570

Alas

It took me two years to see changes in this one boy but I think I’ve finally seen a glimpse of that elusive light at the end of the tunnel today!

This boy is pretty good in English but he is so super stubborn and refused to do homework for the two years I’ve taught him. He slept in class, was never on task and ignored my consequences. When asked, he said he just doesn’t care that much about English.

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The crumpled paper on the left was submitted by him a few months ago, after much force and as you can see, he did it very grudgingly.

I don’t know what I did or why he suddenly turned around, but he finished his homework for the first time last month and when I read it, it was actually really good! I read it out in class and was all praises when he finally admitted that he used google translate.

Well….the fact that he even cared enough to google translate was enough for me. T___T (tears of joy)

But things started getting better! I told him I know he can write it well even without help and the week after, he submitted his essay (the one in the middle, written in pencil) and proudly announced to the class that he didnt use google translate this time!

I corrected it immediately and told him I’ll use it to put in the showcase file for this class, but I need him to correct it first and rewrite it in pen. Give it to me next week, I said. No, I’ll give it to you tomorrow, he said.

True enough, tada! I got it the next day. I read it a little; it was flawless and beautiful and was written so neatly and look at that amount of words!!!! Tears were streaming inside me but when he gave it to me, I said coolly, “I hope there are no silly mistakes this time”
To which he replied, “if there are I’ll rewrite it right now”

T__________T *clouds parting *birds singing *harps playing in the background

I swear I died and went to heaven right at that moment. But of course I had to stay alive so I can write about it here wtf

Why oh why did you wait two years to do this?? Right before I leave?? *holds his shoulders and shakes him for answer

But I know exactly what his reply would be. “Better late than never, teacher”
(To clarify, I’ve used all kinds of techniques with this kid. Affirmation, praises, calling home, home visits, disciplinary punishments, serious talks about future, begging on knees, kind words etc, NOTHING has ever worked. But then again, it could be a combination of all these that finally worked. Gosh I don’t know, it’s so hard to tell sometimes with kids! I just hope he keeps this up)

528

Happy Teacher’s Day!

Today is a good day to blog because it’s Teacher’s Day! WOOT! This marks my second teacher’s day and I couldn’t have been happier doing what I’m doing now :)

Thing are going fine in school, not absolutely great but I’m doing slightly better than just surviving. I was marking my students papers and very very sadly, most of my classes did pretty poorly. Obviously, it’s not any of my students’ fault and I’m glad we still have a few months to work on our weaknesses before I leave.

Yeap, this is my last year teaching. The program is ending this year and unfortunately, I will not be continuing my career here in this school. I like it here, I like the students, the school, the community, but I just can’t continue travelling so far and being away from home anymore. I know it’s a weak and lame excuse, and I feel terrible for leaving.

I told my students to write a letter to their future teacher, the teacher who will be replacing me (hopefully there’ll be one..). I told them to write anything they want and be sure to write a good one so I can use these letters to encourage people to come and teach them.

The results were something I didn’t quite expect. Their letters were AMAZING, so filled with emotions and were very inspiring! I really hope that these kids will get an even better teacher next year because they totally deserve the best education despite being so far away from civilization.
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Any beautiful woman wants to be this teacher’s pet’s teacher? Haha! He’s actually one of the cheekiest boys in class, always interjecting my lessons with irrelevant (but funny) comments.

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Can you expand her horizons for her? I can’t believe the depth of these letters. All they really really need and want is someone who can show them what’s out there, what lies ahead beyond their small village.

 

 

 

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HE knows you can do it, come and guide them so you guys can create history together! These kids are 15 by the way.

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They need someone patient and caring, someone who can show them English is important and can be exciting too.

Seriously, rereading these letters make me feel so bad for leaving and so terribly guilty because these kids are incredible. Of course, this job is challenging as hell but accepting the challenge has made me such a changed person.

Most of my students are at least FIVE years behind their grade level. These letters here are from my best class, and my four other classes can barely string a sentence together.

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This is the results from my weakest class. I was devastated when I finished marking, and was really depressed for the entire day. But then I realized something. They ALL tried their best! Nobody left their papers empty, nobody scribbled nonsense or gave up upon seeing all these words they don’t recognize.

Success doesn’t come easily and seriously, when you’re in this profession, you’ll realize that what doesn’t kill you REALLY does make you stronger.

