Of Hardwork and Discipline


The school I’m serving has turned out to be the top achiever in the district in the recent PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) examination, and we made it into the news headline ~ Proof of hardwork and discipline.  Now, before I proceed any further allow me to offer you some background knowledge of this school.

Before I was sent to this school, it has already claimed it’s prestigious position in the district, in the state.  It is an all girls mission school.  The school has very strict rules and the girls are extremely obedient that initially it was a culture shock to a co-ed student like me.  Of course there are a few that are rebellious and wear excessive jewellery, bring mobile phones to school, date some boys and escape classes; but to me, all these are really issues not even worth mention compared to drug abuse, vandalism, bully, gangsterism and much more that I encountered in high school.

I cannot deny that landing in this school will be the ideal posting for many, as you really have nothing to worry about the discipline.  There are rarely chronic discipline cases that you have to handle, if, there is one at all, because the Senior Assistant in charge of Students’ Affair is a lady respected and feared by all the girls.  In this school, all you need to do is teach.  And you have all the time to test out your theory, ask the girls to participate in anything you ask them to do.  (Remember, they are extremely obedient.)

Then, this seems to be a paradise for practicing teachers.

Sadly, no.

You see, I have always thought that Malaysian’s education system is very ‘feminine’.  It is crafted out for those that can sit still for 8 straight hours and glue their eyes to the books without leaving for toilet or for meal. (This is true, my top scorer classmate in high school did that.  We can never get her to move – to the canteen, to the corridor, to the PARTY!!!)  And excellent result in Malaysian public examinations is really about “studying hard”.

I could not appreciate more the conducive teaching environment (it is extremely conducive for teachers); quiet, disciplined, well-behaved.  They never give you any trouble.  I mean, at least I have not encountered any disciplinary cases that I cannot handle in the past 4 years (I am the class teacher for the last class – poorer results, poorer family background, higher truancy rate).  However, I do have my greatest fear, and it probably would give me nightmares if I don’t seek a solution fast, that is to step into an English lesson – they are too quiet.

So much so that they are almost passive, and non-responsive.  No, they are not vegetables, but they are just … too shy (?) to be doing anything in the class.  First of all, my challenge is to get them to speak in English that eventually I got the nickname, “Ms Say-It-Again”.  Then, my obstacle is to get them to live like a teen – rebellious and strong headed, to defend their rights, to fight for what they think is right … Oops! Sorry.  I rephrase.  Then, my obstacle is to get them to be daring enough to reason with the teachers teacher, me.

Even when I gave them the permission, they still cautiously looked at me through sceptical eyes, and whispered, “Really? You are not going to get angry with WHATEVER we say?”  Well, they are really a bunch of kind angels, they did not say anything nasty.  The most hurtful one probably was they compared me to the crabbed age, and they, the youth. (William Shakespeare’s Crabbed Age and Youth)

Well, I guess mixing with bad hats modifies one’s behaviour much more easily than the opposite.  My colleagues soon notice that my classes are usually “noisy”, and the noises sound English too ~

My point is, the girls in this school have got great potential.  And often, they are so lacking in self confidence that they would not even dare to try.  The change I hope to bring is to have these girls be confident, be aggressive and be motivated to be courageous.  And it is tough.  Think Maria in the convent in “The Sound of Music” …

Anyway, I guess these girls are going to be just fine, as the current system most probably is not going to be changed in the near future, at least, not the immediate future.  They will still fare the public exams and be top scorer within the state, or even the nation (One of the girls was the top scorer in the country back in 2006).  But I do hope I bring them more than just the lessons of hardwork and discipline.  I want them to harness their own characteristics and be outstanding individuals.

Back to my conspiracy plot against the school ~