What we see and accept as the truth in certain situations and statements may not always be so, and could pose us with some daunting questions.
WHEN I met her and mentioned that the GE13 was finally round the corner, I assumed naturally that she knew what I was talking about.
But, this 30-year-old surprised me when she asked, “How did you know about our 13th conference?”
I was baffled. What conference was she talking about?
It turned out that she belonged to a select spiritual group and in her mind, GE stood for ‘Grand Enlightenment’. She was referring to its 13th session with a Guru who was coming soon from India!
Assumption, they say, is the mother of all trouble. I couldn’t agree more.
Even in the teaching profession, be careful of adages passed as the gospel truth. Sometimes, by taking them too much to heart, productivity and performance can take a serious plunge.
There are some commonly-mouthed phrases and assumptions that you can well afford to challenge. They simply don’t hold water.
“For your own good, don’t rock the boat.” This only serves the purpose of people who harbour myopic perspectives, favour cronyism and have the “be on my team at all costs” mentality.
Sometimes, for the sake of the common good, you should not only be morally courageous to rock the boat, but you should be willing to rock it really hard. In the face of unjust practices, speak up and be heard.
“Teachers look at one’s race before deciding on whether to help their students” is a remark that’s often made.
However, I must point out that this is not always true.
Almost all the teachers I’ve known and worked with never thought along racial lines when it came to teaching and nurturing their charges.
Most teachers take pains to impart their knowledge and they do so because they want to see progress in the students. After all, is that not the right thing to do?
I met a Chinese teacher recently who spent 20 years working with scores of Iban children in a rural school.
None of the seven-year-old pupils could read or write but she taught them all with a mother’s love.
Zero to hero
A Bahasa Malaysia teacher told me recently that she works in a school where the majority of students are Chinese.
Race has never been an issue because she loves the challenge of teaching, and in her own words “taking them from “zero to hero”.
“Paperwork will bury me alive,” is mentioned like it were a fact. I must admit that while it can be a thorn in the flesh, paperwork needs to be addressed in a proactive and systematic manner.
This will bring about better results than to keep complaining all the time.
Another helpful suggestion is to keep providing information to teacher unions as to why certain types of paperwork ought to be scrapped.
Until some positive changes come about, be aware that there are people in other professions who put in longer hours, do more tedious jobs, and have to handle more gruelling circumstances at work!
“What can ONE teacher do?” Do not undermine the power and ability of one teacher.
Students exposed constantly and regularly to even one good teacher can experience a tremendous boost in ability, achie-vement and attitude!
Their raised self-esteem, for instance, makes a huge difference in other spheres of their life. Keep at it, and don’t be daunted in wanting to do a good job. Every effective teacher helps.
“Have no fear, teacher is here,” goes the saying but not all teachers are reassuring, kind or empathetic in nature.
Some are, in fact, the very reason why children fear school! I know of a hair-dresser who dropped out of school at the age of 10, because she could not take the the caustic comments and derogatory remarks of her tyrannical class teacher.
As a fellow-teacher or a parent, don’t stay silent when you know of an abusive teacher.
Meanwhile, principals should not be afraid to take action against such teachers — there are bound to be some bad apples in any profession.
“It is bad news if parents come to school.” This is not an acceptable remark. Although there are parents who can be irksome when they get riled up, parent-teacher interaction should never be seen as a waste of time.
Parents provide valuable insight into student behaviour. The importance of their input, wisdom, support and encouragement should not be down-played.
Even an angry or frustrated parent offers a learning experience for teachers.
Talking to parents for instance often inspired me to be a better teacher simply because they shared their hopes and dreams with me, and filled in vital blanks that helped me understand how I could help their child do better at school.
“It’s not me, it’s the office politics.” How often have you heard this lament?
The truth is that office politics may erode some measure of your spirit but it should not be the excuse for poor performance, wasting time taking sides or getting huffy.
The “what’s it in for me” app-roach is often the result of office politics but just be careful that you don’t let it colour every single thing you do at school.
At the end of the day, a teacher is remembered best for what she did in the class with her students or for the spirit she showed in working with her colleagues, rather than with whom she had coffee with in the canteen.
“You won’t be able to teach the last class students anything!” My immediate response is to refute that remark as there are some astute, creative and artistic students that I have had the copportunity to deal with.
Let me say they are a misunderstood lot. Many of them are crippled by poor language, learning disorders and neglect, not only on the home-front, but by teachers who often assume the worst of them.
You can however right this wrong. Begin by inspiring hope and raising their self-worth.
They may not pass exams, but who says they can’t be taught about the potential they have in them to grow and learn in small measures?
“If the cat is away, the mice will play.” This is an affront to many teachers because principled professionals will do a good job regardless of whether their superior is in the office or not!
Can you imagine a good teacher not entering class just because the principal or senior assistant is not in?
If you are a young teacher reading this, please don’t make this oft-said statement come true. In school, even the walls have eyes!
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Who ever came up with this assumption?
In many of the schools I taught in, I saw older teachers not only taking new technology in their stride but also actively seeking help to better themselves.
They are slower, perhaps, but they can definitely measure up. And, they can most assuredly learn.
“The more senior a teacher, the better a teacher he or she is.” May I caution you that old is not always gold?
Do not assume that the years add up to better performance in the classroom.
I know of teachers who have had 15 years of teaching experience (or more) but who bore their students to bits, are cantankerous, dogmatic and reluctant to really change simply because they think they’ve earned the right not to be questioned.
Yes, they have pounded the pavement enough but to what avail?
On the other hand, armed with the right attitude and fresh ideas, newly-qualified teachers or young teachers have the ability to light up every classroom they enter.
Nonetheless, I will agree that while a new broom sweeps clean, it is the old brush which knows the corners.
To earn more respect, older teachers should constantly re-evaluate the way they teach and the manner they adopt at work.
“The more mistakes you make, the more incompetent you are.” This is obviously not true for most people learn from their mistakes.
What’s important is to ackowledge a mistake, apologise and be sincere in making sure that the mistake is not repeated. After all, there is so much truth in the adage “to err is human”.
The more one reads, listens, speaks and interact, the more you ought to reflect, learn and correct yourself.
The approach: “A learner first, a teacher second” will make your development curve soar.
Finally let me reiterate that good teachers are everywhere. From remote to urban schools; from elite to slum schools — they stand out, and for what defines them from the rest is their character, intelligence, patience and strength to handle the tasks at hand.
Personally I’ve always challenged myself with this question: Who says it can’t be done?