Thursday, November 11, 2021

Random thoughts: The highs of teaching in 2021

I have not been blogging for a while. I am not that busy, and I realized I have 2 drafts of blog posts that never get published. I guess the main reason is that I feel these blogs does not value-add to my readers in any way. I can't see how this post is different, but I guess I shall "talk to myself" once in a while.

What a year of teaching in 2021. I never expect a secondary 3 pupil to visit and say "Hi" during teacher's day. The meeting outside the school gate is boring, I felt "loss" when that group of pupils of 2018 came back to visit, I knew they came for others. I received a message to ask me to come to the gate to meet them, but I guess I am never good at socializing (What ironic statement, isn't it), after a while, I just left. The chat with the Secondary 3 pupil happens through whatsapp messages, and we chat for almost an hour. Truth to be told, I used to hate Teacher's Day, it is a very awkward day. I am particular happy this year, that I can have a proper chat with a student. I do not like small talks, but deep, engaged talk. There are so much to talk about,  her secondary life, and how she is coping and thriving in a top secondary school, and her attitude towards life. I only taught her for a year in P4, and I am very surprised when I continue to receive well wishes from her this year. Well, almost all pupils will stop visiting or send well wishes when they goes into secondary 2. 

The high point is I also had a heart to heart talk with her mum. Although we have known each other for years (She have 2 children), it is only this year we became friends. She told me that her daughter felt that I am still her best Chinese teacher all these years. I was very touched by that sharing. I think I work well with parents, but very few became "friends", with that kind of trust, talking about anything under the son. That trust has a "expiry" date too, usually after their children graduate for a year or 2, contacts will be few and in between, but I am still very thankful for all the friendship built, even if just for a few years. I believed in 活在当下。

I also believe that teaching is about relationship building, about trust. Although that relationship and trust has a expiry date, I am always very thankful for any pupil whom I have the "缘分” to connect with. When they trust me with their problems/ life beyond academic work, I believe some level of trust is established and I am careful not to break it. I believe teachers should be life coaches, a trusted adult, beside imparters of knowledge. While I cannot solve problems of potential divorces, death and sickness of loved ones, low self-esteem, I take every such case that I come across as "God" (I am a atheist btw) arrangements. I will check on them, when they are feeling overwhelmed. Don't ask me how I have helped them in their life, beyond chatting, and referring some pressing ones to counselors, I am not sure what to do. I do not pretend to be a bleeding heart too, and unlike stories that I know, where there are home visits, and real tangible help given, I simply talk to them, and if necessary, also to parents. I seek to influence some of the parents' thinking by slowly engaging with them, but if I feel there is no connections, I do not pursuit the matter too. This, perhaps is a "parent" year, with parents updating me about their graduated children. I  also managed to “话家常” with some parents, in hope of slowly planting the seeds of  awareness regarding the stress their children feel, without being seem as being noisy. (Although the ironic here again is I am being super kaypo here).  

My understanding of pupils also get challenged, this year. I am also happy for that. This is the year, I felt there really is a generation gap between me and them. The annual activity of making a business card for themselves, turns out occupations that shocked me. The activity is unlike the usual ECG lessons, I said upfront that NO doctors and lawyers, unless you are 100% sure that is what you like to do. I ask them to just think of what they like to do, what their ideal happiness is about, and what job would achieve those. I told them jobs that are imagined or do not exists counted too. I usually get 1 or 2 "evil" jobs, but this year, one third of pupils wanted jobs that see the "suffering of others", like squid manager, squid soldier, "body collector", demon slayers etc. 

When I watch some of the shows they watch during their short break, I am shocked but the gruesomeness and gore of some of the videos. Of course, there are still many innocent and pure minds, but those are getting lesser and lesser. I ask them to create thank you notes and good bye notes for their friends, and I told them I will get them printed for them so that they can give it to their friends during graduation party. I am quite shocked that some pupils created templated cards, and a number of them can't even pen a personalized message for 1 friend. What I have taken for granted, is no longer true, I must remind myself to be mindful that every batch are different. And this year batch cannot be more different. 

Last year, I had a lot of fun with the graduating class, we joke, talk about life, share about music in class, etc. I used to think as long as I keep an open heart and mind, and not be judgmental, I can easily connect with others. It is not really true. Some pupils just doesn't like small chats and are introvert. Initially, I thought they didn't like me, but I later realized they are just introverts. After the PSLE, they are more articulate, I guess the stress also play a part in they clamming up. But they will not and definitely can't talk about anything under the sun with me. 

In short, it is a year of abundance of relationship building, the negative or positive.         


  

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