PG 18

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The College Soul For A University Student

I got this book as a Christmas present for last year but I only got it this year in February.

When I first opened the gift wrap, I laughed. 
I thought, how cute. I'm in my final year of university now.
I'm pretty sure most of the content won't be relevant to me now,
as I've passed those phases of 
identity-seeking, being chained to conformity and whatnot.

Then, I thought, oh well, I'll just read through 
and see how much resonance it has with the then me 
who had her first gingerly step into this new city, away from her parents' prying eyes.

I had read only 50% of the book and I completely changed my mind.
It wasn't that shallow as I thought it would be (how to find yourself a friend; how should you dress up; how to adapt to new surrounding; how to live harmoniously with your roommate etc)

Yes, the book does cover all of that.
But the way they are presented is much sophisticated and captivating.
As it focuses more on insights and inner feelings,
you can relate to it no matter what walks of life you're in.

It talks about growth, passion, society, love;
broad aspects that can strike a chord with anyone 
from having just started college to having graduated from college for years.

I thought it was going to be a series of how-tos,
like a Dummy guidebook for freshmen.
I am glad that I was so wrong.

Here's one of the many excerpts that ring a bell and
serve as a reflection of how we once were.


So, college is the perfect place to find---or redo---yourself. Suddenly, without parents and high-school friends who remember when you tripped down the stairs at junior prom, it's a level playing field. The time is ripe to explore that long-concealed interest in pre-Cambrian fossils or to date a goateed poet type.

But once you have to the chance to be anything you want, you face the really tough questions: What do you want?

It's harder than it sounds. What you think you want when you're surrounded by familiar faces looks different in a new place. Things you thought were cool suddenly appeared dorky, irrelevant or simply wrong. In high school, I was sure I'd fall in love with the first man who wanted to talk about Hemingway; but when I met that person, I hated his guts. I thought I'd find my voice in a college classroom; but in the end I was much happier scribbling down my thoughts and discussing them in the relaxed atmosphere at a coffee shop.

In other words, if you yearn to be someone quite unlike your high-school self, be fearless. Try whatever you can imagine until you find something that really fits. But in the meantime, go easy on yourself and others who are shopping for a new identity. finally became clear to me why I'd come all these miles. It wasn't to become a completely different person. It was simply to figure out how to be comfortable with the person I was---not only at a huge university in an edgy city, but inside my own skin.

-Wendy Marston-

Sunday, May 1, 2016

When Curtains Fall

I always enjoy reading my seniors' posts about the experiences they had with their students and am amazed by how normal mundane things they shared had inspired me and gave me insight on certain things. Now, I have a piece of my life to share as well.

This is not an article to boast of how I’d impacted pupils’ lives, rather, how they had taught me life lessons (even shaped my direction in life) in ways beyond imagination.

I sincerely hope you would be patient and read through the article for it's a firsthand testimony of how life shows love and appreciation through different means. =)


    He sat there, staring at his friends, one by one, as they lined up to give me salam, sobbing and shedding tears. His facial expression was neutral, not showing any sign of emotions. His friends took turn to give me a farewell hug. He sat there, staring blankly while he watched the presents slowly piled up in front of him.

  He was seated directly in front of the teacher’s table for he required extra attention from the teacher to ensure he didn’t misbehave. He was described ‘crazy’ by other teachers in the sense that he often did something unexpected that disrupt the class. He once took off his clothes in my class with the excuse of being too hot and he would sometimes stood behind me, not wanting me to see him, while I was teaching in front.

  He did not come forth to give me salam. The bell rang and I walked out of the classroom. It was my last day teaching in the school after three and a half months.

  Moments later, when stepping out of the staff room, I was surrounded by a group of weeping pupils. A voice caught my attention. “Maaf cikgu saya tak pernah jadi murid yang baik. Sorry cikgu....sorry...”, the boy who I thought would feel nothing about my departure uttered while sobbing. The boy who I thought finding pleasure in making me frown was his goal in my lesson cried like a little boy yearning for a mother’s cuddle.   

  My eyebrows raised and my heart throbbed with soreness. I was lost for words. Every neuron in my brain flitted about in search for the right word to comfort the broken heart. I managed to extend my arms, hug him tight and say “No, you are good”. How unconvincing. I hate myself for not being able to come out with better words.   

  He must be thinking I was disappointed in him for he always topped the chart of the most ill-behaved. The truth was, I enjoyed teaching him, still. I knew his thirst for love and care and the root of his attention-seeking behaviour. I knew he was one brilliant boy, if only he was given a better learning environment.

