Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts

Friday, June 19, 2015

Treat Them Like Our Own?

When I first joined the school, there was a meeting a week before the beginning of Term 2. We had the meeting in the library. The meeting was chaired by the CEO, and the Founder was there too. The Founder made a speech, and in that speech, he mentioned: "We have to treat each child as our own, then things will turn out alright." - in brief, he was merely trying to tell the newbies that we have to treat them well, the way we do our own children. I was touched; to me, it made a whole lot of sense because if we don't love them, there's no way they would love us and pay attention in class.

Six months had passed (a tad too slow), and I realise that whatever the Founder had said was just his words of wisdom. I have tried to be nice, to be a "parent" to them, but it backfired. They won't listen but would continue with what they were doing at that time, be it chasing their friends, talking too loudly or not doing their work. Maybe I wasn't strict enough from the beginning, but then, they are not my kids and teachers are not allowed to impose physical punishment including getting them to stand on the chair. When they cause trouble, I tried talking nicely to them but it didn't work - not the primary kids whom I'm teaching.

I began to think... 

It is easy for others, particularly those who have never been teachers - or those who assume they know what it's like to be one - to tell us to treat students like our own children. This is pure fallacy; it's just fatherly talk. In reality, we can't treat students that way, not in this era. Firstly they aren't ours; we can't impose our rules on other people's kids because they may rebel (one of my students recently spread rumours about his teacher because he dislikes her), and their parents may not like the way we try to mould their children. Heaven forbid, they may even sue us if we say or do things that we know is right, but to them it's wrong. Secondly, those who offer such advice to teachers have dealt with only two or three children (of their own); they may not even have brought them up by themselves!! They obviously do not know the problems that we have in dealing with hundreds of kids of various backgrounds, varied attitudes and different upbringings. We deal one student differently from another, and we certainly can't help all, or even ten of them, given the amount of teaching load and non-teaching duties that we have per week. Some are able to accept our ways, others are not. And when things get too heated up due to the number of students teachers have to handle, they would not be motivated and will end up being burned out just trying to educate the recalcitrant or obnoxious ones. Teachers are humans, so they do get stressed out easily if the expectations are too great but the results too insignificant.

So, do we still need to treat students like the way we treat our own children? Nope. Students don't want another "mommy and daddy" - they already have enough naggers at home. Perhaps the Founder was trying to make his point across metaphorically, not literally. I don't know. Go ask him.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Kids vs Old Kids on the Block

How different are kids these days? After teaching for a good two decades, I can fairly say that modern kids are so much more different than when we were their age in terms of their knowledge, their language and the things they do during their free time.

In terms of knowledge

In the good old days, knowledge was learnt from teachers, as our parents were too busy with their work, not highly educated and not kiasu. The job of parents those days was to work to support family – it’s still status quo now – and to produce offspring as they don’t have as much stress as we have now.

In modern times, kids as young as 10-years-old could tell you the formation of planets, can explain what gravity is, have dissected animals and learnt the parts and can tell you why their country sucks big time. These were things we never knew before, and never bothered to comment on, as we were happily playing “chap tey”, “gasing” and “hantu galah” with friends in our village. Life was so much simpler back then.

As kids, we were exposed to works by the Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen. We enjoyed watching Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street and The Electric Company. Today, stories like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and the ever-famous Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be met with the word “LAME” by modern kids’ standards. Many would give you a blank stare when you mention those titles. Talk about modern animated movies like Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc. (now Monsters University) and guess what else – Spongebob Squarepants too - and their eyes would light up the darkest room!

They read magazines like the National Geographic, Young Scientist, and books by Percy Jackson, Geronimo Stilton and Adeline Foo (who?). I even have a Primary 4 student who proudly announced to me that she reads Shakespearean stories like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Twelfth Night (the abridged version I presume, but still… ), and when asked the reason for reading, the answer was apt: “There’s romance and love.” Can you beat that? Some of us in mid-life crisis don’t even know what these stories are about.

Talk to them about English grammar and creative writing, and they’ll literally yawn in your face. On the contrary, if you want to be in their GOOD TEACHERS list, talk about World War Z, Angry Birds, Blackshot, L.O.L and Mindcraft. They will salute you as if you were the General, and they’ll blabber non-stop about the levels they’ve achieved; suddenly you realize that your quiet class has transformed into an active one with the noise level of a Chinese restaurant.

In terms of language

Students still speak English. However, they use language that we never dreamed of using when we were in the primary school. Profanity seems to be the norm, so you’ll hear words like fuck, faggot (I honestly donno what it means), shit, bullshit and some Chinese expletives being liberally used in class and at home. Parents would just ignore and say: “It’s alright, daddy uses those words too.” – hello, they’re in the primary school, for Christ’s sakes. It’s the best time to mould them into tactful and restrained citizens when they could still be moulded. Once the bad habits are solidified, it’s too late to reverse the effect. If you think I'm talking crap, ask my 10-year-old student. He innocently declared: "Teacher, you know what my father calls me? An asshole."

In terms of what they do when they’re free

We played traditional games, we visited friends, we invited them to our houses, we went for extra-curriculum together. We watched TV or just read Enid Blyton’s works and the Hardy Boys' stories. Try asking what our little ones do in modern times?

In Singapore, it’s “study, homework, tuition” while in Malaysia, it’s coming to that too. My students are bored with holidays except for the lucky few who could travel overseas to some Western or Asian countries. We used to look forward to holidays, as it’s time to have fun with friends, but modern kids don’t do that anymore. Instead they spend hours paying close attention, literally, to their X-box, 3DS, iPad, iPhone, or i-Idiot for hours without much supervision, sleep, eat and eat more. Family time is a bore, and if they have to be dragged with their families, they need to be accompanied by their closest friend – the iPad or Samsung Galaxy, fully loaded with apps. Then you could take them anywhere including Timbuktu, and the kids are not even aware where they are. It's what I call a modern-day pacifier. Any parent who forgets to bring the devices on a long journey – or even a short trip to the eatery would have to face the “Wrath of Tantrums” from their tiny 6-year-old kids.

Come to think of it, what free time do kids have these days? After school, they go for one academic tuition after the next. Then on weekends they have their own CCAs like ballet, art, drama, dancing, singing, drumming, swimming, baking, piano, guitar, violin, creative writing, computer literacy, robotics, church meetings and the list goes on. Well, it’s the survival of the fittest, you know.

Only time will tell if things will work out well for these modern kids, and for the country in which they reside. By then, many of us would be watching from the heavens above.