I’ve been meaning to post videos Jin has been making, but i never got to it. Till now! They’re all great storytelling about Malaysians and i’m so proud of his work.
His latest video was released on May 13th and is dedicated to all teachers. It’s a collaboration between Jin and INTI International University & College:
If i had to tell you of one teacher that i remember fondly from school, that wouldn’t be possible.
Because there’s a handful! I’ve forgotten all their names (cos my memory is that bad) but i remember exactly how they looked like, what they’d wear to school, and their whole demeanour. These teachers i retain in my memory, are the ones whom i could see truly LOVED teaching, and us, the students.
If i had to tell you a story about a teacher i know best – it would have to be my mother.
She started teaching as a temporary teacher in 1977 before completing her Diploma in Education in 1979. From January 1980 onwards, she was a trained teacher till 2012. In total, she was a teacher for over 32 years. I can’t even hold the same job for 3 years, let alone TEN TIMES of that.
When i was younger, she didn’t have me attend the same school as her cos she didn’t think it was healthy (thank God for that). Else i’d be mocked as the “teacher’s daughter”, or i’d embarrass her with my juvenile behaviour. I’m thinking it’s the latter, really. Even though i was not in the same school, i was still brought up in a strict environment and i hated it. I couldn’t understand WHY she wouldn’t let me go here or do this and that. It’s only recently that i’ve REALISED it was all for my own bloody good.
Funny it took ME so long to realize it, cos her students seem to be enlightened on her intentions while they’re still in school.
My mom told me of an incident a long time ago when the Girl Guides had a camp in the school field. They had these tasks to complete, and one of them was to ‘fetch a blue high-heeled shoe’. Nobody wanted to approach my mom cos she was one of the few teachers who had a commendable shoe collection back then (now you know where i get my fashion fetish from) and one girl thought she’d go do it. She interrupted my mom teaching a class but my mom was okay about it and gave her one side of the blue shoes she was wearing. According to school legend (haha), that Girl Guide got a Bravery Award. Oh man, i couldn’t stop laughing when i heard this story. People get a BRAVERY AWARD for asking my mom something? Daymn i should have a warehouse of awards then.
When i started working in KL, i would randomly meet girls who went to the school where my mom taught the longest, Assunta. Somehow (i really don’t know how) they recognized me as her daughter and go, “Oh i know you, your mom was my teacher!” And i’d be like, HOW DO YOU KNOW THIS.
Other times when i was socializing, I would offer up that personal information to someone who told me they went to Assunta. If she’d taught them, i usually got the response: “Puan Rose Wong is your MOTHER?!” with an alarmed look on their face while backing away. I found it quite funny and would go home and tell my mom how she instills fear in her students even YEARS after they’ve left school.
A close friend of mine, Nur, was the most dramatic in acting out how scared she was (and still is) of my mom.
She has blurted all these sentences to me:
– “Oh my God. Your mom used to scare the SHIT out of me in school. None of us would dare to be late for her class, and we’d RUN to the lab cos if we’re late, that’s it. Your mom would lock us out.”
– “How is it that you’re her daughter?!” (we’ll be out partying)
– “She’s the fiercest teacher, but the best.” (i felt quite chuffed when she said that, it’s nice to hear good things about your mom from other people!)
Jokes aside, i know how much love and effort my mother put into her lessons. For years and years, i’ve watched her mark test papers in detail, writing comments with fluorescent pens. She’d be hunched over these piles of test papers for HOURS (i’d see her doing them before i left the house, and she’s still at it when i come home). Sometimes, she’d be marking test papers for weeks. She even went so far as to devise her own science questions for every exam (she prepared students for PMR and SPM), much to their nightmares.
Even tho she’s known as a strict and fierce teacher to her students, my mom had her rebellious side against the school system (which i found heartwarmingly amusing). There came a new rule where all the teachers had to buy a specific batik cloth to wear every week. She abhorred against the concept of forcing every teacher to buy something unnecessary, and ended up buying the least fabric possible – 1 metre. Her friends asked ‘how are you going to make a baju kurung out of it?’. She ended up sewing her own flowy short top to wear. As long as she had that compulsory fabric on her body, she said it was enough.
Throughout the years, she’s told me different stories about students who come to her with family problems, and she’d tear while telling me. The most recent story she told me was about how she was talking to this student after everyone had gone home. (My mom always wonders about their personal lives, and whether it affects their studies.) She asked this girl what her favourite food is. And the girl answered, “Gardenia bread.” My mom was confused by her answer and asked, “Why?” The girl replied, “Cos my mother says it’s expensive…” My mom felt sorry for her and pressed money into her hand, told her not to tell the other students that she gave her money, and to make sure she gives the money to her mother when she goes home lest she thinks it’s stolen.
Oh man i almost cried when she told me this story and i felt so hedonistic thinking of all the delicacies i get to buy myself. Can you imagine being so poor that your favourite food is a bread that costs less than RM3?
After teaching for so many years, my mother finally submitted her retirement forms. I’m really glad for her cos i know… she’s made so many sacrifices to ensure she ALWAYS goes to school. She wouldn’t even take certain holidays with my Dad and i (like when we went to Spain) cos she didn’t want to miss a day of school. Even when she was sick sometimes, she’d still drag herself to school so she wouldn’t miss a class.
A week before her retirement in March this year, she told me about how she scolded these few girls who never handed in a single piece of homework since January.
Mom: Never in my whole life of teaching okay, that i get students who don’t pass up homework! I scolded them and scolded them. I said “Nasib baik i’m going to retire next week, nanti i bunuh engkau semua!” [translation: “Luckily i’m going to retire, or else i’ll kill all of you!”] Me: You told them you’d BUNUH them?! Hahahahahah
Turns out at the end of class, students started crying cos she’s retiring, and even the students she scolded were crying.
Mom: I felt bad seeing them cry. Maybe i shouldn’t have scolded them so hard.
(Can you imagine all the scoldings *i* got as a child?!)
My mom’s 58th birthday came on March 28th, and she retired from teaching that day. I went over to see her and was taken aback with the piles and piles of bouquets, presents, cakes and cards everywhere in the house.
I’ve never got these many presents in my entire life! I guess it was obvious in the end that her genuine desire for students to do well outshone her ferocity.
Seeing my mom being a teacher my whole life has shown me that being a teacher is NOT easy. You’re responsible for the wellbeing of students, shape impressionable teenagers to prepare them for later life, and sometimes can’t help but be emotionally pulled into their personal problems. You want to complain about bringing work home from the office? Teachers bring their work home ALL THE TIME.
For those of us who have left school years ago, think fondly of your teachers, and send them good vibes wherever they are. For those of you still in school, never be rude or take them for granted. Teachers get bad days too. If you think about it, they’re using their time, hours, days, weeks and years to help YOU.
I’ll end this post with wishing a Happy Belated Teacher’s Day to all teachers! Past, and present.
This post was brought to you by INTI International University & Colleges.
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