Sunday November 20, 2011
They are young and eager to impart their knowledge, yet anxious if they can face up to the challenges of being transformational educators to the high-needs schools they will be sent to next year.
By NITHYA SIDHHU
I WAS privileged recently to speak to the first cohort of 50 teachers selected from all over the country for the Teach For Malaysia programme at Institut Aminuddin Baki, Genting Highlands. They are currently undergoing a training stint from Oct 30 to Dec 23 before they report for work in January to serve in 17 high-needs schools identified under the programme.
Looking at them, I saw fresh-faced individuals considerably aware of being the ones whose chosen career path offered hope and promise to scores of young Malaysian students they would be teaching in the coming year.
Yet, behind their cheerful facades, I sensed too their anxiety and concern. How would they shape up as real-life teachers?
As one Business Administration graduate said in his feedback form: “I’m anxious about the fact that we’re being sent to the most challenging schools and are expected to be transformational teachers.”
In an earlier corporate job, this graduate said he “had enough of a life sitting in a cubicle and being overwhelmed with reports and spreadsheets.”
“As a Teach For Malaysia fellow, I now look forward to a life that is interesting, challenging and exciting.”
Another, an English Literary Studies and Political Science graduate, wondered whether she has what it takes to come up with effective methods and strategies to teach, motivate and inspire her students.
“Will I make a difference?” she asked.
As an old hand at the game, all I can say is while their concerns are common to any young person joining the profession, it is their willingness to give their best shot that makes them stand out.
Take the young lady for instance who said that she had joined the programme to improve the lot of the children deprived of a good education.
She looks forward to putting “a smile on the faces of kids and being there for them” and showing them how much people like her “still care”. Frankly, I was moved by the altruistic intentions of this bunch of young teachers.
Their professional goals and good intentions come from their heart and this is what matters most in teachers seeking to redress inequity in education.
But, having worked with underprivileged kids before, I know these teachers have yet to face the harsh reality of being in a real-life classroom.
When they get loads of paperwork to do, a barrage of administrative duties to perform, politicking at work to deal with and a group of highly unpredictable students with varying abilities to tend to, will they be able to cope?
All new teachers take time to find their teaching feet.
When dealing with academically disinclined students, they must also be able to hold their own against encrusted teacher attitudes such those who ask “why waste your time with this lot”?
As for students from poor socio-economic backgrounds, they must contend with parents who rarely make their presence felt in school.
Then there are those who want their children desperately to do well in school, but who just don’t know how to handle their learning difficulties.
Meanwhile, among under-achieving students, ignorance, boredom, fear of failure, learning disorders, habitual patterns of unproductive behaviour and years of cultural conditioning are serious obstacles to learning.
Some students are even vicious enough to consistently challenge their teachers. Yet, I wish them all well.
I have worked with many problematic students before and I can assure you that it is an uphill task to move students from being passive, reluctant and bored learners to active, interested ones. But, small milestones are definitely possible.
Only the throes of the life of a teacher, going to school day by day, entering class after class, meeting students one after the other, will enlighten these Teach For Malaysia graduates.
I told them, “In school, you get the lesson first, then the test; but in life, you get the test first, then the lesson!”
I related to them story after story and of the strategies I used and those that were a success.
As a teacher, I never told any student that he was hopeless. Instead, I began by being hopeful myself and I filled even the most academically-challenged child I taught with the hope that if he worked at it, education was his ticket to a better world.
I also related to the eager teachers-to-be of a Form Two student who would not pass his Science exam because he had a learning disability and was not proficient in the language.
However, never did I ever allow him to think that he was incapable of learning or understanding material in my classroom.”
In fact, in 2006, when I was teaching a weak class in a rural school, I experimented with a programme I devised called GROW.
·G for Group teaching where I separated my students in groups according to their learning abilities and taught them separately;
·R for the group to Relax, play and learn where I used various forms of games to give them rest periods between bouts of learning (due to their short attention spans, I never taught them for more than 15 minutes at a time);
·O for Oral questioning techniques and Outdoor learning to stay relevant, generate variety and boost self-confidence; and
·W — the Whatever Works approach (role play, video clips, NiE, cartoon-filled worksheets, art, music) to kindle interest and motivate.
If my teaching was transformational, it was because I gave these students a sense of self-worth and achievement they didn’t have before.
Till today, I cannot forget the 14-year-old Chinese boy who couldn’t speak good English or write a decent sentence in Malay, but could explain perfectly in bahasa pasar how river water is converted into tap water.
Then there was the Indian boy who stuttered when he spoke but could tell me orally, yet correctly, half in Tamil and half in Malay that photosynthesis is the process by which a plant like sugar cane makes sugar in the sun.
My focus was on learning — their learning — and in whatever form it took, I accepted the outcome.
Sometimes, I was astounded by their answers. As Science students, they were intelligent, curious and interested — they just didn’t have language skills to match or the ability to remember massive facts for exams.
