Its been three years and counting since I've left my career as a teacher. Yet every year, at about this time I still receive a peppering of messages wishing me a Happy Teachers Day. Each one catches me by surprise. Remembering me is one thing, but honouring me as someone who once taught them is truly humbling.
This Teachers Day, I'd like to write a little post dedicated to each and everyone of you who have at a point in time called me 'Miss Tan'. This one's for you -
Once a young and passionate teacher, I now look back at those years with some regret. So many hours spent with you in the classroom, on the field, in the hall or at camps and yet so little to show for it. Young and passionate on hindsight, also meant ignorant and emotional. But, this post is one of hope and happiness as I consider what I would have done more of if I was given one more day as Miss Tan.
1. Less content, more class
Curriculum! Curriculum! A constant chant, a constant warning to us all. As a teacher I hurried to every class, hurried through the content, hurriedly marked papers etc. Students and colleagues were often amused by the speed at which I walked. Well, there was so much to do and so little time to do it! Or so I thought.
If I could do it all over again, I would have given more attention to each child that filled that classroom. The one who was absent because he was addicted to gaming, the councilor who slept in lessons because she was burnt out by her duties or the group of boys who had given up hope because they thought the school had given up on them.
What good would content do after they graduate? How far would a comprehension passage take them in life?
Instead, I would have chosen to spend 'consultation' slots listening to their struggles as a teenager. (When did I allow myself to forget how difficult life was as a teenager?) I would strive not to simply end the lesson on time, but instead spent the last five minutes of each class clearing their doubts or checking on the student who frowned the last hour away.
2. Teach hard, play harder
There is an unspoken consensus that P.E. teachers are generally more well-liked that the rest of us. Simply because most students look forward to P.E. lessons as a breather from the daily classroom grind. While it is true that a core subject teacher should focus once again on curriculum, there is no rule against us doing sports and games with the students once school is out.
Although, I did on occasion roll up my sleeves during the inter-class games, I wish I did Frisbee, street soccer or floorball with my students more often. It is during these times we see their true selves, which is very rare indeed. On the court, amongst friends and even teachers, they are more relaxed and positive energy is flying all over the place. 'Difficult' students suddenly evolve into lively and active kids, its wonderful and extremely worth it.
3. Trust, share and love
When you take the first step to trust your students, it makes it easier for them respect you. So often teachers are harried, sleep-deprived and irritable. . .as a result we are quick to assume the worst of our students. The student who is staring into space is inattentive and could not be bothered. Another twirling her pencil is definitely doodling in class. Or the girls are the back of the class must be having an unrelated conversation etc.
Why does it have to be this way?
Instead, I would choose to trust them first. I would have been more open to share about my own life rather than expecting them to naturally tell me everything on their own initiative. If I took the first step to be vulnerable, that might have made it easier for them.
Love Generously - these were my parting words.
This was what I hoped I did with each and every precious life that came into my classroom.
Yet, looking back I realised it was them, these unique and amazing individuals who had poured out their love on me so generously. Without judgement, without criticism. For all these and more I'm extremely grateful.
Thank you and you and you.
To fellow educators continuing the hard work, blessings on this Teachers Day.