Friday, May 13, 2016

Random thoughts: Tears from my pupils

2 pupils from different class cried when they got their results. 

One broke down when I tried to console him that sometimes we are just down on our luck, but I believed he had change for better. I think he had put in efforts and his harvest will come later. 

He is a mischievous and loud boy. Seeing him cry is a surprise, even I noticed his disappointment before I approached him.  

He was from the "last class", in the beginning of the year, I had problems even getting them to listen and do their work. They are getting into fights or causing disturbances to others, and etc. It is only recently that they finally start moving in the right direction (better late than never)It was painful for him, as the many extra hours we put in, the motivational talks to get them to bite their teeth and keep practicing yield results for most of the class. Most show 7-10% point improvement. That is 14-20 marks raw score increase from half a year ago. Sorry, I cannot help myself to boast. I am supposed to produce 10 As out of 18 in my class to meet quota for PSLE. But I only had 6 Cs and 12 failures from last year to work with. I felt so much a sense of achievement when I hear them saying "yes" I got my B finally! It is also this moment, that I had the feeling of being a teacher again, yes that sometime forgotten feeling of teacher when I am younger and not some results churning machine. That they are only 3 failures now with 5Bs to show, I think they did well, the Extra and even Saturday sessions have not been in vain. Screw that F** ricidiously KPI. 

I also teach a top P4 class. I am trying to teach a spectrum of pupils in this new school to quickly level up my pedagogies. While I might have been somewhat not able to keep abreast with the latest pedagogy, I think the key that was really missing last year was love. 

I cared about their results more than I cared about them. This year, I finally got my mojo back and start talking to them and wasting time telling them about "character" LOL

Sorry, I sidetracked.

My favorite P4 pupil did not top the class in paper 2. I am not sure if she top the class in total score, because it doesn't bother me if she is 95 or 97. She is good. Apparently, that is not the case for her. I could understand if she think 42.5 out of 45 is not good enough when the top pupil got 44 and her best competitor got 0.5 mark more. 

But to cry and paste a piece of paper over the exam paper to cover the score is a bit too much for me. 

I ask her to leave the class and give her a earful when I ascertain the reason for her crying is mainly due to the fact that she "lost"

After that, I reflected and I realized I suffer from low self-esteem during my university days and it was a reverse but same type of problem. Self worth determined too much by external validation than internal benchmarks. 

I talk to the class and share my experiences and told them not to be like me when I am younger. Competition is good and inevitable but we must accept that we will sometime lose and we will lose with grace. That lost could be painful but we must not be too emotional affected and must let go and move on.

Some of them don't understand and gave me a blank stare when I tell them if competition is the only motivation, and that "I lose once, I will work harder, I lose twice, I work even harder, I lose thrice or more and I gave up or lose something even more valuable, like confidence"

I told them to do their best and forget the results. I think this is the first time they are hearing this from a teacher. Most of them looked at me disinterested, with their body language telling me to "cut the crap, give me my compo paper so that I can know my results already."

I told my Weak P6 class before I mark their papers that I am glad I did everything that I could think of for them. I do not know if it will yield results but I know I have no regrets when I see their results. I hope they can feel the same when they see their results. 

It turns out I am again the weakest link when compared to my colleagues of achievers. I am consoling myself as much as I am consoling them, I realize. Can someone pass me a tissue too, I think my tears are following soon... Sobz sobz...

After the tears, I decide to acknowledge a few teachers who also put in their heart and soul for their pupils. One pupil can't even write basic and common characters last year and this time round, he wrote and coherent and complete essay. I checked with the young teacher what is her sauce, she told me she go through all the commonly used words  on essay writing one by one with him everyday. This is what I called passion. My boss ask me to nominate teacher for Leap award, I was happily filling up the form when they asked for innovative practices of the teacher.  I wrote "she used a variety of ICT tools and changes them so that her pupils do not get sick of it, but the crux of her teaching is her passion to do what I just described, there is no magic bullet in teaching"

My P ask me if the higher Chinese can meet the targets of last year, I told her the teacher is trying various ways to make the pupils buck up, but I think there is some gap. She asked me to find ways and get last year teacher to share methods.

I told her doing that now might create some unhappiness among staff and most importantly, I think it is not going to work since the "strategies are tagged to the teacher". Come on, there is no "weak pupils" if there is magic bullet. Luckily she backed off and agreed. 


  1. I was one of the weaker Maths student in my secondary school days but during one of the years, one of the Maths teacher put in more effort in guiding me.

    Could never forget the smile on her face when she finally announce to the class that I topped one of the class test;)

    Guess she derive more joy in getting the weaker students to perform better:p

    1. PP,

      In my previous school, I enjoy better satisfaction teaching weaker pupils, the stronger pupils make me feel my relationship with them is transactional.

      This new school, I enjoy teaching both, although I believed my strength or lesser evil is with the weak class

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