A teacher’s heart

Only two days into the week, I am ready to declare this to be a most difficult week, drained physically and emotionally. Nursing a sore throat and experiencing the onset of flu, my energy level is dreadfully low. However, low energy is never a good enough reason for any teacher to miss class and as such I can only put on a brave front and head to work, despite the physical discomfort. Unfortunately, my students have chosen this particular week to misbehave, giving me a hard time in class. There is really nothing personal in this for, as students bond among themselves over time, the tendency to chit-chat during class activity can only increase. It literally took every ounce of discipline in me not to unleash my Shrek persona on them, because I really did not want to treat them like children. I have chosen to respect them and I hope they too learn to respect themselves and hopefully me too, as I stand before the class and share what I know with them.

Singapore celebrates Teachers’ Day this week and having recently rejoined the ranks of teaching, I could not help but ponder the weight of teaching. It is tough being a teacher these days. Ask any teacher and they will gladly tell you why; just be prepared for a long conversation. Yet, many persevere and continue to give of themselves and their best years to students. Why is that so? Teaching really is no longer the cushy job that many thought it was, like maybe 20 to 30 years ago. As I reminiscence all the good teachers that taught me or whom I worked with, I cannot help but observe the teacher’s heart in them.

A teacher, you know, a real teacher always sees the best in each child. She is able to see past one’s boisterous ways and mischievous acts, to the shy and insecure child hiding within, waiting to be released, nurtured, affirmed and loved. She is willing to spend time counseling the child, admonishing when things go awry and holding the child’s hand as they step into the future together. No matter how frustrated, how draining and how painful this journey will be, the teacher will never give up. And she knows all the grief and heartache she will be exposing herself to, in taking a personal interest in her young charges, for a teacher willingly puts herself through this on regular basis. If you think about it, a teacher is rather like a parent, except that she is expected to do more and have no control over the number of children (class size) she has.

A teacher also brings hope and aspiration to the children under her charge, beyond simply believing in them. A teacher scolds, nags, cajoles, simply to push you to take another step toward the better future she thinks you deserve. If she had to whip you in shape to get there, arthritis will not stop her. Such teachers are not cool and they irritate us. We dislike them with an intensity that sometimes border on hate and yet these are the teachers we never forget, because in our hearts, we know that beneath the stepmother persona is a person who cares for us and hopes for bigger things for us than we ever dare to imagine possible.

Like what Alan Maley said in his poem What Teachers Make, teachers made a difference and I for one, am immensely indebted to all my teachers who watched out for me while my parents were busy trying to make ends meet. You kept me off the streets and out of trouble. To all the wonderful colleagues I have worked with over the years, thank you for being such wonderful role models that this noob teacher could learn from.

Happy Teachers’ Day!

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