Thursday, 18 February 2016

Confessions of An Exhausted Teacher

(Note: I am writing in English, not because I don't want to speak in Bahasa, but I am practicing myself to write in English again (it's been so long since the last time I wrote a long essay in English!) since I am about to take my TOEFL test and apply for a university in the US in a couple of months. Also, this is not an academic essay, so.. it's a bit informal.)

As I have helped my family run three schools for more than ten years, I realize two things: Running a school is hard, and being a teacher is harder. I've watched many so-called teachers come and go from these schools for a lot of reasons. They quit either because they don't have the discipline, or they cannot deliver the material well, or they aren't good at following a tight schedule, or they want to pursue their real passion, or they have to do something else like pursuing their master degreee or taking care of their family (Can't blame this one, though).

Whatever the reason is, as a person who.. well, let's say own a business, sometimes it feels frustrating when the academic year is almost over, and suddenly a teacher comes forward to say that he/she wants to resign. (And the new academic year is only two months away. Or a month away. Or a week away. Like... really?).

In a regular office, as I've heard from most of my friends and my husband, it's not a very big deal for anyone to resign anytime as long as they give you at least a month notice. Maybe it'll be a problem, but not as much as if it's a school. There are A LOT to consider when you resign from a school.

First, as I said before, being a teacher is not easy. Let's say I've hired you as a teacher in my school. That means out of a million of people who applied, I think you're the best to teach in our place. That means the others are not qualified. Take a look at my experience, for example, I interviewed at least 10 English teachers last year, and in the end there was only one who we consider qualified. Not even two! That shows how hard it is to teach. Not everyone can because a teacher must have the discipline, must master his/her subject, must know how to deliver, and must dare to be different, friendly, and VERY.. VERY.. VERY PATIENT. Oh, and also, you have to know when to act nice and when to be a devil that everyone should fear. LOL, I was exagerating, but you get my point, right? You gotta be mad if you have to, you gotta be crazy when your craziness is needed. Not everyone can do that.

Second, if the management has to look for a replacement in the middle of the academic year, it would be very tricky. The students would constantly compare the new one with the last one, either in a good way or a bad way. That's 50:50. Let's say that they don't like the new teacher, not because he/she is an awful teacher, but just because they are used to the old one. A new teacher means a new set of rules/habis/ways of learning. When a teacher teaches in class, they usually have their own style of teaching. What if the new teacher is not as creative as the old one? Or another problem comes up. The students have to adjust themselves with a new teacher in the middle of the academic year. Not only that, the new teacher has to know which materials that the old teacher has taught so far. It's like baking someone else's cake. I know, it's not a good comparison. Still, you get the idea.

So, why don't people want to be a teacher? Here, let me tell you.

First of all (and I guess the most important aspect in today's cases), we don't get paid much. Really. Most people now work for the money, not for what they actually want. Well, it's not like that there are a lot of people who want to be a teacher, but still. No one is interested because selling cars bring more food to the table. Selling cigarettes brings more lavish lifestyle to your house. "Why not give the teacher more salary?" one may ask. Well, that means we have to add the income as well. That means they school tuition will rise as well. That will mean not everyone can go to our school because it'll be too expensive. It ain't easy. If you wonder why is education expensive, well.. IT IS! And if I were in it for the money, I would probably go teaching in an international school instead. But, no. I'd rather be paid much less in my school for a LOT of reasons.

Oh, by the way, I have this funny story when our school joined on an education fair in one of the most prestigious shopping malls in the city. There were three schools before us who got interviewed in turns by the MC. I remember the first school was very proud that they're a bilingual school. The second and third were very proud that they're not only bilingual but multilingual as they teach Mandarin to pre-schoolers (I guess) and they use one of those fancy-named-international curriculums. I forgot which one since I don't give a crap about it (I may be born in the US, but my heart belongs to Indonesia). And when our school got our turn, our representative said, "Kita menekankan bahasa Indonesia dalam pengajaran karena sekolah kita berwawasan KEBANGSAAN. Bukannya bahasa Inggris tidak penting loh, kita tetap ajarkan. Tapi pada akhirnya kita mengajar calon-calon pemimpin bangsa yang harus memiliki nasionalisme". It was more or less like that, I was very excited at her answer.

Second, it requires a lot of time and energy. Although most people think that being a teacher means you can relax most of the time, there's still a tight schedule you have to follow. It's almost like a regular working hour. Each school has its own regulation, but for the sake of my point let's use my school's. I have to be in school at 6:55 whether I teach or not at that day (well, I teach every day and mostly are morning classes, so that's no prob for me). We have to go home after 3.15. But that's not over. There are quizes to grade, homeworks to check, worksheets to make, paragraphs to correct, school trips to organize, and materials to prepare! And maybe more! It's crazy! I just realized that if I am not teaching, then I'm most likely either organizing a school trip/event or in front of my computer browsing classroom activities, making worksheets for students, or grading their work. In addition, most teachers must bring home their work because they don't have the time for every little thing. Also, when you deliver a material in class, you really have to make sure everyone gets it! If a student is not listening, what do you do? Grab their attention! Scream! Shout! Do the passive-aggressive method! Anything, but you have to make sure it is delivered. That's the point of the job.

Anyway, last but not least, let's just be honest: Teaching? It's not a prestigious career. Remember what they say in the old days (or maybe until now)? Those who can't, teach. "I want to be an engineer! It's cool", "I want to be a businessman, it's cool and I can be rich!". Blah blah blah. Not that I don't think that the professions mentioned are not important, but only some think teaching is cool.

Anyway, just to wrap up, from all of these points above, I guess I've managed to explain not only how hard it is to run a school but it's also hard to be a(n ideal) teacher.

Sure, it has its ups and downs. Bu still, in the end of the day, if you really want to be a teacher and you're good at it, it's very rewarding. It's fun to watch your students grow, witness how they start by thinking 'angry' was a verb and ended up with good TOEFL score. I, for one, have experienced quite a lot in the past couple of years. I have a student who transferred to another school but then go back to our school after a week because she loves our school a lot (despite its flaws!). She praised me for being an inspirational teacher and admitted that she enjoyed all of my teaching sessions. And that.. my friends, is only one among the amazing things you'll experience as a teacher... Not everyone would consider that as something 'rewarding' or worth fight for, but hey, that's my calling.

I hope my writing can open your mind who think that teaching is easy, or still think, "I'd rather teach here than be unemployed. I'll teach here until I get a better job later." Don't disrespect our job, don't underestimate it. You wouldn't be where you are now if it weren't for your teachers.

Also, I hope my writing can reach out to those who want to be a teacher like me. Don't give up. It's the best job anyone can have, and I hope I can meet you one day. Maybe we can trade teaching ideas and contribute together for a better Indonesia.

Salam Budaya!

Natasha P. Pharmasetiawan, S.Hum
A very exhausted but happy teacher :)