BY NEVILLE TIMOTHY SANDERS
KUCHING: A teacher is an important component in the education system and becoming one is never easy.
The job of a teacher is more than just teaching subjects to students in the classroom. Teachers often act as students’ second parents and friends besides helping them to discover their best potentials.
Here, six teachers, namely, Elin Akaw, Sophia Adnan, Teresa Leong, Wong Hio Foo and Zaiton Othman share their teaching experiences plus highlights of their long teaching careers.
HOW IT IS STARTED
While most of the interviewees said they wanted to become teachers because they were inspired by their own teachers, Elin Akaw said that she wanted to become a teacher after a temporary teaching job.
“During my eight to nine months’ stint of teaching in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Teresa, I found out that I really enjoyed interacting with the students.
“Hence, I decided to become a full-time teacher,” she said.
Sophia Adnan was also inspired by her teachers to become a teacher. Initially, she wanted to become a traffic policewoman.
While Sophia said that her first and only posting as a teacher was to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Green Road, other interviewees said they were posted to multiple schools until they retired.
Wong Hio Foo said his first posting was to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Simanggang in 1984.
“In 1988, I was transferred to Sarawak Teacher’s College in Miri, in 1992 to Batu Lintang Teacher’s College, in 2001 to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Luke, Simanggang and finally in 2006 until my retirement, to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Thomas, Kuching,” he said.
Zaiton said that following her husband was the reason why she moved to a lot of schools.
However, looking back, she said she didn’t regret doing it even though at times, she felt tired because of the good memories she had in some of the schools.
“My first school was Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Luke in 1982, then Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Datuk Pattingi Kedit, Beton from 1983 until 1985, Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Balai Ringin, Serian from 1986 until 1990 and lastly Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Thomas from 1991 until retirement,” said Elin Akaw.
All the teachers enjoyed their teaching experiences.
Wong said he became a lecturer in the teacher’s training college and a principal.
“I enjoyed the interesting interactions in the classrooms/lecture rooms with the students/trainees,” he said.
Elin said that besides teaching in class, she often looked forward to activities outside the scope of teaching.
“I treasured and enjoyed most of my interactions with my students in various activities like the school sports, softball tournament and the annual training camp for the school’s prefects,” she said.
Sophia was happy to share her knowledge and contribute to the school, principal and her colleagues. She was also happy to see her students succeed in life.
Zaiton said her students loved her very much.
“If I was absent due to some reasons, when I came back, there were a lot of things they wanted to tell me,” she said.
“Some of my students were poor and always give them pocket money and help them pay for their school fees. And I never asked for anything in return because I treated them like my own children.”
All the teachers had some beautiful memories to treasure for the rest of their lives.
Elin remembered the time when she joined the post Lower Secondary Exam (PMR) camp organised by her students in 1998.
“We became close after that. I will always remember this batch of students,” she said.
Elin also remembered the time her students came fourth in the Interstate Softball Tournament in 2004.
“I tell you it was totally worth the sweat, blood and tears,” she said.
Wong remembered the time when his students at St. Luke secondary school managed to emerge champions in three state-level events. That was in 2005.
“That was quite unexpected achievement from a small town school. Along the way, they beat quite a number of famous schools from the big towns,” he said.
Wong said he was most happy when his students lived up to their potential.
“It was always about the students and not about myself,” he explained..
Sophia, on the other hand, treasured the time when she helped her students succeed in co-curriculum activitities like poem and drama forum.
Zaiton also treasured the time she brought her students to visit Kuching.
“That’s where we see the responsibilityof a teacher/educator. It’s not just about teaching them in the classroom,” she said.
NOT ALL SUNSHINE
There are good times and challenging times in teaching.
Wong said,”When it comes to unmotivated students, there should be ways to inspire them to see the importance of education so that they will be interested to attend classes.
“When it comes to disciplinary problems among the students, enforcement of rules must be fair, consistent and transparent.”
Wong added it was also a challenge to maintain the facilities of the schools to ensure they were safe for students.
“I have been very fortunate to serve in two mission schools, namely, St. Luke and St. Thomas, where the Committee of Management had been supportive in ensuring that the schools provided the most conducive and safe environment for the students.
“In my initial years of service, fund raising project had to be carried out to source for funds for this purpose but in later years, the government was very kind in providing substantial grants,” he said.
For Elin, one of her challenges was the digital technology in the education system.
“While the younger teachers are qualified and equipped with the digital information and skills, the older generation find them very challenging.
“But like it or not, they have to relearn the new technology to cope with their workload,” she said.
Teresa, on the other hand, confessed that during COVID-19, teaching online classes was among her biggest challenges.
Sophia, meanwhile, shared her biggest challenge was balancing her career and raising her six sons.
“I had to deal rationally with physical, mental and emotional fatigue besides my students’ attitude,” she said.
Zaiton confessed that often times, her students as well as their parents would share their feelings with her.
“There were so many stories I’ve heard. Some are sad and some are happy,” she said,
She also said that it was a blessing to students who were polite and listened to what she said.
“Do you know that when my students had problems, I was the first person they sought? Even when their trousers were torn off, they would look for me and ask me for help,” she added.
ADVICES TO NEW TEACHERS
What are their advices to the new and younger teachers?
“To the new and younger teachers, teaching is a noble profession. Love your job,” said Teresa.
Elin advised them to be open to new experiences and environment and find a mentor.
“Ask for help and learn from mistakes. Understand your role in your students’ lives. Be fair and firm in class, empathise with your students and be flexible in school and at home,” she said.
Sophia reminded the new teachers that being an educator was indeed challenging.
“But always remember that we are raising students to become better human beings. We are teaching not just because of the salaries,” she said.
Wong, on the other hand, said new teachers must have passion for teaching and a sense of responsibility.
“The passion for teaching will keep us motivated to last our working life while the sense of responsibility will ensure that we do an excellent job out of it.
“It is this passion and responsibility that make us professional and teaching is not just another job that is a last choice,” he said.
Zaiton told the younger teachers to make friends with the students.
“When we make friends with them, immediately we respect them. And they will respect us. Regardless of who they are, we have to respect them. Show them love and respect ,” she said.
She also emphasised that patience was the most important thing in teaching.
“Educating is not easy because not all the students will follow what we teach. But we will show them that they can do anything they want to do to become better humans,” said Zaiton.