Happy Teacher’s Day to myself and to all you amazing teachers out there. I bow my head in respect for all the hard work you’ve put into making your students better people everyday without fail. I have the highest respect and admiration for teachers who remain positive and passionate even after being in this profession for many many years.

“Jika hari ini seorang Perdana Menteri berkuasa
Jika hari ini seorang Raja menaiki takhta
Jika hari ini seorang Presiden sebuah negara
Jika hari ini seorang ulama yang mulia
Jika hari ini seorang peguam menang bicara
Jika hari ini seorang penulis terkemuka
Jika hari ini siapa sahaja menjadi dewasa;
Sejarahnya dimulakan oleh seorang guru biasa
Dengan lembut sabarnya mengajar tulis-baca.”

- an excerpt from Usman Awang’s Guru Oh Guru

 

61

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 :) 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.

150

Awesome kids are awesome

A few updates:

1. I’m making a more concerted effort to blog more again for several reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t actually take thaaat much time and I’m a lot more free these days (kids are having their exams next week!) so no excuse not to blog!

Secondly and more importantly but shamelessly, I need to start writing advertorials again to earn my side income so I have to blog more to maintain/increase my traffic. Recently, we TFM fellows got a pay cut. Seriously don’t ask why, I don’t even know why too. All I know is we had to resign a new contract, got a pay cut AND worst of all, have to pay back for the increment we got since January. It’s a heck lot of money, money I don’t have. So don’t mind me if I start putting ads again on my blog ok? A teacher’s gotta eat.. (though I’m trying to lose weight these days..)

2. I learned how to ride a motorcycle!!!!!!!

I’ve never really wanted to learn before but recently, I’ve been peer-pressured into it. Well, peer pressure is the wrong term to use because my kids are the one that influenced me, so it’ll be like…”student-pressured” into it? Haha. ALL the kids here can ride a bike, and they made fun of me for not being able to ride one!

“Hahhhh how can teacher? It’s soooo easy!”

“Teacher, you can’t be like us kampung people if you can’t ride one!”

“What?? Even a 10 year old can ride a motorbike!” (it’s true)

See, such bad influence!

Anyway, I’m actually pretty good at it now! And the worst part is, it’s super addictive! Hahaha this sounds like a vice already. But after learning how to ride one, I really get why my kids love to ride around the village “just for fun” because damn, it’s so freaking fun! The wind blowing in your hair, the adrenaline rush, the DANGER, the power in your hands…

So, I’ve been grabbing any motorbike I see and begging the owner to let me ride. They let me use it all the time cause I’m a teacher ma, and they respect me a lot here. Then, I’ll bring a random student to ride around the paddy fields and the village to sightsee, and we’ll talk about all sorts of profound and thought-provoking things like the latest gossip in school and how their lives are like.

It’s really moments like this that I will remember for the rest of my life once I leave this place.

Me, riding a motorbike around the village and in the woods, with teenagers, who would have thought?

3. Speaking of kids (am I not always talking about them anyway?), I’m really REALLY sad today. There are these two girls (who are sisters) whom I’ve been hanging out with everyday, playing badminton or basketball, or just talking about life. I know their whole family and I’m like the resident guest in their house. Their mom cooks for me and gossips with me, the baby of the house clings on to my leg when I visit, and they always fling the door open excitedly when they hear my car engine outside.

I found out today..that they are shifting away next month T____________T

I was so upset when I heard it because they’ve become my best friends here. They confide in me all the time and I would always talk about life with them. I’ve shown them my pictures overseas and shared with them all my experiences. They’re only 15 and 16, but seeing their excitement and love for me everyday makes my day.

And now they’re moving away forever T____________T

I was seriously going to cry when I heard it. I’m never supposed to invest my emotions so heavily on my kids but it’s hard when you live in a place where there’s no one you know with no family. They ARE my family.

I think I’m going to cry buckets later when I bid them goodbye. I HATE losing my kids, can’t imagine how I’d feel next year when I leave.

4. This is a bit of a good news to end the post. Recently, our school’s choral speaking team was invited to perform for the Teach For Malaysia 2013 Cohort’s opening dinner! When I told my kids, they were ecstatic!

“Teacher, we’re good enough to perform for people!”

YES you are! So proud of all of you :)

So we’ve been practising everyday with the script I wrote from scratch. It’s been quite tough because their exams are next week and the performance is in 3 weeks! But we still have to use a new script anyway cause half the team consists of new members who begged me to let them join in after seeing how fun it is.

