It’s true when they say that teaching and learning in the classroom is actually a two way relationship. The teacher learns about the present from the students, while the students learn about the future from the teacher. Here are two stories from week 2 and week 3 of school that taught me what it meant to have heroes and bosses.
1) I never had a particular hero in my life. Before last week, my perception had been that a hero needs to be perfect and flawless. There are many people whom I have high regards for but they are never my heroes because my judgements have found loopholes in their reasonings and flaws in personalities. This doesn’t mean I don’t except them for who they are but it’s just that they’ll not be my…heroes.
But after last week, I realized that I don’t need my heroes to be perfect and flawless. I realized that all I needed to see for myself in my heroes is their desire to live tough lives with bright smiles on their faces. I realized that what I want to see and admire in my heroes are their grit, courage and a genuine zest to have better lives, despite of their pasts and burdens. And the thought came to me after a very short conversation with my students that left me thinking about life.
There were these 2 boys in my 1B class (they have since transferred to a better school, good for them) and they grow up in a nearby home that takes in children from difficult family backgrounds. Their names are Cheng Hoe (“Teacher, you can call me Hoe”, I was told on the first day) and Kian Seng (friends called him O.K. Seng). They were the cili padis of the class; plump and petite, sarcastic but very witty, with very bright foreseeable futures. A few days before they transferred to another school, I asked them why they are living in homes. Very nonchalantly, one told me that his mother “passed away already” and the other’s mother “run away”. Both have fathers but they are probably better of living in the home than other places they could possibly be.
It was comical to hear that from them because they told me about their mothers in a flippant manner that I didn’t expect when one talked about mothers. But I was surprised because it made me see that beneath their cheerful faces and witty remarks lie a darker reality of life that they go through. I mean, they are the most confident and rambunctious bunch of students I have taught thus far. I am sure many other people out there have family backgrounds similar to theirs but having to hear of these stories personally related to me struck a chord in my heart and increased my respect for them. For their zest to live, for their confidence in themselves, for the life lesson that they have taught me, for the timely reminder that these life stories do come by when I ask and even the little ones have stories to tell.
After last week, I find myself saying to myself that these two boys are my little heroes and that of all the places my heroes could come from, they come from my one of my classrooms.
I have such cute heroes…
2) Like heroes, I’ve never really considered anyone human as my boss(es). Well, at least not for the time being. The government is my boss because I am to report to them, but since I am indispensable for now and no one really monitors what I do in the classroom, I am my own boss. Like what they teach us in classroom management classes, I am the boss/CEO of my class.
But this week, one of my students reminded me who my real bosses are. At the end of my English lesson on Monday, one of my students noticed that we didn’t get to the last item (which was to talk about their journals) on our lesson agenda. The class was a little rowdy and it took some time for me to get everyone seated and ready for class. Hence, the unfinished agenda. I explained that to the boy, to which he replied in Mandarin, that “Teacher, you couldn’t control us, that’s why we couldn’t get to talk about our journals.” I.e. “Teacher, your classroom management skills are terrible!”
I was shocked. Part of me was like, “How dare you say that when you didn’t know, in the very least, the work I put into preparing for your lessons? You…KID!” A bigger part of me was in shock because it went through a paralyzing moment of realization. A moment that went like “Oh my goodness…One of my bosses have spoken. He’s my stakeholder. I’m responsible for his learning …. SO WHY oh why am I shocked at his comment?!” The rest of me was trying to think about what I should be doing about what he said, that I really need to have better classroom management, that I should have spent more time thinking about these little things that truly matter.
See, the paralyzing moment of realization is this – in all the hours that I have spent talking about the various stakeholders involved in my teaching career, I still see all my students as kids, as a group of people with reasonings that are uncouth, young and immature. In the 40 hours that I have spent with my students every week, how many hours have I spent listening to them and their opinions in order for my lessons to be fine tuned according to their needs? Very little, I am afraid. Even when I know that these minions of mine are stakeholders, I seldom consider them as stakeholders until this boy had spoken up.
And whatever he said to me was a good wake up call to shake me out of complacency and from settling into a teacher’s comfort zone. You have no idea how embarrassed I was when he told me that I have bad classroom management.
… and bosses.
To think that all these important life lessons I need to learn, I learned it from my encounters with kids 10 years younger than me.