Tuesday, March 5

How To Break Teachers

What we should all aspire to do, no?
Have you ever wondered where do GOOD teachers come from?
You know, those who are committed & motivated. They have a purpose & know what they want.
Are they born? Or, are they made?
If they were born, then is there any hope for common people like you & I?
If they were made, how?

Push some to the left. Push some to the right. Push all the work away!
On the other hand, where do BAD teachers come from?
Those who are Tai Chi experts & who consistently produce sub-standard or half-hearted work.
Do they make a conscious decision every morning to be the way they are?
Or, are they merely victims of consequence & external factors acting upon them?

How can we prevent ourselves from descending into such depths?
Is it possible for those of us who have fallen into the pit to claw our way back out?

I like to think that 90% of teachers start out with the best of intentions. They want to do a good job & provide a halal income for their family. They try to do what they can & we should not expect more from them.
As time goes by, what happens to these 90% of teachers? After decades of teaching, what's left of the 90%? Why do the best always leave? Why are so many burnt out, demotivated & deluded?

This is my 5th year as a teacher. Let me be honest with you. Some day I feel like I'm going nuts.
I may seem like some kind of magic teacher unicorn who seems motivated & committed all the time with all my silly activities & unrealistic ideals.
But, believe me, I have my ups & I've had more than my fair share of downs.

Still hanging in there!
Some days I hold on to my sanity at the ends of my teeth. Holding on for dear life lest I tire & fall off the edge into the abyss of selfishness & indifference.
There have been countless times where I have considered greener pastures of different professions or teaching in a different country.
You cannot imagine how strong is the temptation of following in the footsteps of colleagues who have it extremely easy & still receive favourable annual reviews & promotions.

Trying to be a good teacher is bloody hard & it's not because of nosy parents who bring up lawyers at every sentence or students who have invisible horns. Most of the time, it's the system itself.

Factor #3: Mismatched Priorities


I understand that we are called to develop individuals holistically. At the same time, we have to be accountable to our country & its people which makes documentation & publicity stunts necessary.
However, I do feel that sometimes our superiors are too focused on building accountability that it takes away a large chunk of time & effort which can be put into the actual nitty-gritty of student development.

Sometimes I feel that we gather a museum full of plans, reports & other types of paperwork nobody reads, just because we are paranoid. We are afraid that our results won't be good enough & we'll get audited. Or, we're afraid that some Nazir dude will come & go through everything in our museum. Or, our boss is striving for Pengetua Cemerlang & he'll grill us if we do not angkat him/her.

Why do we have to put in so much effort into something that does not directly benefit our students?
Are we actually paid to write glowing reports, carry out publicity stunts & compose plans with ever more ridiculous slogans?
Why are our rewards (Guru Cemerlang, LMPT, promotion, et cetera) so dependent on the above?
If we can write up glorious paperwork & come up with activities that have snazzy names, is it okay to be mediocre teachers in the classroom?

The ideal thing would be to trust teachers again.
They should not be drowning in paperwork or fenced in by policy, bureaucracy or tradition.
They should be set free to do what they think is right with or without the paperwork.
Give them goals & targets. Give them the resources, authority & moral support they need to do what they need to do. Back them up for God's sake.
Let them bend the rules or tradition a bit. Besides, aren't we preparing our students for the FUTURE?

Factor #2: Work Environment


They say a new broom sweeps cleaner.
When new teachers are posted to a school, it's a frenzy. The seniors climbs over one another to be the first to use the broom to sweep away their burdens.
New teachers tend to inherit all the worst or unwanted duties at school.
Honestly, teachers are not brooms. We are supposed to build them up to be leaders & beacons of inspiration.

Remember the story of the Little Red Hen?
When new teachers are given a task, they tend to have a go at it wholeheartedly. Sadly, all too often, they are abandoned with the task. They ask for help but get very little in return. Eventually, when they get the job done, they are left to feel unappreciated or, if they win something, everybody wants a piece of the cake. What's worse is, if they ever make a mistake along the way, they are belittled & humiliated.

No matter how we have been treated in the past when we were juniors, we are still capable of generous acts of consideration for the greater good of developing these young teachers to be better than we are. That is the only way for our education system to progress.
I just cannot imagine a system that deliberately sabotages it's successors. What will happen to a system if the new generation gets worse & worse over time?

When duties are assigned to juniors, our attitudes as seniors matter a lot more than we think.
If we see the job as dumb & worthless, do you think that the juniors will think differently? Can we blame them for performing poorly or feeling demotivated?
We need to help them see how what they do fits into the whole machinery of the school. In actual fact, every part is essential to the functioning of the school. From the top man to the groundsman. They should be made to feel proud & appreciated even if they were, say, Head Stamp Licker.


Factor #1: Leadership


If a school has a good leader, there would be very little problems in the school. Well, except too much work or a lot of pressure to perform. But, if you wanted to get something done, your leader will make it as easy as he can for you. And, most importantly, he has your back any time something bad happens or if you do not meet your targets.
Sadly, I do not hear of many leaders like this.

I often hear about leaders who take the lead in... taking things easy.
They don't get their hands dirty with the school, student discipline or student achievement.
They want to be away from school as much as possible. Joining every meeting or event possible.
The school has no direction & everything is pretty much laissez-faire.

There are also the tyrants who want everything done in their way.
They could be chasing after titles like Pengetua Cemerlang or Sekolah Kluster & cracking whips without due consideration for the minions who move brick after brick to build their pyramids.
They make their teachers do the most meaningless & menial tasks because THEY SAID SO.

There are also leaders who take advantage of their position to make money off the school or their position. Cuti, claim, purchases, you name it they've maximised it. Costs are inflated & quality of work is questionable.
You want to buy teaching aids or photocopy exam questions? Tough luck. School's got no money for you. Do it at your own expense. Then, school pays for expensive stuff that nobody uses.

Now, imagine if new teachers were to work under these leaders. What kind of teachers would they become under such leadership?
We need good leaders in schools. Not those who are old or near retirement. Not those who are power crazy or steps on other people to get promoted. Not those who are clearly looking to line their pockets. And especially not those who have consistently shown that they are incompetent as teachers or are untrustworthy.

We need leaders who want to take the school to another level.
Leaders who care about their students, teachers & staff. Leaders who are not afraid to get their hands dirty & work hard. Leaders who walk the talk.
If we put good leaders in schools, everything else takes care of itself.

Do any of the descriptions above reflect your workplace? What have you done to cope?
Have I missed any factors worth mentioning? How do these factors affect your ability to perform?
Do you think that I'm full of it or am I totally wrong? Do let me know.

Let's discuss in the comments section below.

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