Just another day

Last year, I used to come back to this village the day before school since it takes 2 hours to drive here and driving 140km of rural roads can be really tiring. But I used to dread coming back so much that I started coming back in the morning instead.

WHICH MEANS! I wake up at 5 am every Monday to drive back to school T_____T It’s hell seriously, especially when I’m so not a morning person. Why can’t school start at 9am or something??

Anyway, I was REALLY dreading the drive here this morning. I’ve been listening to podcasts on my drive here (a little digression. PODCASTS ARE THE MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD! I’m so mad at myself that I wasted the whole of last year driving countless hours listening to crap music on the radio. I’ve been listening to podcasts on education, philosophy, health, politics, current issues, humor, you name it! They’re so amazing and best part is it’s free! It makes me get a little more excited about driving now ๐Ÿ™‚ My ultimate favourites are This American Life, Risk, TED, The Moth. Seriously check them out, if you find yourself bored with our national radio stations on your sucky drive to work/when you’re stuck in a horrendous traffic jam)/end of digression

Where was I?

Oh yeah so it was a sucky morning. I was beginning to feel so lazy after the long weekend that I dreaded coming to see my students, especially when I had class with the most challenging class today *grumpy

And we all know a grumpy teacher is not a great teacher, so I tried to make myself feel happier before going to class. My first class was really good. Kids were angels, they did my work so quickly, they were enthusiastic, they worked hard in class despite being weak in English, absolute joy for me!

My second class was great too! I played them soothing relaxing music while they worked on their essays. I spent the whole of Sunday marking their essays and marking every mistake, so I told them that I’ll be really sad if they don’t rewrite their essays with the corrections. Don’t know if this guilt-tripping worked, or if it was the music, or both, but they worked on their essays so diligently the whole class! T______T <– tears of joy

Then…it came to the class I dreaded going in the most. I know it’s mostly psychological as well. The more I dread the class, the worst it’ll be for me. I’ve tried being positive about it, but that class always kills me. It doesn’t help that it’s the last freaking two periods of the day. Kids were tired, hungry, angry, irritable. I can’t blame them, it was 1.20pm and they’ve had a long day.

So anyway, I went in super confident and determined. I delivered my lesson the best I could with this class, with half of them walking around restlessly, fidgeting in their seats, playing around. They do that all the time and I’ve tried EVERYTHING I could think of (giving consequences, getting help from discipline teachers, calling parents, motivation, being firm etc) but I’ve given up on trying to get them to sit still. As long as they do my work, I’ll have to live with it.

And they always do my work, although they don’t always master the lesson objective of the day.

But today, this…really challenging kid, who had been behaving SOOO well lately and whom I’ve praised to his father a few weeks ago, started getting restless. We already finished the exciting activities and now it was time to sit and write a REALLY short paragraph. He was the only one who did a sloppy job on his work, so I wasn’t satisfied with it. I told him to rewrite it but he ignored me a few times. I was pissed cause he’s been so good and I know he can do it!

So I did what anyone would do: I held his bag hostage.

No cop out in my class. You WILL do my work to my standards, or I’ll keep your bag in the darkest of all dark dungeons and not feed it for days. I might even shred it to pieces, depending on how you behave the next few days.

So this kid, who is one freaking menace-looking kid (he seriously looks like he can harm me real bad), stared at me angrily and threw his book at my face.

The whole class stopped moving and breathing (everyone is terrified of this kid) and stared at me. I know that look, they were anticipating my next move. I know I have to play my cards well now, cause if I don’t, I’ll lose the entire class.

So I calmly looked at him and said I want him to take the book now and finish my work.

The whole class moved their heads to look at what his next move would be.

He stomped out of his chair angrily, grabbed the hostage (his bag) from my hand, and went back to his seat. He sat still for a while, then eventually took out a pen to finish his work.

I don’t know what it was that made him do his work. Maybe he felt bad for me since he clearly had been very nice to me before this, especially after knowing that I praised him to his very fierce dad, or maybe because I held my grounds and he knew he’d have to do it eventually.

The class then turned to look at me again and I tried my best to mask my anger and fear. My legs were shaking a little (dude I’m really terrified of this kid) and my face kinda hurts from being thrown with a book. The class then erupted into its usual noisy chatter again (I always ask them to stop behaving like zoo animals, cause they literally behave like that. Some kids actually crawl around just for fun, some kids climb up their friends’ legs, some walk around making animal noises)

I waited a few minutes, then walked to that kid and told him I know he can do this. I watched him a little, corrected some mistakes, then told him that I do not want him to behave like that again. It’s unacceptable and I know he can be better than that. I asked him to promise me that he WILL be better.

He looked at me for one brief milisecond, stood up, and walked away.

“I’m taking that as a yes” I said to him. If anything I was just trying to comfort myself; he was already far gone by then.

