Yesterday, I got home at 5.40pm. It was after a whole day of lessons and a two-hour meeting and paperwork and marking .... I was more than entitled to be pooped.
But I wasn't.
In fact, up till 5.30, I was still Energizer Bunny at the office. I was running through my lessons for next week and I was smiling to myself.
Did I down a RedBull? I hear you ask. Nope
Did I get a raise? Nope.
If anything, I got the crappiest hand-me-down post yesterday. But that's another story for another day.
It was a student. He did good in my eyes. And I only, really, saw him for the first time yesterday.
You see, this kid's in one of the weakest classes I teach. He sits very quietly in class... in a corner close to the front... alone, while I usually expend my energy and attention dealing with the naughty ones in his class, who all sit right at the back. Let's call this boy KID.
It's been about a month now that we've started 2010's school term. I've had my mind and hand full dealing with this class. They are starting at Es, some are basically illiterate. A couple have special needs. A few more have even more special needs....the need to talk all the time, the need to not tuck in their shirt, the need to aggravate and fight, the need to not do any work....yes, they are very special kids.
So anyway, I'm determined that they should learn something this year. I want them to be able to pass PMR English and write a good Year 6-level essay. I've got realistic expectations and I hope to fulfill them. So I've devised a way o deal with all the merry-making that disrupts my class and annoys the hell outta me.
Since last week, I've been getting the kids to work in groups with me. I go into class, give the rest some easy-peasy work (eg copying essays, memorising literature synopsis etc) while I work with small groups of 4 or 5. My rationale is that more learning takes place in the 10 minutes I spend with each group than in the 70 minutes if I were to address the whole class. Once I've got them pinned down in my groups, they usually cooperate and work through their lessons with me.
Anyway....KID's never been on my radar. He wasn't the worst, he wasn't the best, he wasn't noisy, he wasn't too quiet or withdrawn. He wasn't a joy nor a problem in the class.
KID's missed school quite a coupla times - as expected of students from this class. However, yesterday, I caught him and sat him down together as my last (and solo) "group" to work with. At first, I was disdainful of him. "So, Mr Boss decided to come to school today huh?" Sarcasm, my best friend. He replied with a sheepish smile.
We worked through the tasksheet for a while. As we did, I noticed that he was unfailingly polite, but not in a overly contrived way. His manner suggested that he was an educated old man who had seen the world and knew of its hardships as well as wonders. He wanted to learn, but was not too eager or hungry for it. My sarcasm melted away completely.
It was a very strange experience for me. He replied with "wo liao jie" (I comprehend) instead of the more usual "ming bai" (I understand). He had the Mona Lisa kind of smile as he struggled with the worksheet. What do they call it? yes...enigmatic.
When the bell rang, signaling the end of the period and the start of recess, I asked him if he wanted to go eat - we only had a little more left to do. He said he was fine but how about you, teacher? That was the first time a kid from his kind of class ever showed any measure of concern for me. I was of course, more than eager to spend more time working through the paper and then learning more about him.
He was quite an open person. I found out that he had elderly parents who can't work. And both he and his elder sis are bearing the costs of the household. He works two odd jobs to make ends meet and one of them is from 12am to 5am. He walks to school from his home, which is easily 5km away. And sometimes oversleeps and misses school.
I looked at this boy in wonder. He was damn skinny and tanned but he looked all strong and radiant suddenly. He was quite matter-of-fact about the whole thing. His demeanor suggested that he neither felt the need to hide or flaunt his situation.
He told me he understood the importance of education and he'd like to give it his all. He wanted to know....he wanted to know everything.
My favourite part of the lesson was when I was showing him the sentence construction patterns (SVO, SVC etc) I explained what the subject of a sentence was and what verbs do. I told him in simple sentences, subjects are usually nouns or pronouns.
The first sentence began with a human subject "I" (pronoun)
The second sentence began with another human subject "We" (pronoun)
The third, I thought he'd have a problem with, started with a noun "The river"
Imagine my "YAY" moment when he blurted out - Oh! "The river" is a noun!
Satisfaction :D His enthusiasm was just enouh to make me happy but not creep me out.
This KID was literally in my blind side - He sat in the seat where I had to twist my head around to see. I paid more attention to those who demanded it than to him - because he was just there.
I told his story to KG. And because KG and I have just watched The Blind Side (the book made me a fan of Michael Oher, the movie made me a fan of NFL), we can't help wish there'd be a fairytale ending for KID too.
Wish as I might, I know if things don't improve for KID, he'd be just another statistic who drops outta school after failing his PMR. But I'd still like to wish....and as long as he has this desire to learn - I'll help him in any way I can. Because... I see him now.