SELF-UNDERSTANDING: Teachers need to accept themselves first before they can accept differences in others.
LEARNING Mandarin is the trend in Ireland these days. This is a spin-off from a recent visit by Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping and his delegation of 150 business leaders and government officials to Ireland to foster trade between the two countries.
As I sat at the back of a classroom watching a teacher from Shanghai teaching Mandarin to a group of Irish, I saw that she had to contend with students whose ages ranged from 5 to 40 within a class. She also had to deal with the Irish-Chinese who spoke some Mandarin, and Irish-Africans and Irish-Hispanics who had no knowledge of the language. There was even a child bawling his eyes out because of first-day blues. Yet, the teacher encouraged her students and conducted the class with great patience and I was greatly impressed.
Unfortunately, for every effective teacher there are many others who chose teaching for reasons other than the passion for teaching.
Sometimes, teachers forget that students are people too. Harsh words and labels can crush a child’s self-esteem. It is said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”. This is absolutely not true judging from my memories of how some teachers spoke to us when we were young.
Teacher Rosemawati Mohamad (left) helps sight-impaired Nurul Kiairina Ramlan on her first day of school. A teacher who is sensitive to a child’s need and presence is an encouragement to a young spirit
I had a primary school teacher who never quite liked me. She asked me to go to the office to bring back a map of Asia to the classroom. As all the maps were rolled up and stacked at one corner of the office, I took some time to find the right one and bring it back to class, only to be snarled at. She said: “What took you so long? Did you go to China?”
Even Physical Education time had its blues. I was into netball and because of my height, I was the shooter. It was my first try at the game, so I had trouble shooting the ball into the hoop. All I could hear in the background was a teacher yelling “Butterfingers! Butterfingers!”
When my friends forgot to bring their shorts, the teacher made them run in their knickers. The richer children who had nice, store-bought terry towelling panties did not have much of a problem compared to those who wore home-made floral, polka-dotted or striped cotton panties that were big and secured at the waist with elastic bands. That stigma can haunt a child for her entire school life.
Teachers may punish a pupil in his best interests, but words spoken hastily can crush a child’s self-esteem
Callous words still abound. Personality clashes between teachers and students exist. Worse still, there are teachers who practise favouritism. I can still remember one female Form Six teacher who always singled out a dashing student in Literature class. The rest of us felt that we never existed in her class.
At the other extreme, the Economics teacher never spoke to a brilliant student because he challenged her on an issue once. She excluded him from all her discussions and we could feel the tension for the 1½ years during class.
Teachers enrol on a Bachelor of Teaching programme at Open University Malaysia’s special intake this year
I have friends who left school early because of bad experiences with teachers. A teacher, who is sensitive to a child’s need and presence, is an encouragement to a young spirit. Conversely, a teacher, who continually puts a child down, limits his advancement.
Children learn to be part of the adult world through experiences. A quiet teacher may find a vocal student a threat. A conservative teacher is uncomfortable with a student who is creative in expressing herself. We need teachers, who not only accept themselves first, but also accept differences in others. There is a link between the inner development and self-understanding of the teacher and what education is all about.
It takes professional courage, commitment, interest and the humility to acknowledge that teachers do not know everything.
Happy Teachers’ Day!
By KOH SOO LING | email@example.com
The writer was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is.
Source: New Straits Times Learning Curve 13 May 2012