When the bell rang, they ran helter skelter out of class and I sat down to compose myself. I know many of these kids have really rough childhood. I can’t begin to imagine the lives they live. I’ve been to their houses, spoken to their parents, and I can’t imagine growing up in that condition.

But still, it’s not an excuse to behave badly in my class. I will be compassionate, I will be loving, but I can’t let you have your way because I know if you try harder, you’ll do wonders. Even if you don’t know it yet.

While I was sitting down thinking of my kids, Jaya came in and caught me sitting alone. She asked if I was ok, and I asked her to read out the work we did in class today. She still couldn’t read. She struggled at every word, she read “tell” as “past” (she was just guessing the words) but when she was done reading (painfully), I told her she did well and asked her to correct some grammar mistakes.

I have absolutely no idea if she learned anything today. I have no idea if she could read by the end of this year. We tried whole of last year but now she’s back at square one again, and I don’t know what I’ve imparted on her, or if I’ve made a difference in her life at all.

But I’d like to think that if I continue trying, it will make a difference someday. Maybe not now, but someday, one day.

59 Responses to “Just another day”

  1. aa says:

    keep trying suet..you have inspire us the readers here.at least these stories you shared make a difference to us

  2. Suet says:

    If there is anyone who can do it, it’s YOU. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. ccc says:

    just help as much as possible. i think there is a limit everyone can do.

  4. musira says:

    have u try increase their vocabulary…10-20 words per day from the dictionary. (dwi bahasa one better). Reading w/o understand what you are reading can be painful…

    one speaking language which isn’t their mother’s tongue can be difficult. it’s like, generate the sentence 1st then translate into english, then speak…my p.o.v

  5. PW Cheong says:

    “But Iโ€™d like to think that if I continue trying, it will make a difference someday. Maybe not now, but someday, one day”. This is the difference between towering cikgu and mediocre ones. The willingness to go an extra mile and untiring efforts for improvements! Congratulations, Cikgu Sweat Lee!

  6. Grace says:

    You’re doing a wonderful job. Your efforts alone are commendable. Not everyone can do what you’re doing. I hope in future, my daughter will get good teachers like you.

  7. HX says:

    you know, your entries always make me tear. im so encouraged by your entries. it always makes me feel like there is hope for the kids who are not as privileged as some of us.

  8. Valerie Kor says:

    You’re the bravest!! I too teach problematic kids, so I can really relate to you!
    “I will be compassionate, I will be loving, but I canโ€™t let you have your way because I know if you try harder, youโ€™ll do wonders. Even if you donโ€™t know it yet.” – well written, exactly how I feel!

  9. fyna says:

    as teacher-to-be i adore u!! keep up the good work dear ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Freddy says:

    You’re a truly dedicated and good teacher. Don’t give up!

  11. bs says:

    Suet, your spirit is amazinggg!!!! You’re such an inspiration T_T

  12. joyinthelord says:

    I too am a teacher, and your writings are an inspiration to carry on. You put into words so eloquently a teacher’s raison d’etre.

  13. ah^kam_koko' says:

    You did the right thing. You were firm & you held up high standards while believing the best in every kid.

  14. Amanda says:

    for some reasons, this post brought tears to my eyes. Suet Li, you’re a great teacher! I believe those students who are in your class, will, one day be great people. How u keep ur composure after a kid threw a book in your face like that, is something truly amazing. I think if I were you, I’d be mad pissed off and I would even cry in front of the whole class. But u handled this situation so calmly and amazingly well. I admire you for that. Keep this up! I have faith that at the end of the day, you will be crying tears of joy when all of them become successful one day. Hold your head high Suet Li! U can do it!!! <3

  15. MW says:

    Not sure if you are aware of this, you could get rid of cockroaches with the use of Pandan leaves or plant


  16. Em says:

    Hi suet.. Dont give up ya.. Normally kids have violent behaviour
    could be developed due to his depressive situation at their home.
    Dont put the incident in your heart.. Dont b too hard on him and on
    urself ya.. Continue to b loving as he might need your
    support n care

  17. ksh says:

    keep writing suet!
    I love your blogposts!

  18. Kath says:

    I admire your courage and the love you have for your kids. Keep it up.

  19. victor yu says:

    started following your blog again. gone were the X-fresh days. haha. yes, long time reader here ba.

  20. hfhdh says:

    By violating the free will of another human being,
    the teacher has lost the moral high ground,
    as well as the respect of the student.
    Where there is coercion there can be no love.

  21. Zura Ustati says:

    Selepas tonton MHI hari ni, saya cuba cari blog cikgu….

    Pengalaman cikgu mengajar anak murid dan cara cikgu berhadapan dengan mereka sangat memberi inspirasi….teruskan berkongsi pengalaman mengajar ๐Ÿ™‚

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