All I want for Teachers Day


BY MALLIKA VASUGI

 

I’VEe been puzzling over this for years,” said Lily, pulling up a chair next to mine in the staff room. “I’m really wishing someone could enlighten me on this - why is it that Teachers Day presents that are deemed good enough for you to receive from your own students are considered substandard or not anywhere near suitable for your own nieces’ teachers? Each time I so generously offer them one of the gifts I myself have previously received all I get are raised eyebrows and a look that says 'You expect me to give that to my teacher?' 

“You recycle Teachers Day gifts?” Linda sounded horrified. “How could you? All those hours spent by your students lovingly wrapping up carefully thought-out tokens of appreciation for you. And you can pass them off as gifts to someone else?” She made a few clucking sounds and shook her head disapprovingly. 

I thought of the mass-produced and cellophane-wrapped artificial roses we got every year (two ringgit shop momentos) but said nothing. 

“What's wrong with recycling?” asked Lily, looking a little nettled. “We have all these recycling campaigns all the time. And, anyway, it's not as if I'm passing down used goods. Besides, it's the thought that counts,” she said, pursing her lips. 

“Recycled thoughts, no less,” said Mr Kang. “Which may not be such a bad thing - seeing how this year's Teachers Day theme seems to have been recycled from last year. Guru Berkuatili – Aspirasi Negara . Quality Teachers – The Nation's Aspiration. Yup. Same old theme that we had last year.” 

“Maybe they've run out of themes,” said Sue. “They should have asked around for suggestions. I'm sure we could have come up with pretty good themes: Mengurangkan Beban Guru Tanggungjawab Semua (Reducing Teachers Workload is Everyone's Responsibility). Or, how about this one: Guru Gembira Negara Maju (Happy Teachers Make The Nation Progress). 

“It's all due to economic reasons,” said Linda with firm conviction. “Just think, how much money will be saved by using the same curtain backdrops as last year.” 

“The only logical reason,” said Mr Kang, “for the theme to be repeated this year seems to be reinforcement. They're trying to gel the message across to us teachers, I believe. We need more quality teachers.” 

“What? Are you saying that our quality is not good enough?” said Carol in her best Teachers Union representative voice.  

”Well, let me tell you something – it's not quality teachers that we lack but quality students, quality teaching conditions, quality tables and chairs, quality canteen food, quality administration ... yes, give us quality or give us death,” she added. 

“It's all those public-speaking practices she's been attending,” Linda whispered to me. 

“But nobody's answering my question,” said Lily petulantly. “Why is it that gifts ...” 

“How come nobody asks us teachers what we really want for Teachers Day,” said Linda. “What the heck, it is our day, isn't it? Why can't we for one day, just one measly day, be allowed to let our hair down, lie back and do absolutely nothing.” 

Well, I suppose there was some truth in what Linda said. Still, for many of us, Teachers Day means the planning, drawing up and execution of special programmes and activities for the school's celebration. 

“I wish Teachers Day never existed,” said one teacher who has been in charge of her school Teachers Day programme for five consecutive years. “It would be such a load of exhaustion off my back. And to think it is my special day. You could have fooled me.” 

There were others who thought differently. 

“I feel so special,” enthused a sweet young thing in her first year of teaching. “All those flowers, chocolates and notes of appreciation. It makes me feel so ... so needed.” 

“Wait till she's 50 with high blood pressure, half her hair and teeth falling out, and osteoporosis setting in,” said Carol malevolently. “She’ll be singing a different tune then, I bet.” 

“Do you know what I really want for Teachers Day?” said Sue. “Someone to come in and finish marking all my exercise books, complete all my reports, finish all the analysis forms and handle the whole keceriaan scene in my classroom. Just imagine, coming back to school the next day – everything done and neatly stacked on my table, the classroom immaculate.” 

“On Teachers Day,” a discipline teacher in a notorious boys' school told me, “all I want is an approval letter for voluntary transfer of all the bad hats in my school.” 

“I,” said another teacher, “would gladly forgo all Teachers Day festivities for the assurance that I will not need to attend any more unnecessary courses.” 

There were various other Teachers Day requests. 

“I want to be allowed to stay at home on Teachers Day,” said one teacher. 

“I don't mind coming to school, but I want the students to stay at home,” said another. 

“I want to be allowed to teach on Teacher' Day,” came a cryptic request. 

“A two-day, one-night stay in a luxury resort, courtesy of the Jabatan Pendidikan – minus the ceramahs.” 

“Foot massage” 

“Beauty treatment vouchers for one year.” 

“A headmaster who is able to appreciate all my work.” 

“A headmaster whose work I am able to appreciate.” 

“Air-conditioning in the staff room.” 

“Fans that work in the staff room.” 

“Teachers’ aides who are employed to take care of all our files.”  

“The sun, moon and stars.” 

“So,” said Carol again, “what do you honestly think? Is it wrong to recycle Teachers Day gifts?” 

“Wrong? How could it be wrong?” I answered. “It is absolutely the most right and proper thing for all teachers to do. Think of all the things we could treat ourselves to with the money saved. Yes, recycling is in. For as long as we are teachers, let us recycle.” 

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