I will always remember my Primary Six teacher who taught us Bahasa Malaysia (Malay language). Her name was Puan Noraini. Before she taught our class, I took no motivation in the subject of bahasa. And in primary school, I used to fare badly anyway.
But this teacher was different- she waltzed in, with her golden coloured hair (it was not common those days for ladies to colour their hair so she always stood out because of her golden curls), taught us and end everyday with homework.
Everyday, she made us do revisions and exercises. Almost everyday, she will prepare homework for us to do, containing grammar and vocabulary exercises. She used the school’s photostat machine and it was on paper of very poor quality. Then the next day, she would have us mark the papers- the students just passed the paper to another friend- so each one of us mark our friends’ paper.
Most of my friends go for tuition classes after school, so the extra homework was a burden to them because they already have homework from their tuition teachers. But because my family could not really afford to send me to tuition until I was in upper secondary, I really appreciated the effort this teacher had made.
One day, Puan Noraini got quite upset because some of my classmates did not do her homework. She said fiercely in bahasa, “I’ve worked so hard to prepare these daily homework for you all and some of you don’t even appreciate. I could have just followed what was required by the syllabus- with the limited exercise the textbook provided. But I know it is not sufficient for you to excel in Bahasa. And I want all of you to excel and do your best. I have made the effort, but it is up to you to work for your As. If you don’t put any effort, it’s not going to fall on your lap!”.
Academically, I fared very badly in almost all the term papers throughout my primary school. In the end of primary six, we have to sit for a government exams- all the primary six kids will sit for the same papers on the same day and be graded accordingly.
This teacher had paid attention- and because she made the effort, I did all of my homework religiously. I had nothing else to revise for my bahasa except my textbook and her homework, printed on poor quality paper. I just depended on these- at the same time, I also developed interest to hear Malay songs because many of my classmates listened to those songs.
When the results of the government exams came out, my mom took me to school to collect the results. I was shaking and was really scared and worried as my mom went into the office and I was waiting for her outside. Given my poor record at the bottom of the barrel during term exams, my heart was beating furiously- is it going to be Cs and below? Would I flop any paper and be denied for future schooling (not that I mind, I really don’t like the regimented stuff that schools have).
As she came out, she looked at me and gave me a huge smile. She looked so proud and happy because as it turned out, I’ve had straight As. Never in my wildest dream or hers, we had expected it. There were tears in her eyes- my mom worked very hard to raise us and the results make her really happy.
And as I went to secondary school, I do not have anymore Malay classmates who shared my interest in Malay songs. But I continued excelling in my Malay language papers in my school days and university because I have grown to love the language. I love listening to Malay songs, especially rock ballads till I am into my early twenties. I would not think I could have done it had it not for Puan Noraini- she made a difference in my life- she made me believe that if I worked hard, I can achieve.
Many teachers now are no longer in the profession because of passion. But because they felt teaching is a job that is relatively not that demanding, that comes with pension benefits and long holidays (because they need not work during school holidays). But what they do not realize is that their role in influencing young minds is just so great. Insulting and belittling students can scar them for life. Motivating them can plant seeds that leads to success in life when these kids grow up- sometimes against all odds.
You’ll never know the difference you can make- as a teacher, you hold in your hands the power to turn a nobody… into a somebody.