THEY TAUGHT ME HOW TO TEACH By; SOLAHUDDIN MAHMUD

The year was 2005. After obtaining a degree, I was posted to a secondary school. I was not too happy with the change. The first few years of teaching in a secondary school in the afternoon session was fun and very challenging until I was asked to teach in the morning session. Reluctantly I readjusted myself to the new working hours. To make things worse, I was given the last Form Four class in the school consisting of 20 boisterous boys. I was devastated because every teacher dreaded teaching them. I could still remember the look on the students’ faces the first day I entered the class. They looked rowdy, unruly, untidy, and uninterested to learn. Gosh….. what was I supposed to do with this bunch of rogues who matched the terms commonly used by teachers such as reluctant learners, unmotivated students, hard core brats, and slow learners. The first few weeks were demotivating and frustrating and I almost gave up. My rigid lesson plans failed as they hardly showed any interest. I had to start with basic English and I had to use the direct translation method in trying to teach them some English. The class was out of control. Most of them played truant during my lesson. They were like magicians who disappeared on their way to my class. I had an audio visual room all to myself, so students came to me. I was merely baby-sitting this bunch of hooligans. These students had seen things that they should not see. They had watched things that they should not watch and done things that they should not do at their age. The past records showed that the last class in this school had never contributed anything in terms of percentage of passes in the SPM English paper. Without much expectation from me, I negotiated with the administrators to give me

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This simple act boosted their self-esteem and things started to change. A story I recalled from the book ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ was about the power of touch. after each lesson before my students left my class. or elder brother . kinder and closer to me. That story was a turning point in my teaching career. I motivated and comforted myself by reading motivational books.always painting my face with a fake and an insincere smile. I stumbled upon the Jack Canfield’s ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ Series. Initially I cheated them by telling them that I cared for them and I loved them like my own. The boy aborted his plan for he felt that someone finally took an interest in him. Not even by their own fathers. Their minds had long been corrupted since they were in primary school. I was smart.younger brother. They became nicer. Most of them had never been hugged. After countless arguments and adrenaline pumping moments I had with them. He came from a broken family and nobody loved and cared for him. It was about a boy who felt that he was insignificant to the world. Fortunately a teacher came into his class and gave him a pat on his shoulder and enquired about his well-being.teacher-student. father-son. I made a point that to shake their hands and gave them a fatherly hug. 2 . we developed a special kind of bond . I learnt many things about these kids. my perspective towards the students slowly changed. One day he decided to commit suicide after school. After that. In the love hate relationship.the freedom to design my own syllabus. A simple gesture like that was a life-saving decision. Gradually they took care of their personal hygiene for they were looking forward to my fatherly hug. It was not a difficult task since I am a ‘great actor’. I was inspired and in no time I finished reading all the volumes. I had to bear their unpleasant body odour. Since then. Then. The outcome was good though I was nearly choked with an array of smell. It dawned on me the importance of touch. and I began to love them. I purposely left some bottles of perfume and placed them in a basket and placed it at one corner of the room. They were the products of neglect. What a great liar I was .

I was well equipped with tons of fun and creative materials to tap their thirst for knowledge. bodily kinesthetic and visual spatial intelligences. riddles and jokes to make my lessons interesting. I switched to fun learning. I found it very difficult to teach them. They also 3 . Their attention span was very short. They started to listen to me talking attentively in trying to understand the jokes and riddles. In fact. later on I discovered. Songs such as Lemon Tree by Fool’s garden.They were unfairly branded and deprived from their rights to special attention to learn and acquire knowledge. If they were not ready to learn. In other words. I started teaching them using UPSR materials. their level was even lower than UPSR. Money Money Money by ABBA and Barbie Doll by Aqua were their favourites. I realized I should not torture them anymore with any serious teaching and learning. Early birds had the chance to request for songs. they were no longer the disappearing magicians and made a beeline to my class. I managed to collect quite a number of slow beat rock songs with clear pronunciation. subtracting. multiplying and the list goes on They were the bronze with no brain. I danced according to their tunes. I had to go through many hurdles to get them to enjoy English songs. Since then. They began to enjoy them and started to ask for meaning of words found in the lyrics. Every English period was incorporated with activities which complemented their musical. no more students played truant. warmers. So. Their strengths were carrying desks to the hall and painting wall and lines on the field and their weaknesses were reading. My students did love songs. I decided to make a difference. Most teenagers love songs. they were the perfect ‘working machine’ for teachers. I introduced songs and games. writing. There were also a few pop songs with catchy tunes which captivated them. but not English songs. adding. By then. I used a lot of actions. in that particular year and with that particular class. I used lots of songs to teach grammar. I was not ready to teach. We started the session by having a karaoke session. Then. They would willingly volunteer as long as they could stay away from their lessons. My lessons were task based. In school they were not good at almost everything except in providing cheap and easy labor services for the school.

