When teachers go above and beyond — Khairie Hisyam Aliman
MAY 16 — The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
That’s what Maria Montessori, Italian physicist and educator, thought. And it made me wonder: What say did our teachers have in our lives?
I feel that we Malaysians take many things for granted. Among those things we think we know inside out, teachers are perhaps the most misunderstood. After all, teaching isn’t exactly the theory of relativity, is it? (The day I understand that theory, I’ll be prime minister.)
They get relatively good pay. Their good pay comes with regular, delicious increments. Like the rest of us, they come in to work in the morning, but unlike us, they can leave work so much earlier.
And all they do is teach kids things based on Ministry-provided syllabi.
That is, perhaps, why my parents wanted me to be a teacher, too. It’s stable, well-paying, and I would’ve gotten a healthy amount of respect for it. Alas, it wasn’t for me.
Alas, I digress. So, by all accounts, teachers have it easy.
Or do they?
A few years ago, the UK Health and Safety Executive published a report from Cardiff University, in which there was a study on how stressed people are at work. And teachers were top of the table with 41 per cent, ahead of nurses (31 per cent) and managers (27 per cent).
Before we ask whether a UK study applies to us, various local studies say the same thing and include education as among the sectors with highest stress levels.
And I imagine it must be stressful. With modern parents more often than not holding full-time jobs, teachers take to the front lines every day on their behalf. Teachers not only pass on Ministry-approved curricula, but often life advice and insights, sharing experiences and anecdotes, giving encouragements and a listening ear.
Teachers do more than just “teach”, I feel. They educate the young to live as adults.
It’s often thankless; we expect them to be perfect and bear down on them the moment we see a misstep. We hear in the news how teachers are now “violent”, punishing our kids excessively.
And granted, maybe some of those were excessive; some of the teachers were violent and aren’t fit to teach.
But a few bad apples shouldn’t ruin a bountiful harvest.
At the end of the day it’s still a noble profession, a much-maligned yet indispensable pillar that keeps our society standing and going strong.
I remember when I was in school; a certain teacher praised my English and asked if I’d like to write something for Teacher’s Day. That was how I came to write my first poem, a tribute to teachers.
My school principal shed a tear when it was read. And that moved me.
Sometime later, I moved to a new school and wrote an alternative ending to Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” as an assignment. When I got the paper back, there was a comment that I “have a flair for writing”. I never thought so, not then nor today, but that opened to me a new possibility that I never would’ve dreamed about otherwise.
Those two memories, to me, were what led me down the road to becoming a writer today.
So back to the original question I posed: What say did our teachers have in our lives? I have a pretty clear idea.
We are the choices we make in life. But what choices we make depend on what options we see. And I would like to think my teachers had a big say in what I saw.
Happy Teacher’s Day.
* Khairie Hisyam Aliman reads The Malaysian Insider
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.