So, to these young teachers going forth to serve the nation, when you are teaching for Malaysia, you just put your shoulder to the wheel and do whatever it takes to strive, survive and triumph.
To beat the odds, you have to seek wisdom from the experienced and learn from your own daily teaching sessions. One particular memory that stands out for me is of the pint-sized Form Two boy, who cried: “Teacher, how will I learn without you? Please don’t go.”
As Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach For America, puts it in her book A Change to Make History, “highly effective teachers are a massive lever for influencing the achievement gap.”
I think so too. Give a child a good teacher and you make all the difference.
it's been quite a time i haven't read Teacher Talk after my last post about it in this blog! ^__^
it's the second Friday i'm home. frankly speaking, i found that my life is like empty.. empty what? hm... tasteless cotton-candy? why cotton-candy? b'coz i've got clouds portrayed in my mind. ^__^
last nite, i posted about this second Friday at facebook in my beloved group at the campus, one of them commented to not mention about the limited time we've at home. ^__^ then, i emotionally commented back to not mentioning about those uniform unit we're gonna be in next sem/year. *freakin' out* ok. i was thinking selfishly to protect my own feelings from being disappointed? ha. ha. laugh. oit~ SOQ. ok. :) for that sister i mentioned her name in that selfish comment, hontouni gomennasai~ bianata~ am very sorry. hu. is she reading this entry anyway? =.=" uniform unit. ain't telling ya what did i get. ha. but, i didn't get my first choice; KRS. and ain't talkin' bout this as the main issue in this entry since i'm trying hard to get over those negative feelings i got - knowing the uniform i'm gonna wear in 2012 and retrieving words i said at the moment my friends and i were choosing the unit in the previous month/s.
tasteless cotton-candy. why? it seems tempting when u see it. nevertheless, it's tasteless when it touch ur tongue taste buds. hah-ha. so that my current life. i think it does look interesting from outside, yet i don't feel anything good here. deng! am actually wanna wrap up my 2011 as trainee teacher! OK. back to the main issue. *serious*
2 semesters in a year. 2 examinations. twice went to school for SBE. two different states i'd been soaked in. states; emotions.
huh! am wordless to describe the two semesters.
ah-ha! deng! why that cognitive theory came into my mind?! 2 examinations. the exam in the first semester, i did marathon in revising those subjects for exams. i had four papers in the first exam. i called it marathon although when my friends were discussing, i was sleeping soundly in their bed. second exam, ain't calling the revision i made with my beloved partner as marathon, b'coz, alhamdulillah, i managed to start revising the first two papers earlier just few days earlier anyway than the eleventh hour. that's an improvement for me. ^-^ and i only had three papers. and i had a not-so-good experience before the last paper. ok. three subjects, the first paper was about one week earlier than the other two. the next two papers had only about 24 hours gap. after the second paper, when i was about to revise for the last subject, my head was like full i tell ya! full. i felt the front part of my brain was overloaded. thus, i couldn't revise with my study partner. i just listened to her words reading the notes, understanding the notes. it's been a long time i haven't got the full-loaded-state of my brain. but, alhamdulillah, after few hours listening to her, my brain gave me opportunity to revise!
that's all about my examination... hm. now?
mangrove planting. hah. i'd two.. or three? experiences planting the mangrove plants! ^-^ i'm lovin' it. being an MC... i found that ain't recovered yet from that fear of being a chairperson. hu. i think, i want to get rid of that fear soon. until when should i be prison in that emotion trap right? hu. we'll see.. we'll see...
E1T1/EOTO... i just wanted to visit those Jeven and others.. but, hm.. i really want to see their smiles again. do activities with them again! ^-^ have the passion of being a teacher cultivated in me? ^-^ hope so!
finally i got things to be smiled of! of? should it be at? o yeah~
ok. 5 weeks left for this semester break. can u please remember me in ur du'a to make me stronger in mujahadah everyday? :)
realized me; ain't a good friend. ain't a good mate.
realized me; silence isn't good to fix a relationship. it's just worsen and destroying it.
realized me; devildemons actually is in me. silence is just adding reactivity of them.
realized me; silence actually that hurts me. not others.
realized me; to be aware of my weaknesses!
and yet, 2011, motivates me to do good next year! okeh.
btw, 1432 is already READY to leave us. T.T am gonna be 22 before Ramadhan in 1433. am old!
T^T let's do our best to be productive!
will this spirit maintain or be persistent?
let's strive and pray!jaa~ ;)
if in the 8th entry, i felt like putting down my head on a table and won't look around anymore, currently feeling is that i'll just sit on my chair and put both hands on the table and just looking around. i think i don't wanna move. move here is not meant to change, but to react to those disturbances. yes. i'm. a. jerk. uhf. yet, i wanna be loving. ^-^"