The Rammifications of Thought

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Teaching - An Experience

Somebody once said to me that teachers are the engineers of our souls.

Three years back I took up a summer job as a temporary teacher in my alma mater. My responsiblities were supposed to be looking after the class with minimal teaching involved. But as some of the senior teachers there knew me, they asked me to teach a couple of science stream subjects as well. Being a first time teacher isn't easy. The day before I started my job, I kept thinking about my 'opening speech' to the class.

Would I be the 'nice-and-warm' teacher? "Hello everyone, I'm replacing Pn. XXX as your Physics teacher starting from today. So I hope everyone will enjoy the class and do call me out for 'yum cha' sessions if there are any. Oh, and all of you look so smart today. I like your hair...ooh and your dress, was it custom made?" Not too suitable I'd say, I would be dead by mid day.

Or the 'super-fierce-discipline-crazed' teacher? "Attention everyone! I'm your new Physics teacher. And whether you like it or not you WILL stay in this class and you WILL pay attention to me. Those who flaunt these rules will be sent to the gallows! Make no mistake, I will FAIL you for any fault you make. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR??" Hmm...would probably cause a rebellion, and that wouldn't be good for the school or for myself.

Or maybe the 'I-don't-give-a-damn-if-you-listened-or-not' type of teacher? "Class, I'll be teaching your Physics from today onwards. Now I don't expect everyone to understand or even listen to what I'm saying. Frankly, I don't care about your results either. If you want to get a good place in society, by all means try to pay attention. If not, you can go to hell and it's not my responsibility." A bit too rash for a teacher newbie huh...won't do.

So in the end, I took a little bit out of everything and tried to share my knowledge as well as I could. Before the next class, I would do my own research on the subject and also prepare the OHP Slides. Sometimes I'd throw in some interesting facts or real-life applications of the subjects that were taught. Most of the time, I was the one doing all the talking; trying to initiate a response from the students was like trying to get a table to talk to me. I never really knew how well they were coping with the subject, but I had a good guess that most of them must have thought I was speaking in Swahili during class. Perhaps it was my lack of skills and experience. It was a bit frustrating at times when they showed their gratitude to my efforts by projecting blank, inanimate faces at me. Well, what can I say, I tried my best (and failed).

What I really enjoyed though was the experiments that were conducted. Back in my secondary days, we'd only stand aside and see our teacher carry out the experiments without any hands on experience ourselves. It's still the same nowadays, only the roles have been reversed. Now I'm the teacher trying to start the electron projector without getting my hand burnt. I did offer the students to have a go at the instruments too, but of course not everyone got the chance. At times, the teacher-student boundary was blurred and we shared some riddles and jokes together. Some of them were my pals' younger siblings so I'd ask them how they were doing. I even had extra classes for some of the weaker students and I really hoped that they got some benefit out of it.

Teaching was a good experience for me, an eye-opener too. I finally realized that being smart in your field of teaching is not the only thing that makes a good teacher, but personality and attitude counts as well. I still remember receiving cards from some of the students during Teacher's Day celebrations that year, and it really touched me that they appreciated my work. I don't know where most of them are now, but I hope they're doing well.

Today is Teacher's Day, so Happy Teacher's Day to all the teachers out there (including my mom and dad). Without you, we wouldn't be where we are today.

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