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“It takes a few warning letters, a dismissal letter, labour court cases, a whole lot of psychological harassment, hurtful remarks and intimidation to make me leave the education industry altogether.”
I was exhausted, frustrated and anxious with the way things were going. I wanted to stay in the last school I was attached to. It was a place that I loved very much. I loved the students, as well as some of my colleagues who were amazing team players. I looked up to my hiring managers who eventually no longer hold the positions for God knows what reason. I tried very much to hold on, to trust that things will fall into better place. I kept having faith but the school I once loved and looked up to become a place that I could no longer recognise. Every morning, I woke up hoping it is a bad dream but sadly it is the reality. This school management could be described in one word, disappointing.
I rewind the thoughts in my head.
My last principal told me that things will work out for the better. I secretly wished it did. I saw the results of the students. It is not as obvious as the other teachers who just flung worksheets after worksheets, drilling them in and out, making sure it stays in that memory box in their head so that when the examination comes, they can score that ‘A’. The cycle then repeats and repeats. Year in, year out. Does learning have to be so dull and meaningless just to score A’s after A’s? Is that what we are creating? Robots of the future with a functioning heart? There were results, just not as astounding as I did not focus solely on their academic journey. I focused on creating kindness, collaboration among students, confidence, and inspiration. I gave them the hope to believe that they can do it even though it is going to take a little bit more time and effort.
I taught them failure which helps them to be a stronger person.
They cried seeing red marks on their paper, waiting for the scolding session to begin. Instead, I smiled at them and said “Hey, you failed today does not mean you will fail forever. Keep going!” Their adorable jaws fell literally, I remembered. They were surprised with my reaction and asked me innocently why I did not scold them. I told them that scolding them is just a waste of breath. I prefer to encourage instead, it’s more positive. Don’t you think? I still remembered their smiles on that day. Priceless!
After that day, the tears reduced and instead of crying, they tell themselves in front of me that they did well. There’s an improvement but more room to improve. Loved that spirit, it is amazing how the little things we do counts to make them feel better about themselves. Yet, they continue to strive for the better.
However here at this school, things didn’t seem to go in that direction. They wanted so much in so little time. They are not patient to see greater changes and that’s when I was told by another powerful person in the company, parents don’t want me. They want ‘that teacher’. Yes, that teacher who just drills all day. Stabbed in the heart with an invisible knife, that day I remembered vividly that I broke down in the confined space of four walls hours later, thinking that I am never going to be good enough. Especially for this institution.
Too much to digest, too much to handle.
Things did not work for the better after that. It is like a jungle, full of predators killing off the prey. When the prey is all gone from the wild, they start killing each other until fresh meat enters the picture. The cycle repeats. Who are the victims? Yes, the students who have to deal with unrealistic rules that make life in prison a better choice than being in school. Why education has become so rigid even though we are living in the 21st century? Why are we treating our little problem solvers to be black and white document implementers? Technology has made our world move forward in one way or another. We start to pay with our smartphones, going cashless. We use laptops to complete our tasks instead of desktops because of the portability and accessibility. But why education is going backward? So many questions with no definite answers. I was lost, I was devastated. What’s worst? I have lost all hope.
It does not make any sense.
After battling a few months in that lifeless state of mind, I decided to wave the white flag. I chose not to renew the contract as I don’t see things getting any better. It was like grasping for air and my health was deteriorating in the process. I was not taken seriously when I mentioned the battles I was facing. The HR manager was belittling and treated me like an insect. Let alone, I had one of the worst exit interviews that most employees would not want to go through. I felt robbed and empty. I went through a two months depression where in between, I did cut myself, wanting to end my life because my vision is dimmed. Just the year before, I wanted to make that difference to allow each child to discover their potential no matter from which background they came from. However, I failed tremendously. I felt life became more and more meaningless each day.
I held the razor blade one last time, breathing in my final breath and suddenly…
My eyes darted directly to a box in my room. It is not understandable why but it just did in that direction. I dropped that sharp razor blade on the floor and walked over to the box. I was attracted and suddenly a cloud of peace appeared on my head. My eyes went watery as I opened that box. I saw those thank you notes and beautiful words of encouragement written by every student I have ever taught. Handwritten and folded with love, I held them tight to my chest as tears poured down like a waterfall. Yes, I keep all these meaningful letters to remind myself. I don’t remember how long I cried. I cried until my eyes were watery red and the next thing I know, I fell asleep. One of the deepest sleep that I haven’t had in those few months.
Today, I became a stronger person than I ever have imagined a few months ago. I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that broken person I was became inspired once again. I am so determined to make sure no matter what happens, how many warning letters or psychological harassment thrown at my face just because I decided to make it better for the kids of the 21st century, I am never leaving the education industry. This is where my calling is and I know someday, things will work out for the better. There is going to be a place I can educate and grow their wings. If I can’t find this place, I can maybe start to create one. Whatever it is, I got to find a way because being an educator is who I am. That is my identity. That is my calling.
I am a teacher.