Wednesday, April 8

Dear Cohort 3

I few weeks ago, I was approached to contribute to a Professional Development lecture that a senior of my course was invited to conduct with my juniors.
I was asked to contribute views that would prepare them for the teaching realities that they may be placed in next year.
I put it in the form of a letter.

I decided to only publish it today so that my juniors will see the information in his lecture first (which took place today).
Have a read & tell me if you agree which my views.

Dear Cohort 3,
Congratulations, Cohort 3. Congratulations on being selected for an exclusive & distinguished overseas twinning scholarship. Furthermore, congratulations on completing 2 exciting & fruitful years overseas. I am sure you will succeed just as well in your final year & make a difference during your short practicum stint. You have every reason to feel good about yourself.
Now, time for the hard truth. The climax is over. The falling action has just begun. When you leave IPGM KBA & wait for your posting letter, the deepest depths of reality will smack you right in the face. While you are a student, you are special. Soon you will finish your studies. After that, you are special no more. You have become just a normal teacher with a degree. After spending so much money on training us to be the best of the best, we are treated just like the rest.

You will be posted just like any other teacher. There is no special programme in this country for you to utilise your expertise. You have to claw your way out of scratch in a system which is more pro-seniority than it is pro-meritocracy. Translation: those who have been there longer will get the rewards before you do. Even when your amount of work in 1 day is 3 or 4 times more than what the seniors do in 1 week.

To make matters worse, after arriving at your school, many of you will receive a bleak vision of your future & the ever growing amount of work you continuously receive will not help much neither. Imagine leaving the big cities that you are used to for somewhere in the interiors of Sarawak, Sabah or Johor. Imagine riding 2-3 hours on a small wooden boat through a dirty brown river or having to wade through waist-high flood waters while carrying all your belongings over your head to get to school. Imagine having no internet access or even no cell-phone coverage. This is the reality of your seniors. It could be yours too.

As if the lack of prospects & less than ideal location is not tough enough, teaching is a continuously frustrating task in Malaysia. Students are hard to handle. They make loud noises, they don’t follow instructions & they lie. They also forget important lessons that you worked so hard on. Furthermore, English proficiency is generally bad everywhere except in cities. Many of you will become discouraged. Many of you will feel like quitting. Many of you will indeed leave the programme.

Why do you want to be a teacher? This is an important question that many of you, like me, have procrastinated in finding an answer. I suggest you find your motivation now. Every morning when I wake up, I foresee & prepare myself for the many difficulties I will have to face on that day. I also see that these difficulties will stretch on for many frustrating years. Every morning, I struggle to be convinced with my own answers.

There is no glory, fortune or ease to be found in this profession. But there is a need. So great is this need that it requires a willing heart to sacrifice itself for the benefit of others. When you go to your school, you will see this need. You see it in the blank stares of your students, their unknowing errors & their reluctance to use the language. At the same time, you will also see into your heart. You see it in the actions you take to meet the need. Or will you even attempt meet the need?

Anyone who told you that teaching is a profession lied. It takes more than a professional to be a teacher. Do you have what it takes to be a teacher? Ask yourself now &, with love in your heart, prepare yourself for your ever approaching future.

Hope for the best & prepare for the worst.

With faith in every one of you,
Yong Jik Kam

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