  Facing this bunch of children, I had always reminded myself to put forth a more motherly love than teacherly love. I naively wished that I could compensate, even a little, the lack of love in their life. I felt they deserved more love than they were having.   

  Out of 49 pupils, at least 10 were from single-parent family, 1 found abandoned then adopted, 1 had no idea where her siblings were, a few not knowing when their birthday was and a bunch who craved for attention and care. I was overwhelmed by the imperfections of their childhood and the things they had to go through at such a young age. They were losing out in so many aspects, I thought.   

  But they astonished me with their imperturbable mindset in dealing with the hurdles in their lives. They did not feel ashamed or think less of themselves, as how many kids would think, when telling me how he had never met his biological parents and another telling how his mother decided to abandon him with the father after divorce et cetera. The kids did not yearn for sympathy, nor they thought their lives ought to be better in the past and that they did not deserve the life they had. Their faces sent you a message saying, “This is my life and I am handling just fine. I am surviving well”.

  I’ve gone through two practicums and this was the first time I got all stressed up. I struggled for the first two months. I cried. I lost motivation. I was at the verge of abandoning my professionalism as an educator. I thought to myself, “Oh well, I’ll just embrace laissez faire. I won’t have to burden myself with their level of competency. I’m not in charge of their lives anyway. My life will be less miserable”. I thought the two classes I was teaching were beyond redemption.   

  Now, don’t get me wrong. I had no major problem in controlling classroom discipline. I had no problem getting pupils to listen but I crumbled when trying to make pupils understand the knowledge I put forth.

   I was convinced that I could do nothing to bring them up from where they were to where they should be in three and a half months. I was at a time devastated when they could not comprehend what I was trying to put forth when I thought I had explained in the simplest form it could be. This was my third school, yet I knew little about setting the right expectations for right group of people.

  For the past two schools that I had taught in, I was given pupils who had basic level of proficiency and they had a rich amount of exposure in life. Many of them were from wealthy family and they certainly did not lack of knowledge of the world. It intrigued me for I was able to put forth a lesson which required the pupils to think critically on life questions. I could easily carry out tasks where the pupils had to create something or come out with an elaborated answer to why-questions. I enjoyed challenging their perspectives and prompted them to speak up for their stand in life. But these pupils were special. They were sent to teach me a life lesson : how to love.

  They had taught me how love should be present in every deed and how love would persevere and how love calls out to another love. They had opened up my eyes to how pupils, despite their age and limited cognitive ability, would be able to see a teacher’s effort and feel a teacher’s love underneath the reprimanding. They showered me with their gratitude and love through gifts, heart-felt notes, passionate hugs and tears. They had put me to shame every time I reflected upon the times I gave up on them.

  Another confession : I don’t like kids. No, a more appropriate manner of saying it is I don’t like handling kids. Friends with younger siblings had witnessed how I got fed up and annoyed easily by their younger sister/brother. I dislike having to take care of them.  

  Children tend to get all attached and thirst for attention. I am one person who can’t be bothered. It’s okay if you come bugging me once in a fortnight to entertain you but don’t expect me to always be your playmate.   

  I don’t like talking to kids. I find their topic of conversation shallow (I know they can’t be blamed) and boring. I like talking about ideas, perspectives, bigger issues... I find myself too impatient to be engaged in conversations on what toys you have in your room, how your friends not befriending you or how your Princess Sofia/Ben 10 saved the day. Thus, teaching primary school had never sounded appealing or appeared noble enough to me.   

  Five years of theories learning and practical training had altered my perspective on primary school teaching. It’s not so much about putting forth worldly knowledge but your personality to show them firsthand knowledge in dealing with life. Giving them a fishing rod to fish should not be the ultimate goal but the heart to teach others to fish. 

  I was amazed by how much life lessons I had learnt from pre-teens (I still cannot tahan Year 1 and 2 though, sorry ah). They had brought out the better in me more than I did vice versa. They had showed me how teaching primary school kids was more noble than I deemed and how much skills needed than I thought. It is the platform to touch lives and shape thoughts. It is the vessel that provides you the most opportunity to instill good will. Personally, education is the most rewarding pathway one can have : seeing others grow and bear fruits of their own.

  Teaching was never my first option in life. I asked myself countless time if I really wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I even had escape plans once I finished the bond. But now I am changed. I have cast away my Plan Bs. I have decided this profession suits me and my personality suits the profession.

   These chipmunks, once again, convince me that education is the noble path I want to march on.
Lonely Snowman