“One day, my students will be able to break the cycle of poverty through quality education. One day, my students will be independent life-long learners who use their knowledge to impact society and the nation.”
My aunt is a preschool teacher, and was also the first teacher I ever had. As a 5-year-old, I wanted to be a teacher – just like my aunt. I was blessed to meet many dedicated teachers throughout my life, each inspiring me in different ways; but ultimately shaping my desire and determination to be a teacher.
Teaching mathematics can be easy. But teaching mathematics to secondary students who are still confused about multiplication and division can be really difficult. While some of them still tried to keep up, more had completely given up.
In order to help these students, I experimented with many different approaches throughout the year. I tried creating acronyms to help them remember mathematical formulas. I tried grouping them and assigning student tutors to coach their peers. I tried giving them extra classes. Still, 26 out of 37 students failed their Mathematics paper in their semester exam. I felt really disappointed and slightly demotivated by their results after putting in so much effort to help them.
After a reflection session with my teaching coach, I realised that instead of allowing my students to depend on me and passively learn through me – I had to inspire my students to want to learn on their own.
I decided to change my approach. I went into class and wrote down the objective of the class as usual. The objective of the day was that everyone would be able to calculate the volume of a cube and a cuboid.
I gave them basic instructions and left them with questions to solve. At the end of the lesson, when I asked if they could solve the questions, almost everyone raised their hands. Even Jean* and Adam*, who usually couldn’t keep up with lessons, could solve the questions correctly!
Various answers could be heard, and I felt that I was finally doing something right. By emphasising self-learning and encouraging them to take ownership of their learning, my students were showing marked improvement. Finally, 30 out of 37 of them passed the final exam!
My first year as a Fellow was really challenging. I doubted my capability as a teacher when my teaching methods were constantly failing. I felt helpless when I couldn’t control my class. I was dissatisfied with my performance and teaching quality. I was waking up at 5am every morning, trying to complete all my work. I was constantly stressed out.
But if you ask me if I ever regretted choosing this path, or if I ever thought of giving up, the answer is a definite no. When I conduct a lesson successfully and can confidently say that my students learned something today, I am reminded of why I teach. When I enter the school gate and my students greet me with ‘salam sejahtera, cikgu!’ I am reminded of why I am here. When my students trust and confide in me, I am reminded of my potential impact in their lives. All these are constant sources of motivation for me to keep going despite facing so many challenges as a teacher.
One day, my students’ eyes will no longer be clouded with confusion in class.
One day, my students who once gave up in the classroom, will be able to pass their exams, and even be able to teach someone else confidently.
One day, my students will be able to break the cycle of poverty through quality education.
One day, my students will be independent life-long learners who use their knowledge to impact society and the nation.
One day, I will be able to see my students doing well for themselves in all parts of the world – and here I will be, extremely proud of them.
*Students’ names have been changed to protect their identity.
Loh Chee Hoo is a 2014 teaching Alumnus. He is currently in his third year of teaching at a school in Selangor. Chee Hoo graduated with Bachelor of Applied Science (Applied Statistics) from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).