With #JourneyThusFar , Teach For Malaysia wants to capture and acknowledge the reality of our teachers who are placed all over Malaysia, teaching in high-need schools. As the year comes to an end, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on what 2018 has presented us with.
Ngui Sui Yang, a 2017 Fellow, was placed in a high-need school in Johor. This is his #JouneyThusFar of his life as a Teach For Malaysia teacher.
“To teach is to learn twice”
At the risk of using an overused quote, “To teach is to learn twice.” uttered by a French essayist, Joseph Joubert is a line that kept me going throughout the Fellowship. As a teacher, I perceived myself to have learnt a lot more than I taught. I will not touch on how Teach For Malaysia teachers have impacted the lives of their students and communities, as many others have done so with more eloquence and articulation. I will instead choose to reflect on how this journey changed one unexpecting pessimist’s outlook on the Fellowship and life in general.
Admittedly, right from Day 1, I have always considered myself to be disparate from the rest of the Fellows in my cohort. No significant event had led to me devote my life towards serving a greater cause, nor did I harbour a deep-rooted motivation to teach. I was privileged enough to not experience any form of education inequity first hand, born into a family that ensured nothing got in the way of an education. It was completely by chance, through a series of fortunate events during and post-university that led me towards the Fellowship.
What is my motivation?
Despite that, I remained sceptical about what Teach For Malaysia promised to achieve. It became apparent upon beginning the Fellowship, when Fellows had to continuously review and re-evaluate their motivations for joining. I struggled each time; nothing within myself seemed concrete enough. Everyone else around me was living out a dream or ambition by joining the Fellowship, while I saw it as a detour in my life plan. Everything I had done in my life was gearing up towards climbing a corporate ladder post-graduation. I hadn’t a solid answer for: “What I want for the children of Malaysia”.
However, I knew I had an inherent (albeit unarticulated) desire to create positive change in Malaysia. A nagging itch to walk-the-talk after years of “mamak stall” complaints about how the Malaysian education system needs to “try something different”. This was it, and struggle as I might, I managed to make it through the Pre-Service Programme and subsequently began my posting in Pasir Gudang.
The first few months were arduous. Plagued daily by the challenges of being a novice teacher in a high-need school, while trying to block out the distracting life I left behind to join the Fellowship; I begin to lose sight of the weak motivation to continue. I couldn’t find a sense of belonging. My thoughts and opinions were not well received in my new environment and I was constantly left thinking that I was in over my head. This was until I took a step back to observe the other Fellows in my Cohort that were chugging along, despite having the same challenges.
No two paths are ever similar
It was then I realised that despite the different life paths that led us to this Fellowship, we were now all working towards a common goal. Nothing seemed to shake their resilience. I then found it within myself to look towards and learn from others rather than focus on my own indifference. After countless gatherings, meetings and initiatives together, alas, one pessimistic sceptic can’t hold a candle to the sheer optimism of all the others. Of anyone I had ever met, this amazing collective of a cohort helped teach me the value of being accepting, to support others in times of need and to focus on what matters. Over time, I started to see how I fit the larger narrative that was the Teach For Malaysia movement. My priorities changed; I found my stride as a teacher, improved my pedagogical skills (somewhat) and built meaningful relationships. With that, I slowly learnt to make the most of my time as a Fellow, to see this as a blessing rather than a regretted decision.
It is through this very journey, that I truly learnt to find myself again. To fail, to pick myself up, and to persevere. In the end, embarking on the Fellowship with my amazing cohort was an amazing life detour I never expected to take. It had empowered me to be a better person, teacher, colleague and friend. In turn, allowing me to empower the students I had the privilege of teaching.
Ngui Sui Yang is a 2017 Teach For Malaysia teacher who taught at a high-need school in Pasir Gudang, Johor. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Financial Management from University of Sheffield.
It is through Fellows like Sui Yang that Teach For Malaysia is able to be a change agent. Join us and support our cause of wanting to end education inequity.
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