IN RESPONSE to the letter entitled Buck Up, Teachers (Star Education, Feb 5), I would like to share my experience with your readers. I studied in a government-funded college which conducts a pre-university programme in English. However, most of the teachers there have been teaching their respective subjects in Bahasa Malaysia almost all their lives.
When I first started the programme, I was disappointed to see that the teachers allocated to teach my class Chemistry and Biology were not proficient in English. Initially, I was full of criticism and complained whenever the teachers made mistakes. But eventually, I learnt to concentrate more on keeping up with the content of the lesson.
It was then that I began to notice how hard the teachers were working to try to improve their command of the language. They were not afraid to ask the students for the meaning of words they did not understand, and never failed to say thank you when we corrected them. I think it was really professional of them go to such lengths to improve their English.
I remember one occasion when my Biology teacher was teaching us the topic on genetics and I could not understand what she was talking about. I was so discouraged that I showed my disinterest and slept in class.
At the end of the lesson, the teacher struggled hard to say, in bad English, “I’m really sorry if I taught badly. This is the first time I am teaching Biology in English, so I hope you will all help me.”
It struck me then just how arrogant I had been. Do I have the right to be disrespectful to someone who is older and more qualified than me just because my command of English happens to be better?
I don’t think so.
In a classroom, students can inspire the teacher by giving him or her the right support. After all, teachers are human too. How can they improve if students, parents and the media keep criticising them?
The fact that Shamy’s teachers kept “asking students for the meaning” (StarEducation, Feb 5) proved that the teachers were keen to learn. It cannot be easy for a 30-year old teacher to ask a 15-year old student the meanings of “simple words”.
Students should not be so critical of teachers who make mistakes while teaching in English as they, of all people, should realise that making mistakes is part and parcel of language learning.
I think it is important for us to acknowledge that this is a difficult transition period for teachers who are trying hard to make the teaching of Science and Maths in English a success. They need our support more than anything else.