5 Things I Love About Being A Teacher

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2019 marks my 18th year in the teaching profession. It is also my 4th year working with the foundation. Although I am getting less younger, as a teacher, the more I embrace the challenges of the profession and the changing of times, the more I feel there’s a lot more to learn and to do.

It’s been a fantastic journey for me and it only feels like yesterday when I decided and told my parents that I wanted to become a teacher. Reflecting on my ‘calling’, here are the 5 things I love about being a teacher in random order.

With my Grade 2 students, back in 2015

1. No day is ever the same.

Every day is a surprise. Sure, life for all of us is like that –but in teaching, I get to deal with children every single day. The times you are mostly certain you had them figured out, they give you a surprise. They ‘magically’ perform better (or the other way around), or your most challenging student become suddenly sweet and helpful, or your carefully planned lesson ending up totally different are just some of the many things that can happen. It is unpredictable and what better way to start your day and keep you moving than knowing that ‘TODAY’ is a surprise waiting to be revealed!

2. Challenging and Inspiring

It’s hard to put these 2 words together but it is true in teaching. ‘Challenging and inspiring’ seemingly contradict each other because the word ‘challenging’ often has negative vibes for some –because you need to put a lot of work in it. As for me, anything challenging can be a good thing if you are inspired to overcome it. It is inspiring because it is challenging.

Brian Greene, a mathematician and physicist said, “My best teachers were not the ones who knew all the answers, but those who were deeply excited by the questions they couldn’t answer.” This is true for me. The best teachers, mentors and inspirations I’ve had are those who are knowledgeable and are really competent, masters in what they do –and are STILL fascinated by the challenges of their craft and life’s big questions.

Because no day is ever the same in teaching, it keeps me on my toes. The more I know, the more I realize there are still more to learn, and it is humbling because I get to be in my students’ shoes and the more I learn about them, the more I am able to find ways how to help them. As teachers, we are perpetual learners. We teachers only get old and obsolete when we stop learning! ☺

We cannot teach what we do not know. Teachers collaborating and making exemplars for the next Coconut Club activity.
My Grade 2 students then are now in Grade 5. They want to be managers, doctors, teachers, chef, nurse, computer programmers and more.
Bank was in my Grade 9 (Mathayom 3) class in 2015. He is now in a university and an intern technician who I incidentally met again when our air-conditioner in the office needed some repair.

3. Infinite possibilities

“But I am only a teacher!” said no teacher ever. Well, teachers may have said that when equating their salary to other professions that also deal with human development. It is a fact that teaching is still an underrated profession everywhere in the world in spite being one of the most contributing jobs in the society. But why do teachers keep on teaching? I can’t speak for all of them but I can speak for myself.

A friend once asked me, “you could be somewhere else, doing some other things – why teach?” I answered, “Why not?”

“A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

As adults, and more so for me as a teacher, we teach and we model to our students all the time, whether we like it or not or take it as a responsibility or not. We impact the lives of the children every day, every moment we spend with them. We are all children once and remember how important it is to have a loving support, a role model, someone to reassure you that though things may get worse, you can and will overcome? It is a HUGE responsibility and scary too but imagine a better, happier, kinder world for them when they are able to see and realize the infinite possibilities they could become and do.

Why keep on keeping on? Because I AM a teacher.

There is no greater reward than knowing a child’s life is better because he knows how to persevere, he knows how to survive, he knows how to care for and make an impact around him because he believes in himself for there are those who never gave up and fully believed in him first.

I’ve said this many times before- I am really happy to have found a place through Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation and get involved in increasing the chances of the disadvantaged children to break barriers and succeed in life through English language education and afterschool programme like the Coconut Club to allow them to discover and develop their life’s passion and strengths and learn the life skills they need to be lifelong learners.

Now doctors - Glenn and Carlos. My high school students on my first year of teaching in the Philippines.
‘Tang Mo’, my upper primary student in Thailand and also studied high school in an international school in Malaysia where I also worked as a teacher and coordinator, recently graduated with a degree in Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom.

4. Touch base with humanity.

In careers dealing with building connections with human beings, it is so easy to get numb and be callous to the real issues around and generalize that every problem is the same as ‘the last time’ or the last one’; therefore, the same generic solution could work. To work in human development and not to let yourself feel feelings seems to be a paradox, but it happens.

Being a teacher can be very exhausting, disappointing and frustrating that it is easier to just shut down one’s emotions and look for faster, easier way to ‘fix’ a lesson, or worse, ‘fix’ a student or their family situation. This could go from not caring anymore about how one’s lesson plan is designed  or executed like ‘never mind if the students are not learning as long as they are ‘happy’ in the class’, to finding someone to blame instead of taking action, or to just outright hitting a student to make them ‘behave’ in class. The latter, I understand the context but I strongly object. It’s been my pleasure to help draft and review the foundation’s existing Child Protection Policy. We are not just teachers but protectors and advocate of their rights.

If there is one thing working with children has taught me, it is that I am a HUMAN BEING first. Teaching and everything else that I am becomes secondary. It is true that the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways. No one can ‘fix’ anyone. We can only influence them to change and make choices for themselves and that takes time, patience, and understanding. Of course, hitting a child to make them focus on their work out of fear or pain could also work for a short time, but what lifelong lesson are we teaching the child from it?

Whenever I come across a child with a challenging behavior, I drop all my ‘teachery’ expectations and student requirements and listen to what they are telling me through their words and actions and see their perspectives. Sometimes, it is only through letting your guard down that the children also learn to break their own walls…and behind those thick walls, you will see their real need and only then, as a teacher, I am able to find ways to help them.

Listening to them and allowing myself to feel feelings at the end of the day after my classes are done, help me to be more self-aware and address my own needs to relax, unwind, and do the things that I love (yes, teachers have other passions too! mine is photography!), recharge and just be human. When you put your heart on your sleeve, it is easy to acquire ‘messianic syndrome’ and desire to change everything to the ideal scenario. There are limits and time for slowing down. When we take care of ourselves, we are also caring for the people who count on us.

5. Love, love, and more love!

The greatest among all the perks of being a teacher for me, is that there’s plenty of love and joy to spread around! Smiles, giggles, laughter, eureka moments celebrated with high fives and spontaneous hugs given by the little ones (never mind the sticky fingers, faces full of powder, and sometimes free snot! ☺). If you are really having a bad day for whatever reason, there will always be that one, two, or three students bound to let the sunshine in!

I am also thankful to belong to a very supportive ‘global’ team at the foundation. We do a lot of work but we do know how to have fun! ‘Global’ team because volunteers and teachers may come and go but they remain a family wherever they are. Despite the distance and differences, we are all united at one time or another, in our cause to help children through education.


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