The best part of my week today is when this boy (who joined the choral speaking team that won the district championship last time but didn’t want to join this time) came to me and said this: “Teacher, can I join the team? I told my dad that I didn’t join this time and he scolded me. He said I must join because I can improve my English!”

It completely makes my day because it means my effort to build relationships with the parents have been worth it! I’ve spoken to his dad before and have said many good things about his son, and how he should be proud to have a son like that and how he has done a good job raising him. So for him to actually tell his kid to join despite the exams shows that he really believes in me to help his kid’s English :D :D :D Can’t stop smiling!

The kids have also been working very hard. I’ve started putting my dictator face on again so every practice has been quite challenging for me and them. I need to be hard on them because I expect so much from everyone and I know they’ll do amazing.

Then, a girl who just joined the team told me today that choral practices are what make her days now. She’s having so much fun and although it’s tough but she loves it! These kids hardly speak a sentence of English in real life but they have to speak FIVE pages of English confidently and enthusiastically now.

Haih just talking about how awesome they are makes me want to weep like a baby now.

Sorry for this really long post but I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’ve been up to!

p.s: thanks for subscribing to my mailing list! Will definitely try to write more protected posts so you don’t sign up in vain :P

789

24 on 24

So it’s my birthday today! I turn 24 this year so as usual, I’m going to write a birthday post to talk about how it feels to be a year older. I’m expecting this to be a long rambly, personal, introspective post so be warned that it might get lengthy!

Let me start off with teacher-related stuff first.

When I walked into school today, I immediately got a barrage of wishes from my kids. They knew it was my birthday because I have the same birthday as one boy and I once told him that only awesome people are born on this day (also gave him a fist pump after that -I’m such a cool teacher hahaha)

So I was feeling quite happy and excited about today before my classes already!

During my first class, I wrote on the board (amidst notes on grammar and boring stuff) “Happy Birthday Syahfiq! Only awesome people are born on 24 Sept!” and everyone broke into laughter before wishing him as well.

After the class ended, the monitor went in front and cleared his throat.

“Attention class!”

Then I made fun of him cos he sounded so serious hahahaha I’m such an evil teacher! Gonna get bad karma.

Then he continued. “Today is a very special day because it’s someone’s birthday…”

“I want to thank Teacher Suet Li for being our teacher, and would like to wish her all the best. We promise to do our best in our English exam as your present! Stand up class.”

Then he got everyone to say happy birthday to me in unison T_________T What did I do to deserve this T_______T

I was soooo freaking proud of him cause he said the entire short speech in English and he was clearly very nervous to stand in front and to speak English!

Some of them gave me cards after. I am so touched but cannot cry must maintain cool macho persona wtf

Then, in my second class, they sang me a birthday song the moment I stepped into class. I stood there awkwardly (I am SUPER awkward when people sing me birthday songs, please don’t ever do that to me!) and tried to smile but was blushing intensely.

I can’t believe my kids are so sweet! They kept saying sorry for not giving me presents but I told them I really really just want them to do well, not just in exams but in life. So teacher lah me.

Anyway, now here comes the lengthy introspective serious part haha.

Come to think of it, I have so much to say that I don’t even know what to say. Birthdays are a great time to reflect on our lives so I guess I’ll attempt to do that..

The past one year since my last birthday had been a complete 180 degrees turnaround for me. During this time last year, I was going through an incredibly tough time that had caused me to doubt my sanity and integrity as a person. I was in a really bad shape then and I don’t think any of my friends could really recognize me much too.

In fact, I was really hesitant on starting my journey as a teacher because I was in such a bad emotional wreck that I thought me being a teacher would just be a hazard to my future students!

Thankfully, I went ahead with it anyway because it seemed silly to give up something I believe in because of a feeble excuse of a problem that I could easily fix (though it didn’t seem easy then). I am also just really REALLY thankful that I had a great bunch of people as my support system when things were crazy. My family, my friends, my readers even, were all there whenever I needed them. So thank you everyone for hoisting me up to where I am now! My students have you to thank too :’)

Actually, I’m trying really hard to word my “lengthy, introspective and personal” birthday post because I’m no longer at a position where I could just babble on about everything freely. I can do a password protected post, but it just takes too much effort to deal with the mailing list and sending out passwords (but thank you everyone who has been emailing me to be included in the mailing list!) so I guess this will do.

To my long time readers: I’ve really changed, haven’t I? From a super happy-go-lucky and silly, naive, immature girl, to a really dark, emotional person last year, to this person I am today.

