Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thoughts on teaching...

High teaching standards would translate to good and effective education. But all over the world, many countries are lamenting the slide in education standards.

I think many of our schools here are rotting. The latest probe into gangsterism in a Rawang school is probably just a tip of the iceberg here. This is the school where a 14 year old girl was raped by her schoolmates. Isn't it a little strange that it needed the media to highlight this issue? What about the school authorities or state education department? Soon enough these gangsters-in-training will terrorize the society at large. Like everything else, gangsters, lawbreakers need to be trained and schools are now their training grounds...

I am always perplexed why many school authorities refuse to clamp down on underaged students riding motorcycles to schools. The school authority can always easily work together with the police on a regular basis to clamp down on such disregard for the law. But many schools close an eye because they say the students won't come to school if they are not allowed to ride the bikes.

Classes are noisy. Teachers seem to shouting over the din to make themselves heard. And it's not uncommon to see students walking around while teachers are teaching. I think we have many people not suited to be teachers in the profession now. New York Times has an interesting article; Building a Better Teacher. I agree with many of their points.

Discipline in class. I feel many teachers do not have the willpower enforce that. A former teacher of mine told me that 70% of the teaching task becomes easier the minute discipline is enforced. But discipline takes a lot of effort. One of the most difficult task yearly for me is getting the students to do their work. Language is about practice. And I find it appalling that I need to work on the handwriting, neatness and even simple things like writing the dates with 16-year-olds. They also have no habit of doing their corrections; something which I am very particular about. Very often I am left wringing my hands wondering whether it's the kids who have very little brain processing power or teachers who have failed to instill good habits...

So what I do is I usually spend the first 2-3 months making sure I go through every single student's exercise book.... this goes on throughout the year actually. Failure to comply would earn an immediate reprimand and an honoured seat on the floor beside my table. And they'd remain there until their corrections are done. I do not tolerate any indiscipline. It helps too now one of my bosses is a disciplinarian. If she happens to pass and students are on the floor, they'd be punished by her as well. And she's one lady whom there are terrified of. At the end of the day, the rod speaks louder than anything I know.

But it still requires a lot of double checking; and it is tiring. All these become compounded with all the chase for keceriaan or protocols. I find it a sheer waste of energy and time when they go all out to make a PIBG meeting look nice. Protocols? What use are they when our own students are rude and obnoxious? Forming a nice impression on some Pengarah who grace the event won't change the students' attitude. Making sure the teacher is effective in class does! But many of the heads are into former. We have our priorities all skewed up.

Working on their manners is another challenge. These are uncouth kids who have no qualms about standing up right in the middle of your sentence. They have no reservations too about asking to borrow stationery from their friends on top of their voices in the midst of a lesson or exercise. All these need tackling and they're more often than never, battles of wills.

Counsellors in schools are hardly of much use. Advice does not work on these kids. I know I may sound harsh but they seem to listen to the rod. Yet we are told not to cane. To a teenager, if they can circumvent you, they'd do it. A healthy dose of fear does more good than anything.

Teaching standards... I think many of our teachers will fail to measure up. Teaching is about impacting lives and imparting knowledge in the class. It's not about decorating the classes with lace or curtains; or holding a Speech Day or PIBG meeting with pomp and pageantry; leaving only superficial impressions. It's about the commitment to your vocation to teach, impart knowledge and life's experience.

1 comment:

Thomas C B Chua said...

AJ 7, it is sad that things remain the same since I retired. With so many teachers with Masters I suppose things would have changed. Sometimes the organisation is good but the organisms are weak and sloppy. They make it hard for those who try harder. Anyway, there are many hikers in the profession. Those who cling on because they are not wanted or cannot fit in elsewhere. They are, using the correct term, absorbed into the service. We used to have a Master in Resource Management who could not control Form One students. His class is like a circus and funfair come to town! There was another big fat fella with Master in Education Management, got booted out of Darul Aman Teacher Training College for being sloppy,managed his class from the comfort of the teacher's chair. This fella never stood up a day to teach. The teacher's chair is a taboo for me. Eye contact is supreme to control a class. A stare is enough to stop an errant pupil in the midst of his misdeed. But which teachers care these days ? "Tak larat" is the excuse. One should teach as if his/her own child is in the class. This is my maxim.

Anyway AJ7, teach on.... Be the leaven in the dough .... It is hard but don't give up.