The anticipation on so many levels…

12 08 2012

Although I have long considered myself an adult, my self-imposed bed time (of sorts) has gone completely AWOL in the past 3 months. Given the heady days of chaos leading up to summer, the summer holidays with minimal to no agenda whatsoever, and the current developments in my life, the sleep quality and quantity in my life at the moment is unreliable. R is the most recent cause for my lack of good quality sleep, and the inconsistency, as well as the uncertainty, is very trying.

Tomorrow, school starts again for another year. I’m frantically trying to feel mentally prepared, even though I know that I am ready.

Will I ever feel like a “legit” teacher?!

Maybe not. It is, after all, my 8th year of teaching. If it hasn’t happened yet, and I haven’t begun to feel, more consistently, that I am a decent educator, it’s not likely to happen, as they say. But there is hope, because I know that what I’m doing has value, and a purpose. I am here not of my own choice, but because of something greater. That is what I need to cling to. The improvements that I have observed over the years is legitimate proof of my growth as a teacher, so there is that.

Going back to my parents’ place and seeing this sweet face is always encouraging though, even if he is naughty.


Switching the mindset

29 11 2011

Last week, there was a situation in one of my classes, which really upset me. It wasn’t what the student said so much as how I reacted, and how quickly I lost my cool.

This morning, I went back into that class with that student, with a completely, intentionally positive mindset that I was going to be nice to the students today, because I got to teach them, and I got to have the pleasure of watching them grow, and learn, and mature.

Total change.

I came out of the class feeling like I had really achieved something quantifiable, although I would be the first to say that teaching cannot be measured: a good teacher, who cares about their students, and watches out for them, and tries to meet their needs in and out of the classroom, making use of technology and Differentiated Instruction, cannot be assessed for what they do, exactly. No, good teaching is much more non-linear than that.

And it’s something I’m always working towards, because it’s impossible to glean from books, or even from good mentors.

I went through some of the photos of me on Facebook, to find one of me teaching, and spent a while smiling at the pictures students took of me. Can’t decide on one that shows me teaching ‘well’ though; so here is one that is most recent:


My teachers

20 10 2011

Maybe it’s because I realised the other day that I now have six solid years of teaching on my CV, but I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the teachers I have had the [dis]pleasure of having been taught by.

All told, I have perhaps had more teachers than 14 people have digits to count with (that took ages to calculate, just so you know – Maths is not my strong suit in any sense whatsoever), but the ones I remember are those who ran to extremes.

  • Mrs. Shepherd was my P.1 teacher, and she was really nice. She gave me a plaster when I stupidly ran my finger along a piece of sugar paper and didn’t even laugh at me.
  • Mrs. Green had the worst finger- and toenails. She constantly gnawed at her fingers, and all of her nails were yellow and cracked. We dreaded being touched by her, but she loved to lick her fingers before distributing the next worksheet. That was P.5.
  • Mr. Widger taught me Music from P.4 I think until I graduated from primary school, and he was mean.
  • Mr. Wright told us on the first day of Year 7 that he, too, was new to the school, and we would “learn the ropes” together. Clive, James, Katie, and I took that to heart and learnt where the best place to sneak cigarettes without being caught would be, and came close to being busted in no small way when some construction workers came onto the roof. We dodged them by finding various hiding places which, in hindsight, should have offered no refuge at all, but which was sufficient that day. Mr. Wright had knees that cracked a lot, and he wore shorts more often than not.
  • Mrs. Holland, our English teacher, read Conrad the Factory-Made Boy with us in class, and taught us to spell ‘library’ by imagining a brassiere in the middle of the library, guarded by Mrs. Ho, the librarian.
  • Mrs. Ho, although not a teacher per se, watched over the library with a hawk-like pair of eyes, spotting the trouble-makers, myself included, and whisper-shouting a SHHHHH that chilled to the core. As I grew older, she and I became friends, recommending to each other the best books and I took to spending more time in the library than anywhere else during my free periods as it was the one place I could go to escape from things outside. Whatever that meant, at times. She recommended Life is Beautiful (1997) to me, and I cried unheeded until she came in with a box of tissues and an understanding smile, and we spent many an afternoon discussing films that she recommended or had heard about.
  • Drama was perhaps the only subject I ever loved for the sake of the subject, rather than the teachers, who I never ‘clicked’ with, or responded to.
  • Mrs. Byrnes was my form tutor for several years, and her love for us was clear in the way she spoke to us about History, Psychology, and through her showing us the infamous Buns of Steel aerobics video during form period one day. She was the only one who ever called me Van, and I didn’t mind so much. Her hugs were legendary in my mind; they felt like the most comforting thing in those days when I was so consumed by depression.
  • Mr. Campbell stood by me, and gave his time and energy to the text I needed for my A-Level English exam. His humour carried me through quite a lot of desperation that year.
  • Drs. Ford, Richards, Slethaug, and Stanley were some of my American Studies and English professors, and they taught me more than just ‘book’ knowledge, for which I will be forever grateful. They taught me to be a decent scholar, but more than that, to have integrity and passion for what I do.
Ahh, teachers.


