution in our country education, one day.
    <3

  14. N says:

    Good to know there are lovely beautiful and compassionate teachers like you in the world. When we are young we don’t realize that teachers are human, and that they really care about their students.thank you for trying to help and giving your time. Hug

  15. John says:

    Why don’t you just take A to the canteen buy him a drink or some food if he hasn’t had them, and then eat with him? Your question scares him. He will talk when he will.

    No point rationalising with young kids. They do not think like you or me.

    Or maybe he’s just shy around Cikgu Suet… 😀

  16. Naz says:

    You’re a very good teacher for being so patient. That being said, some kinds (not necessarily A) crave attention. The kinds of attention that they will act out for. The true reasons for needing this attention varies and are often complex but most of the time, more attention is counter-productive. What they need is somebody to solve the underlying reason and you may not be the person to do that the best but you can still be a light in their lives. Just don’t give yourself too much hope because you can’t fix everyone of them and you shouldn’t think you can or need to either.

    P/S: Please be as good and as patient to your family and friends as you are to these kids. They deserve it no?

  17. Janet says:

    okay, i have to confess something, I cried while reading this post or I’m just feeling emo#? lolz! This post is really inspiring, my tears kept falling on my keyboard…while reading this post. I am not a teacher but I’ve known few people with similar attitude as to A. I applaud your patience dealing with him, that’s just proved you are born to be a GREAT teacher! keep it uP!! ^_~

  18. justme says:

    hi there, a friend sent me a link to one of your teaching-related posts and i was so, so touched and inspired by what i read. thanks SO very much for taking the time and effort and heart to share with us your experiences and thoughts.

    you have so much courage and passion, and you put into action your compassion, unlike me, who does only all the easy bitty stuff (of volunteering and doing charity).

    please keep on writing about teaching – it makes me feel alive and loved and inspired, especially after spending 9 “soul-less” hours in the office.

    thanks for being a blessing, not only to your students, but to us.

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