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Saturday, October 11, 2008



**Long, wordy post ahead - scroll to the end for a summary if you like


In the beginning of the year, during one of our School Management meetings, our Penolong Kanan HEM (Students' Affairs teacher), showed us the results of his study:

It was found that students are a strange, yet quite predictable lot. The peak seasons for misbehaviour is almost always the same every year - during the middle point of each term and also a few weeks before the end of each school session.

According to him, we should therefore focus all our energy (re: ON OUR GUARDS AT ALL TIMES) on making sure the kids have no reason to misbehave during these periods.

Well, observe the following picture:This is a compound picture of one of my naughtier classes. This class comprises about 90% Chinese males and a small handful of Indian students. It's easy to see who rules the roost in this class :p. I generally find this class both a challenge and a place where I can let loose a little.

The challenge lies in the fact that since the beginning of the school year, I've been trying out ALL types of disciplinary measures with these guys - to no avail. However, because they're so outspoken and mischievous, it's also quite a fun class to go to when I want to talk crap in class. For instance, I could be unhappy about the school canteen food/weather/my phone....when I go to their class and ask them for 'advice'; I'm sure to get a great response and they'll have a 1001 recommendations for me.

So, on the whole, though this class gets on my nerves quite a lot and have probably bore the brunt of my disciplinarian side, we get on quite well, or so I thought.

Last Thursday, I had a class with them. It was a short 1-period lesson and I usually use it for literature. Because it's such a short class, I usually have no trouble keeping them focused and on-task. However, on this particular day, they were just plain unmanageable! They were talking and laughing and basically ignoring me. The first incident that got me really pissed off was: as they were copying the task from the board, I reminded them (for the 4th time - I counted) to re-arrange some of the things that I've written because it was jumbled-up.

Imagine my ke-piss-off-an when one of them yelled, "MA DE!" (vulgarity) at me. I turned around and zoomed in on the boy who said it. I asked, in my most steely and scary voice, how dare he swear at me when I have made the announcement about the change about 4 times already - wth???!!!. The kid heard my impatience and immediately apologised. After that outburst from me, he ceased talking with his friend altogether and only spoke up to ask me questions as I walked past.

Then, as we were nearing the end of the period, the kids started getting restless. As I was re-iterating some stuff for the slower kids, they ALL started chatting and joking (even the slower ones who told me they didn't quite understand what to do)!!! I reprimanded them twice. Called out a few specific names.


Ultimately, I took out the 'kad kuning' (demerit points card)and started filling it in. When the bell rang for recess, I kept 7 students back and sat down with them for a lecture on misbehaviour and to show them their demerits (a part of the demerit procedure). When they asked why, I told them that they talked while I was teaching and ignored the lesson as I was explaining.

One kid got very incensed and started yelling about how he didn't talk and how he already finished the work. I showed him his book - it was sloppy as hell and he couldn't even read his own writing! He still denied doing anything wrong, kicked a chair over and stormed off.

Then there were six.

Two of the boys in the group became 'inspired' by their friend's retaliation and thus began arguing with me also. I said, okay, I'll give a you a chance to air your grief and I'll answer any questions you have. One kid started hurling every single accusation he could think of at me; namely;

  • I was prejudiced against them (zhen dui) and was out to get them. (ie I never punished my other classes)
  • I was never satisfied and was always finding fault with them.
  • He had already changed his ways (gwai yi dien) after a previous heart to heart talk I had with him (I agreed, but it didn't mean he was by any means a good student now, he still had more to change).
  • I was only 'pretending' or 'acting' (jia jia) whenever I lectured them.
  • He/the class hated me and couldn't bear having English lessons (hen bu suang)(this hurt me the most).
  • I could die for all he cared (stg along those lines).

I answered every single accusation calmly and reasonably. When he failed to argue with me, he would say, "How should I know?" or just looked away, muttering, "Yea right". He was waaaaay beyond the line and even the other kids told him to stop it - it was only demerits. He responded by saying that he didn't care about the demerits, he just wanted to get to the bottom of things. In the end, he said stg like, "I've had enough of bullshit from you" and left the class triumphantly.

After he left, I turned to the other boys and asked them if they feel the same way. I was by this time too shocked, too frustrated because I couldn't respond well (curse my limited Mando) and too sad to say anything else. The other boys shifted around uncomfortably but said nothing.

