Yesterday I had the chance to be a teacher for an hour. I was invited to be part of Teach for Malaysia Week where they invite people from the corporate world to teach a class in a school for an hour. When I first got the invitation to do it, I was really reluctant to do it because I wasn’t sure if the kids would respond well with me. I went ahead to do it anyway thinking that at the very least it would be an eye opening experience. And an eye opening experience it was.
I learned a few things about what it takes to be a teacher and I walked away from the experience thinking… whatever teachers are being paid right now, it’s not enough.
Let me explain why.
1) You’re always tempted to “cheat” with teaching.
What do I mean by this? Well throughout my lesson I was trying to teach the kids how to do something. The right way to teach someone something is to guide them through a lesson and a thought process until they come to the answer themselves right? I did a lot in the beginning with a few students at a time but eventually it got really tiring having to do it for 30-40 people in the class. What I felt eventually was the temptation to just give them the answer and be done with it.
Sure there are teachers who just fall into that temptation all the time and make it a part of their teaching routine but those aren’t the good teachers. The good teachers take the time to help you help yourself find the answer. Not give you the answer. The good teachers constantly fight this temptation day in and day out even if it means it takes more time and effort to help you get there.
2) Preparing for a lesson is time consuming.
Before my one hour lesson, I sat down with a fellow teacher to prepare for it. The whole preparation took 45 minutes and that’s not even including the time the teacher took the days before to do some research on the topic. The topic I taught was on the perspectives of different jobs people hold and the realities… it’s a bit of a different topic than the usual textbook subjects so perhaps that takes a bit longer to prepare than a normal lesson. Still… I hear it takes a teacher half an hour to prepare for each one hour lesson.
Again… my history teacher in secondary school probably didn’t need to spend any time preparing anything since he just read from the text book. But again… he wasn’t a good teacher.
3) Teaching drains you.
At the end of the one hour lesson, I felt totally drained and exhausted. I didn’t know why until Shorty put it into words. She said in class, a good teacher is expected to be upbeat and enthusiastic about the lesson. Teachers who aren’t… tend to come off as boring and students stop paying attention. So there’s a need to be this personality that is full of energy that has to lead a class. It’s easy to be enthusiastic and positive when everyone else in a group is as enthusiastic as you because you feed off each other’s enthusiasm.
In class though that’s not the same. Sure some students may be enthusiastic about the lesson too but they’re normally too shy to show it. So a teacher ends up having to be this bright ray of positivity in a class that is generally non-responsive. Everyone feeds off your energy.. and that’s why by the end of the class you feel exhausted. Imagine teachers having to do the same thing 6 times a day throughout a regular school day. It is VERY exhausting. Couple that with having to deal with disciplinary problems or students that constantly talk in your class and it gets even more exhausting.
It was eye-opening for me because when I sat in the same kind of classes as a student, I never knew how tiring it was for a teacher.
4) Teachers work in an environment that is less comfy than the typical office.
Let me describe the environment of a typical school. There is no air-conditioning in classrooms or even in the teachers room. In our tropical weather it’s always really hot and classrooms are like hotbeds for body odour… some of it probably coming from my sweating self when I was in the classrooms.
There aren’t any (or maybe I didn’t notice any) computers in the teacher’s room to check Facebook or watch a YoutTube video or even Google something short of the laptops teachers could bring from home. I don’t even know if they have wifi.
The toilets are especially dirty for some reason and has a kind of smell that reminds you of the dirtiest public toilets.
The irony is that this is the exact school environment that I grew up in as a student and it never bothered me. I loved it actually. Sure we all sweated a lot in class and had to use dirty toilets but no big deal. Perhaps it was because a student I didn’t know any better.
Compare it to the working environment of a typical office worker though and you’ll see a difference. We have air-conditioning, most likely a computer, heck we even have elevators to take us up one or two floors. I’m yet to see a school with an elevator. The school I visited had 3 floors and no elevators.
5) Teachers Sometimes Have To Be Multi-lingual
This is probably unique to Malaysia. The classroom that I attended and the classroom I grew up in at Secondary School had kids from different ethnic backgrounds. Everyone understood the National Language of Bahasa Malaysia but some are more proficient in it than others. So sometimes in order to be able to communicate, relate or teach a student well I found myself having to tutor some kids in Malay, some in Chinese and some in English. It’s not a must… but it helps.