10 09 2011

Camp this year at the school I work at was many things, and ‘boring’ was not one of them. From the ‘night service activity’ that turned out to be a carnival complete with popcorn, cotton candy, Kung Fu Panda 2, to the roasting of marshmallows by bonfire for s’mores, to the water fight and capture the flag game organised by the Student Council, and the requisite camp talks and cabin messes, this was a thoroughly enjoyable, and thoroughly exciting 2.5 days and 2 nights.

The house system of 6 colours was kicked off, and the enthusiasm and friendly competition was a wonderful thing to witness, a far cry from the aggressive chanting and in-fighting that went on when I was in school myself.

During the Talent Show, a group of boys from the senior year danced to a Korean pop song, and I was asked to sit in front to witness it. It was glorious, and one of the many, many reasons why I love this group of students:

The boys also serenaded the girls, a long-time tradition at the school:

After the serenade by the boys, it is customary for the girls to sing a ‘response’ at breakfast the following morning. These senior girls did theirs shortly after the allotted time for breakfast so they could have a lie-in. I can’t find a video of the girls’ response, but will post one when I do.

One of my favourite photos from the whole camp experience was taken on the morning of the first day:

The image of the group of students I am advisor to, except for one who is the Student Council representative of the ‘tribe’, is shown here giving each other massages. True community? I think so.

Cannot help myself

30 08 2011

The work that is expected of a counselling teacher, I would imagine, should not be vastly different from that of a counsellor or a teacher, albeit the job description itself would produce some sort of amalgamation of the two. The duties, however, would remain the same.

At least, that is the impression that I am getting from the school I am teaching at.

The current heartache I am feeling is a result of one of the conversations I had with a student today. This particular student is close to my heart, and I see in them a helplessness that is so reminiscent of us all: in our need for help, we become desperate, and long for… something more than this. Hearing the student’s difficulties, with myself feeling entirely inadequate at providing any sort of guidance or relief, this afternoon has felt very much like the following video, in which Dane Cook talks about those days when nothing will suffice but a good cry:

The thought that I am pondering right now, then, is what to do with the gratitude of “passion and compassion” that I feel for this student’s situation, but, more importantly, how I can fully know that I “did my best”… something to pray about then.

Just a quick one tonight

22 08 2011

This afternoon, ny Novel and Creative Writing class were assigned Of Mice and Men as their first novel to study, and one student has already finished it.

He and I are texting back and forth about his thoughts and insights into the novel. This is why I love my job!

When there’s no other thing in sight…

3 08 2011

This may be a blanket statement, but the writing process is so often affected by so many factors: inspiration, motivation, energy, audience, perseverance… the list could go on for days. Sitting here at my desk now, having spent several minutes doing a sum total of nothing important, but at the same time cognisant of the fact that I am failing terribly at keeping the pledge of one post a week this year as a means of keeping a record.

Having started back at work in earnest yesterday, there are already many items on my ‘to-do’ list, and one of the considerations I need to make, and which is feeling like a bit of a dilemma, is whether to put up a poster that I bought from The Oatmeal about 10 commonly misspelled words that uses the word “a-hole” in the context of suggesting that one refrains from spelling ‘definitely’ as ‘definately’, the premise being that if one spells the word as the latter, then one is an “a-hole”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the current [ethical] dilemma I have at work. Should I put up the poster?

On another note completely, it drives me foaming at the mouth with frustration and irritation when someone says something, which they may not have meant anything by, that just successfully hits you in the “you’re not a part of this at all” spot. As in, “We have someone who does that in our _________.”

Makes you feel alive.