Trisha Reloaded

Dedicated to Trisha, as always. Dedicated also to L, my source of inspiration, and the reason why I choose to see the bright side of teaching.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In weakness

I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and thanksgiving on Sunday. The cause of it? Two ex-students who visited me on Saturday night. We talked till 1 am and when they finally left my house, it was as if I had glimpsed the miracle of a mystical transformation.

Y and J were by no means angels when they were in school. Regular visitors to the Discipline Room, J was especially notorious and was threatened with expulsion a few times. Y and J had also been punished countless times for smoking and vandalism in school. When I became their form teacher in Sec 3, I was a fresh NIE grad, wet behind the ears, very unsure of myself, and pretty scared of some of the boys in my class who towered over me, kept their shirts unbuttoned, and came adorned with the occasional nose studs to dare me to book them.

Still, when they finally graduated after Sec 5, I really missed them. Which explains why we still keep in touch. I guess a teacher never forgets her first form class.

So here’s a post that’s dedicated to Y and J, diamonds in the raw, which my inexperience had failed to see earlier on, but which now I humbly and joyously acknowledge, are sources of inspiration to me, because I realize now, despite my weakness as a new teacher, you have taught me many precious lessons.

* * * * * *
In my weakness, I took a hesitant gamble and made J my class monitor. The class voted you in, and I didn’t know what else to do, except to respect the class’ choice. And despite words of caution from my colleagues who knew of your reputation, I thought I should at least let you try. You didn’t disappoint and I could hold my head high! Who would have thought?

In my weakness, I didn’t dare approach you and ask you about your police probation. I had chided myself then for not showing enough concern for you. But on Saturday, you revealed that that was precisely what you didn’t want teachers to do. And that those who probed and pried were the ones you hated, because you felt robbed of any last vestiges of pride you had left. So my reticence became a strength, although I didn’t know it then. Who would have thought?

In my weakness, I didn’t persuade Y to continue with his O levels even though he could. My lack of counseling skills then is now an embarrassment to me. But you had followed your heart and had graduated in the top 5% in ITE. You are now filled with a sense of purpose and had made plans for your future. I am now your greatest cheerleader and go around my classes to tell other students your story, that ITE is not the end. Again, who would have thought?

In my weakness, I didn’t know how to handle students who had a long list of disciplinary records. I only knew I had to think positive, pray hard, and smile more. I learnt on Saturday that you remembered, even now, the unkind words and looks you got from teachers who only remembered your bad deeds. That even when you had determined to change for the better, few believed you could. I now heave a sigh of relief that you could not recall any callous word I said to you. Otherwise we wouldn’t be chatting till 1am on Saturday. I didn’t realize then the destructive power of one unkind word, a look of contempt or a whiff of mockery and how they can stay in a person’s mind for many years. It is a lesson that I will remember for as long as I am a teacher and a parent.

* * * *
It’s always very challenging for a teacher to face a new class. The students size you up and sometimes, for reasons you do not know, they choose to give you a hard time. Y and J were pretty gentlemanly to me. And for this, I am exceedingly grateful. I was a weak, fumbling, inexperienced teacher then. And you gave me a chance. That had made all the difference. I hope I had made a difference in your lives too.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Apostle Paul (2 Cor 12:10)


At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi !

This is good shit! Love it!

Keep it up. You inspire me!

At 2:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inspirational!I 'tune' in everytime I'm free to read your latest blog. :)

From someone who doesn't have the courage to become a teacher (yet).


At 3:14 AM, Anonymous piper said...

I do hope that some years down the road, I will be able to post something similar.


At 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your sharing. We need such uplifting sharings regularly to know that we(well, most of us) are doing somethings right that would see results after a few years (hoipefully).
Keep it up.