This is actually my first birthday in 4 years that was spent very low-key-ly because the past few years had been quite crazy. In school, birthdays for me meant it was time to get allllll my friends together in my house and talk until midnight! In college, frankly, birthdays were just a time to party like crazy and to get err, intoxicated. It was great fun but I really wanted something quiet this year! I spent an awesome time with my loved ones this weekend, and today with my kids. I couldn’t have asked for a better celebration :)

To myself: I’m glad you’ve become a better person this year and though there are nights where life uncertainties still creep up beneath you in the dark, know that life will always get better if you want it to be. Also, please always remember to appreciate the people around you and to appreciate all the little moments in life *getting cheesy wtf

Happy birthday to myself, and to all September babies!

71

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.

 

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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.

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Goodbyes

I think one of the main reasons why I stop blogging so frequently is because I tweet a lot more now. It’s more convenient compared to having to open my WordPress and writing a bigger chunk of text, but I have to admit I always prefer writing in my blog a lot more. How can you express adequately your emotions and feelings and ideas in 140 characters? especially when you have to shorten words and things look so abrupt. It’s just not the same..

Anyway I’ve been back for good (still feels weird) for almost two weeks now and I’ve been doing nothing but bumming. After less than a week of bumming, I couldn’t take it anymore and went to look for something to do – anything! a job, an internship, volunteer work, whatever to make me feel more useful. So now I’m going to volunteer my services to Teach for Malaysia and will be their dutiful intern for a month!

I have to start work next week…..and working hours are somewhere between 9am-8pm if I’m lucky…..and I’m kinda regretting it…….why torture myself when I could chillax and lepak at home goyang kaki everyday! But I know how much help they need, and I DO have time and energy so why not.

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one of those days where I had all the time in the world so I took 12481 shots of myself in the same pose wtf

I actually have so much to blog about but I can’t remember what I wanted to say anymore ;___; I promise I’ll blog more frequently now, maybe even once in 2/3 days like before *gasp* so I don’t forget the things I want to say.

For today! I have photos from my graduation! These are nicer pictures since they’re taken with a camera and not my phone. What an abomination, a blogger taking pictures with her phone tsk tsk.

with my parents

spot me!

shanshan and I with our complete graduation regalia! It feels amazing to graduate alongside your best friend :)

FML my sunflower is dead wtf

with fellow Malaysians, Gim, Stef and Emily! (shanshan is our honorary Malaysian cos thanks to me, she speaks in malaysian accent (even stronger than mine) and remembers all the malaysian food (tosai, nasi lemak, roti, banana leaf rice, chilli pan mee))

with Chuck, my accounting professor! I love him cos he’s super eccentric and sarcastic, the kind of professors I usually like. He also gave me 99% in that class and when he saw me he said “good job! you Asian”. I asked if he even remembers my name and he said “it’ll come to me one day” wtf

Can you believe he’s 70+ years old and he baked brownies for us in EVERY class???? He also only wore suit to class so I asked him once if he bakes in his suit and he said “no, silly! I slip on an apron” hahaha

I think we took a total of 1000 over pictures that day cos our parents kept asking us to pose with EVERYthing -___-

“GOT FLOWERS! TAKE PICTURES!” *snap snap 20 times in same pose

“SQUIRRELS! STAND IN FRONT OF THEM” *snap snap

“WHITE PEOPLE!! TAKE WITH THEM” *snap snap

and everytime we stopped to talk to friends, we have 4 paparazzi taking pictures of us from all angles! hahaha and our friends would say “err i hope they’re your parents right”

Shanshan was grumbling about having to take so many pictures but hello! when will you get to have photographers following you everywhere and taking pics of you! Gotta love ‘em proud parents :D

In front of the chapel!

with my parents.

yes I changed my shoes wtf. I bought this pair for graduation but didn’t wear them earlier cos I was scared I’d trip when receiving my degree on stage hahaha

with the college sign and my dead sunflower. I don’t know why I kept holding on to it T_T

more pictures taken by the proud parents. Shanshan’s dad had 3 cameras and he used all 3 cameras everytime cos he said each camera produces different pictures, damn cute! But also very tiring for us to hold the poses  T_T

Anyway that’s the end of it! Everything went by so fast during graduation and I didn’t even have time to really say goodbye to shanshan. The last thing I remember was me helping her pack and bossing her around and nagging her as usual while she panics like a kid as usual (we have a funny relationship), and then we hugged and we kept saying we won’t cry and I left hurriedly cos I felt like I was choking in tears and then…gone.

