“My hope is that Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek will look into the plight of our teachers so that they are motivated and can focus fully on doing their best to teach effectively.”
That was the wish Rosemand A. Lawrence, who recently retired from the teaching profession after 33 years of service, has for the education system.
“In my years of service, I had seen many attempts to lighten the workload of teachers but none had been successful,” she told StarEdu.
A principal at SMK Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) in Kuala Lumpur since September 2017, Rosemand officially retired on Jan 3, with a farewell ceremony held two days later to commemorate her retirement.
Cognisant of increasing expectations for teachers to provide edutainment, she said it takes “a lot of time and energy” to come up with creative strategies to make learning fun.
“With the current situation where the teacher is inundated with numerous deadlines, key performance indicators, standard operating procedures, as well as guidelines and instructions, this seems to be an arduous task.
“Everyone keeps talking about putting the fun back into learning. Does anyone, however, talk about making teaching fun for the teacher?” she added.
The Taiping-born educator, who had served as principal in three schools, obtained her Bachelor of Science with Education in 1987 and her Masters in Education (Planning and Administration) 15 years later – both of which at Universiti Malaya.
In 2016, Rosemand completed the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders, an in-service training programme for leadership and management initiated by the Education Ministry through the Aminuddin Baki Institute.
She began her teaching career at SMK Raja Perempuan in Ipoh, Perak, where she taught from 1989 to 1991 before transferring to Kuala Lumpur after her marriage.
“My first school in KL was SMK La Salle Brickfields. I taught there for 11 years before I was promoted to senior assistant of Administration and Curriculum.
“Eventually, I was transferred to SMK (P) Methodist KL, where I served as principal for only a year before moving on to CBN,” she shared.
But it was at SMK Cochrane Perkasa where she served in 2016 that Rosemand said she had gained one of her greatest achievements as principal.
“The percentage of passes for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) jumped from 68% to 81%.
“It was a tremendous feat as the morale of students and teachers was very low when I first started out. In the span of nine months, we managed to identify the individual needs of each Form Five student within the different subjects.
“I worked with the teachers to tailor their teaching styles and strategies to enable better student performance,” she recalled.
She also shared the challenges she had faced as CBN principal during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had reconfigured the classrooms to accommodate the students while observing physical distancing. During this time (in February 2022), we experienced a landslip in our school compound. An entire block of nine classrooms was deemed unsafe for the students.
“The Education Department gave me an ultimatum – either find alternative space for these classes or go for a double session.
“My dedicated team of administrators left no stone unturned and we managed to solve the problem by locating alternative space for the classes,” she said, adding that a CBN alumna came to the school’s aid and repaired the damaged area a few months later.
But what is truly memorable for Rosemand as she looks back on her decades-long career is hearing firsthand from a former student of the impact she had made on his life.
“He was quite a handful in school – he was involved in a lot of gang fights and often got hauled up to the principal’s room. He was overjoyed that I could remember him after so many years but his words really touched my heart.
“He said it was my advice and my belief in him that changed his life – he stayed out of trouble, worked hard and is running a business repairing handphones.
“This affirmed my belief that teachers can truly transform the lives of students,” she said.
Teaching, she stressed, is a vocation and not merely a profession. Referencing Aristotle’s quote that “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”, Rosemand said she firmly believes that a teacher needs to go beyond imparting knowledge and to instil good moral values to help students.
“Teachers need to be passionate about their profession and treat each child equally with justice and compassion. I know it’s a tall order but teachers are the ones who shape and mould the future generation,” she said.
On her retirement, she confessed to having mixed feelings as she is happy to finally get a break and concentrate more on herself and her family but, at the same time, sad to leave her students and teachers behind.
“I will definitely miss the school environment. During Covid-19, I had a taste of how it would be like to retire and funnily one of the things I missed most was the ringing of the school bell,” she said.
But it is not completely the end of the road for her teaching career.
“I have agreed to help teach at a school for underprivileged children. My family understands it’s difficult to shake off the teacher in me,” she said.
In preparing for the future, Rosemand advised students to focus on building themselves and on acquiring transversal skills, instead of just chasing As.
“The ultimate responsibility to learn lies squarely with the student. Only those who are resilient and able to change and evolve accordingly can achieve success.
“More importantly, be kind and compassionate, and use your knowledge and skills to help build a better world.
“And to the CBN community, remember your 124-year old legacy, and stay true to your motto: simple in virtue, steadfast in duty.”
Carrie, 22, a student in Penang, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.