6 years ago…
It was my first year of school as a fully trained teacher, and I was assigned to be the form teacher for 3D, 2010. I was so nervous, because I was expecting to start off with the younger students (i.e. lower secondary), who didn’t seem quite as intimidating as the upper secondary teenage monsters. Alas, luck was not on my side, and I looked at my deployment with a sense of trepidation.
The first day of school came, and because the Gods felt that that wasn’t enough reason to be miserable, the weather was dark and gloomy. Morning assembly was held in the classroom, instead of the parade square and as I walked into the classroom for the first time, I felt 40 pairs of eyes sizing me up, from top to toe.
I stood in front of them for the first time, and all the advice from the colleagues about starting off being strict with our classes few out of the window. I broke into a sheepish smile, and fumbled through an introduction, confusing myself and them in the process. Those few moments, were the start of 2 of the best years of my teaching career thus far.
Those 40 students made me love teaching more than I thought I ever could, and molded me into the sort of teacher I am today. More than them learning from me, I learnt so so so many lessons from them, that I still hold close to my heart.
1) They taught me how to find humor in the worst of situations and to never take myself too seriously.
This class had a problem with punctuality. See, almost 10 students in the class had an unfortunate medical condition that meant that any form of punctuality on their part would make them break out in hives. It was therefore entirely not their fault that they were NEVER on time for school.
I tried scolding them, nagging at them, gently telling them and even pretending to break down into tears. None of it worked and I used to get so stressed about it. Till one fine day, when I caught 3 of them strolling in to school at 10 am. I was about about to completely explode, and lose it, when one of them took out a packet of curry puffs (the sort you can get from any random Malay stall), and said in a deeply hurt tone,
“Please don’t scold us. We were late because we went to Jurong to buy this famous curry puff for you.”
Till today, I remember the deadpan manner in which he told me that statement, and the way in which I couldn’t stop laughing for ages. Now, whenever I get mad at students who come late, I count up to 10 curry puffs in my head, and calm myself down before I gently spell out the devious consequences they have to face for their latecoming.
2) They taught me that things are never as simple as they seem.
Once, I went into class, and scolded this girl who was staring blankly into space instead of paying any attention to the lesson. She glared at me and ran out of the classroom. I went after her, fully intending to scream at her some more, when I found her in the corner of the stairs, crying her eyes out. Turns out, she had had a huge problem at home, and was so badly affected by it that she couldn’t pay attention in class.
That’s probably one of the most important lesson I learnt as a teacher. That if adults themselves have a hard time coping with their problems, what more young children? These days, I try not to scold students without clarifying with them the problem first, though I must admit, I am still not doing too well with this. Some of them are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
3) They taught me that students are capable of so much of love, care, affection and gratitude.
Because this was my first form class and because I was completely new to the profession and hence not in the least bit exhausted nor jaded, I invested so much of energy and emotions in this class. I tried my best to be there for them, not just academically, but also to help them through their emotional problems.
But this eventually took its toll on me, and many a times, I got so angry and frustrated and felt like quitting. And each of those times, these students found some way to show me that it was worth investing all this effort , because no one deserved it more.
From msgs to check on me when I was on mc, to being able to read me like a book and knowing when I was down, they always somehow made me feel better no matter how lousy I felt.
Also, having tons of art and home ec students in the class was such a perk, because we got the best handmade gifts!
4) They taught me that it was okay to be different. My class was never all that strong academically. Thought I had some students who had straight As, many of them struggled with most of their subjects. While this meant that us teachers worried about them constantly, they eventually proved that they could succeed in their own ways.
Student 1: Offered a scholarship to university of newcastle, majoring in mass communications, a field she has been passionate about since the day I knew her
Student 2: Has a flying license. A dream come true, because flying has been his dream since his NCC (Air) days. Also majoring in Aerospace electronics and serving as an NCC Air Officer.
Student 3: Majoring in economics in NUS. She broke down in front of me when she first received her O level results.
Student 4: Accepted a government scholarship to study accountancy in NTU.
Student 5: Interning in a Media Management Company, having the time of her life. She always thought being creative and artistic wasn’t going to feed her.
Student 6: Business Major, heading for NTU
Student 7: A nurse. Most apt because I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t be at ease around her.
Student 8: Mechanical engineering, and pursing his passion for adventure.
Student 9: Did badly for his Os, but is now the top student of his course in Poly and heading to NTU.
And I could go on and on. Not many of these students did outstandingly well for their Os. And yet, here they are, pursuing their passion, and carving out a niche for themselves, entirely on their own effort. And till today, I use them as an example to encourage my current students.
So why this long rambly post on them?
Because I MISS THEM SO SO SO MUCH!