A random conversation while discussing client requirements with an account manager triggered this thought. If it had come from anyone else but her, I might have fudged the details (not lied outright, merely withheld information), but I admire her greatly, both as my superior and as a person (seriously, she has this really uncanny ability to draw information out of a person), so I was completely honest and forthright with her (like the fact that I didn’t really have a job offer and I’m still waiting for my cert…).
She said something that made me smile, “I didn’t think you’d go into this. You don’t seem much like a teacher. Normally teachers are strict etc etc…” I’ll be the first to admit that ordinarily, I’m anything but the image of a teacher. My hair is usually falling around my face in a dead pool, my complexion is slightly spotted, my dress sense is non-existent, and I dislike makeup. I’m messy, disorganised, and I think I might have actually lost my head a few times.
I’m easily distracted, absent-minded and despite all appearances to the contrary, shy around strangers. Without a guidebook or a note as to how to behave, I’ll be a nervous wreck (which is why I rarely attend gatherings unless I know people going there personally… then I tend to stick to them all the time). I’m confident around people I know; I usually tone down my behaviour quite a bit when I’m out of my element.
So why become a teacher?
I’m not one of those people who pick a career because they want to overcome their own shortcomings. Hardly. I’m perfectly happy with most of my shortcomings. Neither am I one of those who haven’t found their life’s passion (writing is very much my life’s passion, thank you very much). I’m a great one for talking. I love being in front of an audience. I like shocking people, behaving one way and then doing a 360. I love finding out what makes people tick, what motivates them and from where they came. I’d like to be a talkshow host.
Failing that, I’ll settle for being a teacher. :P
I love the exchange of ideas. It’s probably risky and borderline insane to base your career on one good experience, but it’s not unheard of. When I was a camp counsellor about 5-6 years ago, long before I started my second year of college, I worked part-time as a camp facilitator in the National Science Centre. It was an outfit run almost all by a Singaporean and a Malaysian who lived in Singapore. The programs ran nearly every day during the school holidays, and so I was gainfully employed for most of it. There is one class that sticks out for me that time. It was the only time I was left in charge of a class while the facilitator went between two different classes.
It was a group of adolescents, mainly upper-class kids between 10-14. We were doing a CSI class, and they needed to find evidence. From the evidence, they would then postulate theories on what happened, how it happened, why and when. I don’t remember the details, but I remember the emotions. It was watching them use their minds. Watching them reason, guess, and that interaction. It was keeping one step ahead of them and letting them come to their own conclusion. It was guiding them, but ultimately trusting that they would carry out the experiments successfully.
It was watching them learn how to think.
I could do it the rest of my life. It was something that I enjoyed. It was something that might actually make a difference. And English was the perfect medium for it. I picked up most common sense and “good habits” when I was in language classes. I learnt the history of the strong Kelantanese women in Bahasa Melayu. In English, I learnt how to conduct myself with dignity. In Malay, I learnt that there was always space for tolerance. In English, I learnt to listen to my heart.
If it were not for the language classes, I would not be where I am now. If it were not for teachers like Mrs Chee, pushing me to go beyond what was expected of me, I would not have picked up Journalism. If it weren’t for Puan Salmah, I would have never discovered the cheeky side of English. If it weren’t for Mr Alex, I wouldn’t have the confidence to be patient. My favourite teachers were all the ones who made life worth living. They made me see that life had a purpose. Life is not the drudgery of an existence day in and day out. It is to take pride in your work, to go out, and do your best, and to believe, ultimately, in the fact that your students mean well. That they are sincere. To believe, most of all, in the best of your students.
My ultimate aim and goal, as a teacher, is a simple one. To be kind. At the end of it, if I’ve managed to touch one life, and made the same impact on them as my teachers did on me, I would consider my job done.
My passion as a writer is to pass on my stories. If I can have one student remember my story, and pass that on to the others… it would be the best way to be remembered. It would be a legacy that would never fade.
Touching lives with love and kindness are the best legacies a person could leave behind.