Goodbyes are painful, and it’s worse when people make empty promises to each other. “I’m sure I’ll see you again” “I’ll come visit!” but I kept telling them “no, you won’t.” Let’s face it, we live on completely different sides of the world, and I rather face reality and bid a proper farewell than keep my hopes up.

Goodbyes are painful because it takes years to build a strong friendship, and no matter how much you say you’ll keep in touch, things will be very different when you are not physically close to each other. It takes years for a friendship to transcend superficiality and for two people to really know each other more than they know themselves. With Shanshan, I’d often say something and she’d know what I said actually didn’t reflect how I felt, and she was right 9 out of 10 times. Our friendship was painfully honest and incredibly real, and I’m afraid I wouldn’t find something like this once I get out of school anymore.

But..the world awaits. And so I bade farewell to my home for 4 years and my best friend who till this day is the prettiest girl I have ever met inside and outside, and pray that all our late night talks on our big dreams and hopes will come true.

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Plateau

Something is wrong with me these days, but I just can’t point my finger on what exactly. I would stare into space in class for what seems like a few seconds, letting my mind go blank for a short while, and poof class is over. I would walk back to my room following the route I’ve walked on repetitiously for years now, and poof I arrive at a place I’ve never seen before. I would sleep and dream, and dream, and wake up not knowing which is my reality.

I’m running in circles, chasing my imaginary tail, chasing and chasing, but never grabbing it. I came close to it once, and I was so pleased with finally being able to feel the concreteness in my grasp that I accidentally let it slip away again.

I got an email the other day from a reader, and the moment I read it I felt depressed again. She said she loves my blog, and loves me, and thinks I’m a huge inspiration to her. She said she envies me, envies my passion for life, envies my strength and my persistence. It was all too flattering and I wanted to reply with my usual “thanks for reading my blog!” but I just couldn’t do it, because I was ashamed of myself.

Ashamed that the person on the receiving end of such adulation is just a girl in her torn oversized tee with unkempt hair, without motivation nor passion for anything in her life these days, mulling about counting the days to when she can finally escape from this bubble she has been in for the past 4 years.

Ashamed that whatever zest and excitement that once overfilled her every being have now evaporated into thin air, leaving her grasping in desperation to whatever that’s holding her to her reality these days.

Ashamed that the so called inspiration she is to people is this person who doesn’t even have the motivation and will to learn anymore, this bane of the society who forsakes her opportunity for knowledge to settle for many hours of dwelling in her miseries.

I don’t know what I’m going on and on about.

I took a happiness test a month ago, and I scored every question with a I’M VERY HAPPY, VERY MOTIVATED AND VERY SATISFIED WITH MY LIFE. Funny how the tables have turned in such a short time.

I’m not unhappy, i’m not depressed, i’m just.

That’s the thing, I don’t know what I am right now. I’m in a limbo of feelings, neither here nor there, floating in this weird realm of nothingness.

——–

ok fine. I might have exaggerated a little about how I’m feeling. I’m perfectly fine, and this is just an on and off feeling I’ve been experiencing.

Actually…. maybe just for the past few days WTF.

but it’s still is a big hindrance to my ultimate plan of saving the world.

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Back when I was pretty

Back when I was 17 and had black hair and no make up and was incredibly innocent and didn’t know how to smile, I genuinely thought I could rule the world. Now I can’t even rule myself wtf

Back when I just started college and was all bright-eyed and eager and much much thinner and had just started learning how to flash a non-awkward smile, I could take whatever shit the world wants to throw at me. Now I’m just this sulky emo person constantly getting all gloomy when I think about the impending bleakness that is my future wtf

Back when I enjoyed dolling up and spending hours taking vain shots with equally vain friends and finally thought my smile looked extremely genuine. Now I take vain pictures, look at them and secretly get disappointed at how unflattering they are, and delete them from my camera forever.

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Back when I could curl my long pretty locks and wear a bow and not look retarded, I thought I had everything going on for me. Now..well, now..I guess I’ve realized that I’m as flawed as everyone out there, if not more.

When can I ever break out of my emoness??! It’s getting frustrating even for me to keep going on and on about my pathetic existence. Is it just me but did anyone notice how my un-emo entries lack this certain element to it these days? They seem to lack so much soul and identity, like they could have been written by anyone out there. That’s why I stick to being emo, because at least then I know they’re still written by me.

That’s actually just quite sad.