Apart from making my students feel tension-free and have fun. it was a small matter but to me it showed a noble humanitarian act. The book ‘Chicken Soup for Teen Souls’ and other volumes of Chicken Soup were my new compendium in teaching. in order to prevent them from disturbing me. they told me that they had to help a primary school boy who met with an accident on his way to school. downloading songs and videos were my new hobbies and my wife started to feel a bit concerned about my new interest. To a certain degree. some of the stories were really sad and touching. They helped the boy and accompanied him to the hospital and made arrangements for the boy to return home. It was a hit and run case on a deserted road. That incident spurred me on to dedicate myself to molding them into useful citizens. After all I was a subject teacher and not a full time counsellor. When I asked them why they were late. Of course I had to translate most of the stories after letting them to read. They were frequent uninvited guests to my room so much so I lost my precious free periods to do my clerical work. I cried in front of the class. Time flies and they were now in Form Five. I still remember how they rocked the grill of the door asking me to let them in. every lesson was a motivational session. My audio room was to be their den. I started reading them stories for their soul and used every quotation in order to make them believe in themselves. To them. They really did not expect me to take the incident seriously. I still remember one day some of them came late to my class which happened to be the first period of that day. it helped a lot. Sometimes. so much so a few of them cried with me. I continued to ensure that they really enjoyed my lessons. The story touched my heart so much because I didn’t expect them to do such a selfless deed. By then. 4 . I was cruel but I needed some time for myself. They told me that the boy’s house was quite far so much so their motorbike ran out of fuel.started to introduce their own favourite songs for me to listen and share with the rest of the class. There were times when I had to lock myself in.

I pitied for them. the day finally arrived. they had never had any class party since they were in Form One. a few of them expressed their wish to have a class party and they sought my help although I was not their form teacher. they already knew few techniques which enabled them to answer certain sections of SPM paper with their limited vocabulary. Then. We also a few kilos of noodles. Only a handful managed to keep themselves focused. at least just to pass. “Sir. baked cakes and prepared some jelly. The coal was burning hot. when are we going to start learning seriously?”. The smell of the grilled barbecued chicken wafted in the air. That very morning. Of course. I did not teach them everything. We had plenty of food and most of the teachers turned up. After that. Towards the end of the year. Such big hearts they had. one of them said. As the SPM examination was looming. “Are you serious? Do you really want to pass your exam? Are you ready to learn?” What they didn’t realize was that they were actually learning and I was preparing them for the examination. my students were plagued with all sorts of challenges. I noticed that they did not eat much and they were not gluttons. Most of them had family and financial problems and some of them were suspended from school for several days for various offences. So we started planning and I taught them social etiquette. According to them. But by then. My students smiled from ear to ear. They were happy and busy entertaining the guests. Tables were well arranged. things were well organized. They were very happy and proud of themselves. The students were very enthusiastic about the party and they had been talking about it for days. They even invited the school gardeners. I was shocked and at a loss for words.On April Fool’s Day. My wife and I genereously lent them whatever they needed. The class monitor and the assistant were busy ushering teachers and the principal to the party. It was the 5 . They wanted to have a barbecue. They set everything so as make it looked like a five-star hotel. They were really impressed. they invited other students who happened to be nearby.

they sat for their SPM and when January came the following year. No more naughty students coming to shake my door grill. Six of the 20 ‘rogues’ managed to pass their English paper and one of them got a credit.class party of the year. So. My perspective towards teaching has turned 180 degrees. you see. No more confession sessions. For once I could see the sense of pride on their faces. I have learnt a lot from this group of 20 admirable students. Finally. I was missing them. they came to me and hugged me and thank me profusely for an awesome party. an emptiness in my heart. I learnt to appreciate my students more and in return I am being appreciated. Thank you. sir. I vividly remember two of them running towards me with their arms wide open and I gave them a warm congratulatory hug. I had a shock. “Sir. I learnt to respect students and in return I am being respected. This particular class has taught me a great deal of things. the zero percent record had been smashed. they taught me how to teach. we passed our English paper. A few days after that.” Tears were streaming down my cheeks. Before they went home. when the SPM results were released. It left a gaping hole. I learnt to love my students and in return I am being loved. 6 . I am what I am now because of them and most importantly.