Poor but truly rewarded

TEACHERS Day is over but the enormous task of educating our children must go on. As I take time to open my Teachers Day presents, I begin to wonder what has kept me in the teaching profession for so long without regretting a moment of it in spite of all the condemnation by parents, students and the public. I am just as enthusiastic as when I first started.  

Their comments cannot discourage me because to me, teaching is my vocation and I am not doing it for any reward or gain. Hence, I remain a poor church mouse without a few houses, expensive cars, and plenty of stocks and shares to my name.  

I have no time to give any tuition because a lot of my time is spent in truly educating my students. Education is more than just the three “Rs”. It encompasses other areas like discipline, extra-curricular, etc. Our task is to educate them to be useful individuals who can contribute to society.  

I must stress here that the parents' role is also very important, if not more important. If the school disciplines and the parents pamper, then nothing can be achieved. I once overheard my neighbour telling his son, “Don't be scared. Your teacher cannot beat you. If he does, I will go to school and scold him.”  

During my first year of teaching, my colleagues used to comment that I was too serious in my work. My day was fully occupied – official teaching hours, extra lessons for poor and slow students, basketball coaching for the naughty kids to keep them away from mischief, preparing lessons for the next day, etc.  

I was teaching in a rural school. Some of the students were very poor while some were extremely naughty. The poor ones could not even afford to have breakfast. I can still remember having to buy a big box of bread for the school sports day. On the other hand, some of them were like gangsters and thugs. Most of the Form Five boys towered over me; I had to literally “look up” to them. They pushed my patience to the limit. Of course, there were angels, too.  

Where discipline was concerned, all the education psychology and theory learnt in college did not seem to work. I had to learn by trial and error, with a lot of hard work, patience and most of all, guts and love. I was fearful too after hearing how even men teachers got attacked by revengeful students.  

So, puny little me had to put on a very brave front. I don't deny having used very harsh and sometimes sarcastic words on them but they were never abusive. It was done with love and also with the hope of knocking some sense into them. 

My reward has never been and will never be money. It comes in various forms, like cards saying “Thank you for scolding me”, phone calls from ex-students in different parts of the world just to say “happy birthday”, a mischievous one or two who call me “mummy” ... the list goes on.  

I am sharing the following with teachers not to brag but to encourage those who want to give up. Friends and colleagues consider me a very successful teacher. I can control the entire school single-handedly without even a cane in my hand. A whole class of naughty boys can be left to do their own work quietly and obediently whenever I am called to the office for urgent matters.  

It is no magical power; it comes with a lot of patience and love. The teacher’s victory lies in the ability to stand and withstand the test. I stood and withstood. If I had given up, I will not be the teacher I am today.  

I do punish my students but I always make sure they know why they are being punished. They must also know that I am not taking it out on them.  

To all you teachers who are discouraged and disillusioned, don't be disheartened. When your students know that you are doing your best for them, they will definitely appreciate you. So, don't give up, you are still very much needed no matter what others say.  




Ipoh, Perak  

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