A Teacher Who Shaped My Life: Cikgu Anis Abdullah

My Form 5 class photo with Cikgu Anis, our class teacher since Form 4. 😎
I know it’s a little blurry, but can you find me? Also, guess the year!

**Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by McDonald’s Malaysia. Their Anugerah Guru Inspirasi is one of very few initiatives ever to appreciate & recognise teachers like you & me at a national scale. In conjunction with Teachers’ Day, the 2019 award recipients will be officially announced on 13 May! I’m hoping that my nomination gets selected!**

As the old cliché goes, “monkey see, monkey do.” It is not uncommon for a teacher to recreate the experiences they’ve had as students. All that theory we learned at university is great. But, only when we’ve experienced something for ourselves, can we attempt to reverse engineer it in our classrooms. That is not to say that a teacher with abysmal experiences as a student would make a abysmal teacher. I’m just saying that I have had many great teachers in my life who made my transition into teacher-hood so much more easier. One of my most treasured teachers in secondary school was Cikgu Anis Abdullah, my class teacher & English teacher.

At Form 4, my English language proficiency was way beyond what was necessary to ace the SPM test. By then I was winning essay competitions, reading elaborate novels for pleasure, singing English songs in a rock band, & transcribing pop songs on the radio by ear. Transferring from a Chinese independent school to a Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan, I didn’t do too well in PMR, so I was streamed into a mid-tier class, where the English development needs of my classmates were very different from mine. As I wasn’t being challenged in her English language classroom, Cikgu Anis allowed me to work on subjects I was struggling with during her class periods, but only after I’ve completed her assignments. On occasion, she’d use me as a resource during her lessons.
Unfortunately, teachers rarely get remembered for what they do in their classrooms. 2-3 hours of contact per week is surely not enough time to really get to know someone. I remember Cikgu Anis for her confidence in responding to my parents’ anxieties & especially for her role in producing the school’s play for the interschool competition.

When I was in Form 5, I remember being randomly summoned out of class by Cikgu Anis &, standing in the deserted corridor next to the stairway, she asked if I was interested in taking part in the interschool drama competition that year. At that time, I was already involved in all sorts of leadership positions & competitive co-curricular activities like the interschool choir and football. I expressed concern that I would not be able to cope with more. Cikgu Anis echoed those sentiments. However, she expressed confidence in my abilities & promised that the practice sessions would not take too much of my time as the competition would take place in a just few months.

Honestly, I was very interested. I’ve never taken part in a drama production before & I’d always wondered if I was a closeted Brad Pitt, so I agreed. Little did I know that she would trust me with the lead role in the drama. I played the role of a business man in a Malaysian play with so much drama packed into a single day, it might as well be a Korean drama.

I love my parents. They love me too. In fact, they loved me so much that once they found out that I signed up for this, they called up Cikgu Anis immediately without my knowledge to pull me out of it. I don’t know how she did it, but many kudos to her because she was somehow able to allay the anxiety of my mother & father. Knowing my parents, this achievement alone deserves a medal of honour!
As the competition drew near, we moved from 1 practice a week to 2 to practicing every day including weekends. Cikgu Anis will draw from her pool of friends in order to make this production a success. She pulled in an actual drama producer/trainer to give us tips; she got her friend at RTM to let us use their recording studio for one part of our play; and, she managed to find a lorry to transport all of our props to the competition venue.

I won’t forget the props we used for our play. It was a play about a wealthy businessman, so the props that we used were actual furniture from her parent’s home, stuff borrowed from here & there, as well as plenty of other stuff she bought with her own money. Honestly, every bit of detail & attention was paid to the props. It rivalled what I’d see in Broadway productions. Once the lights turned on, the props made an impression long before any actor had to step onto stage.

My parents didn’t turn up for the play. They rarely did for important events in my life. However, Cikgu Anis did & that was all that mattered. Just like the concerns of my parents, she skilfully allayed our anxieties about performing on stage & also, our disappointments at losing the competition. Yes, we didn’t even get third place.

Reflecting on the experience today, we were not losers. During the production, I made many new friends beyond the four walls of my classroom, friends in the lower forms as well as in the other form 5 classes whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I expanded my skillset, as I’ve never acted in a full play before, nor memorised the script of an entire play. Finally, I gained an experience that paid dividends in my teacher-training days all the way until today. There were plenty of times when the insights I gained from taking part in this drama helped me to coach & motivate my students for competitions, as a teacher today.

None of this would have been possible without Cikgu Anis. For her contributions in my life, I will never be able to repay her. My hope is that I can repay her by being a good teacher myself & helping the students under my tutelage to make meaningful connections, push boundaries, & grow, like she did for me. I want her to feel proud that she has make me the kind of person I am today.

Currently, she is the director at Institut Pendidikan Guru Tun Abdul Razak, Sarawak, & she is making a difference in the lives of countless teacher trainees who will shape the future of education in Sarawak. They are so lucky to have her there.

Thank you, Cikgu Anis! You have made me who I am today!

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