One boy (he's a new student) piped up and agreed with his classmate. He asked me why couldn't I be like their other teachers; who would give them work and leave them be? I told him it was because I cared for their moral upbringing and couldn't bear to let them grow up with such attitudes (irresponsibility, disregard for rules, disrespect etc). The kid actually had the nerve to laugh at my words and said it was corny!!!

I couldn't put up a front any longer and dismissed them. I locked up the class and cried my eyes out and prayed for strength. I am so ashamed of crying (KG tells me I am pathetic, the blardy unsympathetic coot!), but oh, the frustration!!!!!!! I had so much feelings for this class; I guess teachers really do care the most about their problem classes and tend to pass their good ones over.


There is an interesting twist left in this tale. Two periods of lessons later, I was still feeling down. I was on my way back to the staffroom when I heard a commotion in the office and lo, who should I see but the same boy, who had just about 1.5 hours ago cut and wounded me so deeply, sitting with his head down in front of three male discipline teachers. As I walked in, one of the teachers saw me and asked me for the 'kad kuning' - I'd not returned them to the office.

I quickly went to get them, passed it to the teacher and sat down next to the boy. He refused to look up until I asked him gently about what had happened. It looked pretty serious and I was worried.

He finally told me that he was caught chatting away in class in Chinese. When the teacher reprimanded him, he retaliated and brushed/'hit' the teacher's hand. Seeing that he had been suspended and expelled before, the teacher now wants to expel him for good.

I sighed (oh, how dramatic I was atm) and asked him what he was going to do. He was asked to bring his dad to school the next day. As long as his dad did not turn up, he could not come to school. I asked him when his dad could come - he did not know.

In the end, I asked him if he still thought I was being a bitch to him (of course, I used a diff word la!) when I tried disciplining them earlier. I repeated what I'd said in class, which is, I wanted them to change their attitudes above all - so that they would not get in trouble with the rules/law later. Also, I added for impact, "Isn't this misbehaviour exactly the same stunt you pulled in my class? Chatting and being disrespectful? This is where it gets you and this was what I wanted to prevent."

He nodded.

I pat his back and told him to see me if he needed my help - ie to vouch for him. I did think about whether this was in my best interest. Other teachers might think that I'm being meddlesome. But, after hearing him say that he had already tried turning a new leaf after my heart to heart talk with him, I was encouraged. That means, what I said had an impact on him and he did try, consciously, to become a better person. I think, because of that, he has proven that he is making an effort and deserves a chance.

That's my justification - what do you guys think?

When I told a colleague about this, he who-does-not-mince-words said, "Hao aa - gei tian sou!" In Cantonese, it is "Bei teen sau." You guys get it? In fact, this colleague of mine has been preaching (literally) about the 'tian sou' philosophy. In my own way, I'd been delivering the 'every action has a reaction' line to my kids.

Though harsh, I really hope this episode would help this particular boy become a better person and the rest of the boys in his class see the light.


  1. Kids get on my nerves in class.
  2. I hold them back for recess and give them lecture.
  3. Kids retaliate with one in particular, being very very rude - hurling all sorts of insults and accusations at me.
  4. I feel extremely down and pray for strength.
  5. I see the same kid in the office getting expelled for behaving the same way with another teacher.
  6. I sit down and have a talk with him. I try not to rub salt into his wounds, but reason with him about the consequences of his behaviour.

End note: May God bless all my little devils and save them from damnation (re: expulsion).


Sha said...

Oh dear...I guess some days are harder than others.

I can totally picture the whole ugly scene with the male students. A lot of SSM boys were the exact same way, complete with chair/table throwing, colourful language, door slamming, threatening behaviour and what have you.

But it's also very, very commendable that you're persevering. Most teachers would have let things be, mostly to make things easier for themselves (which I totally understand too. Who wants to be verbally assaulted by these kucik rats right)

So I do think you're right to still want to back him up.

Always keep this in mind tho: even with the best of intentions, some of them will never be the students you want them to be, primarily because they do not want it.

You can only help them so much, the rest has to come from within.

But there will be that one student out of ten (or more!) who would benefit tremendously from having a teacher like you. And that makes it worth it.


Rosalynn said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, sha! Love love!