When teachers take a break too.
When teachers take a break too.
“Cher, why did you give me a B?!” The student spouted in a somewhat accusatory tone.
“R”, I started in my most patient tone, knowing he didn’t take well to confrontations and challenges. “I didn’t GIVE you that B. You GOT a B. It’s what you earned for yourself.” I ended with a tiny knowing smile at him, just to show that I wasn’t really chiding, but reminding him of the truth he already knows.
My statement seemed to surprise him a little – I could tell from his loss of words, which doesn’t happen very often. He then gave a slightly sheepish smile. I knew he had been aiming for an A, and it was understandable that the B had left him disappointed.
More than learning where he had lost valuable marks, I also hope he learnt the value of taking responsibility for his effort and actions, and the importance of accepting disappointment in life, without blaming them all on others or on external circumstances.
One of the inevitable side effects of teaching music in a classroom is that sometimes, the classroom instruments become more than that – they become weapons of childish acts of revenge, objects to tease with, objects which can be used to get attention.
After a particular trifle between 2 groups in which Boomwhackers were hurled through the air, I got them to stay back after class to Talk.
Long story short – after rounds of blame-pushing and fact-crosschecking, the culprits finally owned up to their actions and agreed to accept the consequences.
Still feeling angsty over their misbehaviour, I then curtly told them to make it quick and to make sure I can see how much dust they have each cleaned from the room. The 2 boys picked up the brooms and started sweeping earnestly. After a while, 2 small mounds of dust accumulated on the floor. Boy1, after sweeping his mound into the dustpan, went over to Boy2’s mound and attempted to do the same. Boy2 became startled. “Hey!! Don’t steal my dust!!”
That he would be so protective over a mound of dust tickled me to no end.
Almost at once, I felt the irritation and angst over their earlier misbehavior dissipate, and I saw them for what they simply are: Young boys who are growing up. With hormones and all.
I allowed myself to crack a half-smile (even though I really wanted to burst into laughter), and told them there was lots more dust under the teacher’s table and under the stacks of chairs. It became almost like a game, with them trying to show me how much dust they could each collect.
I went back to the staffroom and shared the dusty story with a colleague, and we had a good laugh over it.
Self care for the day, done!
I think of the young girl who used to walk down those hallways.
The one who used to wonder if she’s on the right path, if what she was doing was what she was meant to be.
I wonder how is she now.
A conversation with a close friend recently got me thinking about the extents one would go for meaning.
There are people in this world who find meaning in making sacrifices for the greater good, staying on in environments they may find draining and tiring, just so they can feel the satisfaction of making a difference in an institution, with people they care about and work closely with.
There are also people in this world who cannot imagine being in their shoes, choosing instead to pursue meaning on their own terms, seeking to be separated from an environment they find stifling, regardless of the rewards the system and institution may grant to keep people inside.
As someone who (currently) belongs to the latter camp, I tried to understand why my friend from the former would want to make sacrifices like that. To delay her own aspirations so that she can make “lasting impacts” in her institution, so that she can leave a “legacy” in the programs she heads, so that she can pass her work on to a “successor”.
The conclusion I came to was that it is not for me to judge how different people form meaning out of different things and circumstances. Perhaps I am the self-centered one, the one unwilling to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, masking my selfishness under the guise of “seeking personal meaning”.
I just hope that we haven’t fallen into the “someday” trap, the mindset that “someday I’ll do what I want, once I have accomplished this, and that …”
I hope, for the sake of my friend, that these sacrifices for the “lasting impact”s and “legacy”s are truly meaningful and worth it.
It was a physical fight – Boy1 was wielding the broom, Boy2 was furiously using his legs, kicking to defend himself and attack his attacker.
Their fight was stopped.
“Why are they behaving this way?”
“Don’t they know what’s right and wrong?”
“Why don’t they get it?”
“Have all we spoke about in class been for nothing?”
“Why am I so affected by this?”
“Why am I feeling emotional over this small matter?”
“There’s been worse things.”
“Your class isn’t the worst, please. There are other worse students out there.”
“Why doesn’t anyone understand that I’m trying to prevent them from becoming those worse students?”
“You need to be fierce with them.”
“This one already fierce leh.”
“It’s ok to feel emotion.”
“It’s ok to feel.”
“It’s ok to show emotion.”
“You care too much.”
“Why do I care so much?”
“I don’t intend to stay on.”
“After this sem, 2 and a half years more.”
“I wish I had done something differently.”
“I’m sorry to call you about this.”
“You don’t have to be ashamed about feeling.”
“Appreciate your emotions.”
“They’re what make us human.”
“It’s ok to not be ok.”
“Would you choose to spend time teaching something to the class which is not in the syllabus, which will not help them at all, and not help them score well in exams?”
And the answer came as two rather resounding “NO”s.
As the fourth person seated at the table, I silently reminded myself that this is why I need to leave.