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This post brought back memories of my experience as a relief teacher in a secondary school (pre-university vacation stint after A 'Levels'). I was shocked to know of the prejudice towards Normal Technical students. The bigoted old fogeys (teachers) told rookies like us that this group of students was beyond redemption and that we shouldn't be too kind to them. Whenever something bad happens, they are the first group placed under suspicion.
What resulted was an unpleasant school culture whereby the school stigmatizes these 'under achieving' students and the students in turn, give up trying to shake off this 'loser' label. In fact, they simply took it as justification to perpetuate this opinion.
Sometimes, the bitterness in their voices betrays their 'I can't-be-bothered' attitude.
So yea, it was indeed a blessing in disguise when you had to deal with Y & J as a greenhorn.

Sorry for rambling. Anyway, I like reading your blog. Got to know this site as it was highly recommended by Heavenly Sword. =)

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous sx said...

Hey. great blog you have. Happened to know of your blog previously on "Get Real" show but only recently than got time to come to read your interesting blog.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous yan said...

Hi Trisha,

That was a most inspiring post. I am a new teacher with just 2 years of experience, and am handling (in my opinion) a slightly difficult class. Sometimes i wonder if i'd shown enough concern, if i'd said callous words to those whom people are already biased against. Thanks for reminding me about what teaching should be like..taking chances and giving chances.

At 6:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Trisha :o)

Long time. Read your post at a time I was reflecting about my 2 kids...

In a sense, I agree about the "callous" part.. but really, what I think sets one apart is whether something is done with love or not. Your students cannot remember anything callous you said.. but that does not mean that you had not corrected them. As a parent, it is my duty and responsibility to correct my children lovingly (although it IS hard sometimes)

Thanks for your sharing. God Bless.

P.S. Shall we meet for a meal sometime?

At 10:18 AM, Blogger sarah said...

Hi Trisha,

I must say that this entry is awesome and, definitely, very inspiring! Everyone's "first"s are indeed unforgettable.

On that note, I've been trying to contact an old friend, but it seems that my list isn't really the most up-to-date. She happens to be from one of your pioneer classes, so it'd be great if you can get back to me. Thanks a lot! :)

At 9:18 AM, Blogger nayrakraorual said...

my friend came by your blog blogsurfing and showed it to me, cause he knew i wanted to be a teacher. i'm actually having quite a bit of my doubts, but i'm still inspired by the idea of being inspiring (>< did that sound weird) haha anyway i wanted to thank you for actually confirming that its ACTUALLY possible to change lives, and that it's actually worth it, teaching... i was just wondering, what subject do you teach again? and, is it the subject or the students or the whole thing that draws you to teaching? =)

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Angela said...

Hi Trisha,

I visit your blog from time to time to draw inspiration from your life and work experience. Must get you to tell your stories to beginning teachers one day :-)

Someone just sent me this link - you are alot like Mrs Thompson in the movie.

Hope I get to meet you one day.

At 12:49 AM, Blogger Kurakat said...


I am at a loss of words.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my students wrote abt my hospitalisation...

Didnt expect it.


At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

like piper,

i really wish a day like this will come to me eventually......

At 5:13 AM, Anonymous Joo Hiang said...

As an RI boy, we weren't penalised by teachers much, as we were all hardworking and studious. One teacher stood out in pressurizing us, to the extent he made us show up on a Saturday for extra lessons, something which was unheard off in those days, and especially in our school. My personal interaction with him was when he told me I should have done better in my O Levels, as he had high expectations of me. It was a revelation, as he never had an exchange of words with me before, not a single encouragement or guidance, or even rebuke. A friend told me he overheard this particular teacher once, complaining to the lab technician that he had a handicapped brother to support, and a large chunk of his salary went to medical expenses. A bitter person does not a good teacher make.

At 12:22 AM, Anonymous chlorine said...

In my beginning year as a teacher, I was given a notoriously difficult class. A student who is a regular outside the principal's office refused to follow instructions despite my numerous attempts to engage him in lesson. I felt really helpless and broke down in class. He chased after me when the lesson ended and cried too, apologising continuously. Another naughty one came to me and asked, "Teacher, you cried ah? Don't cry. You still have me." It struck me that some students behave in a certain manner to get away from the problems in their lives and get attention from teachers and their peers. It is not that they did not learn how to love themselves and others, it is just that no one has taught them.

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your post turned me to mush =x


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