6)Teachers Have A Very Important Job
They educate our children and shape them to face the outside adult world that’s in the years ahead of them. That to me is a very very important job. I was listening to BFM today and a speaker was talking about how Korea is able to produce internationally huge brands like Samsung. It started with Korea revamping its education system to make sure its work force was eventually able to support innovative companies like Samsung.
Teach For Malaysia gave me an experience that broadened my mind to the profession of teaching and my only hope for this entry is that people reading it now would know what a teacher’s job really entails. I for one think that teachers should be paid much more than what they’re being paid today. Yes, with better pay comes higher expectations so we expect more from our teachers too but isn’t that a good thing that we expect more from the education we give our kids?
I know people today who choose teaching as a profession even though they could get higher paying jobs outside. Why do they do it? For passion, for love of their kids, for wanting to serve the country… there are a whole lot of reasons there. What I have never heard though is someone tell me that they want to be a teacher because it is financially a very good career option. That eventually they could be promoted and earn a comfortable living.
My hope for the children of today is that they will be able to live in a world even better than the awesome world that I live in.
My hope for the teachers of today is that teaching can be a profession that fulfils their passion for kids and our future but also as a fantastic career path to be in.
PS: If you want to apply for Teach For Malaysia, their next application deadline is 5th May. You can apply here.
Yesterday was a happy day. My business partner for the past 7 years Ming proposed to his girlfriend Patty. It brought back memories of the day I decided to propose to Shorty 3 years ago.
I was really nervous when I proposed to Shorty. I don’t really know why… because I was sure she would say yes. Otherwise she wouldn’t have wasted 3 years of her life with me. I guess I was nervous because it was truly one of the biggest decisions I had to make in my life. Marrying “The One”.
This pressure though stems from society or pop-culture’s expectation that we all have “ONE” person that we are meant to be with in our lives. I disagree though. I don’t believe that there is just ONE person for everybody. I believe there are a few (or more). So it’s not about finding “The One”. It’s about finding a person that makes you happy and can make you want to live your life with.
If you realize this then making that one decision becomes a lot easier.
Shorty and I have been married for 2 years now… but together as a couple for 5. I don’t think that I’m the only person in the world that could make her happy. I think there are more than a few guys out there who could treat her as well as I do and make her as happy as she is right now. The thing is I guess we found each other at the right time… and she feels good enough to want to live life with me.
I talk about the “right time” a lot. That’s because I think while there is more than one suitable person for us out there to live our lives with, I think we could all meet them at different times of our lives. Sometimes we could meet them too early, sometimes much later… and the one you marry is the one you end up meeting at the right time. The time when you feel you’re ready to make the commitment and settle down to start a family.
I used to say that I met Shorty too early. That I hadn’t had enough girlfriends before her… but now I’m just glad I met her at all. We can’t control when the opportunities come… we can however make the decision to seize it when it does.
I saw my opportunity in the form of a short but noisy package… and I seized it. Now I’m happily married.
Me: *sigh* The worst part now is that I still have to put my hand in the toilet and pick it up.
Shorty: Well it could’ve been worse. The toilet could’ve been full of shit. Then you’ll really be in deep shit… HAHAHA GEDDIT GEDDIT?
Me: Don’t be annoying. Okay fine I’ll get it.
Shorty: Wait wait let me take a picture!
Me: *looks at wet dental floss* Do you think I can still use this?
Shorty: WHAT DO YOU THINK?!?
Shorty and I were crossing immigration at the Singapore airport. We were lugging Fighter in his car seat the whole time and before we get to the tall immigration counter, we had to go through this really narrow path. So we were both like stumbling towards the immigration officer seated on his high table. Upon reaching him the immigration officer:
Officer: Sir you’re supposed to come one by…. *looks at a panting stumbling Shorty next to me*…. are you okay?
Shorty: Uhh.. yes… just carrying baby…
Officer: Baby? Where? *looks down* Ohhh..
After we crossed immigration…
Shorty: What do you think the immigration officer was thinking?
Me: I think he was probably thinking that by the way you were walking, you were a person that had special needs or something.
Shorty: NO… I think he probably thought you were kidnapping me and had me handcuffed to you.