Teaching profession is always looked up as a noble and respectful occupation because the teachers impart knowledge for the nation. Something cliche, without them there would not be any doctors, engineers, astronauts, politicians and the list goes on. However, how many people realise that there are countless of obstacles in becoming an effective teacher? I will be discussing on today's apparent phenomena that involves the reality in teaching in our very own beloved country, Malaysia.
Teachers face challenges in the school when they do not receive co-operation from the parents. It is obvious that parents' support can be shown through the simplest action of attending the schools' Parent Teacher Association meeting, providing generous amount of financial support for school fund, and supporting the effort of the school towards betterment. However, lately it has been reported in the national mass media about parents' complaints and dissatisfaction towards teachers' approach in punishing their children. The issue that raised their concern involved the way teachers exert punishment at school. In fact, some of them lodged police report and even filed a law suit on teachers. Compared to the good old days, parents allow teachers to apply any kind of punishment towards their children so they would be well educated and disciplined. Besides, there are parents who complain when they need to provide extra support which usually involves little amount of money to improve the quality of their children's education at school. In addition, disciplinary problem, which is not a tale, really happens in school and the people who are involved are the students. Therefore, all of us have to be alert of students' disciplinary problems that are becoming uncontrollable because students go to the extreme when they are involved in truancy, gangsterism, vandalism, attitude problem, disrespectful and other critical unthinkable behaviour problems.
Parental guidance is very important because a child naturally observes and imitate the adults' actions. However, when the students are at school, the adults who these teenagers are with are the teachers, while the parents attend work or complete house chores. It is relevant to add that peer pressure also adds up to the present disciplinary problems because they are easily influenced at this stage where they are in search for self-identity. The students who are less concerned about gaining knowledge usually lose their main objective of attending school. I will not say that their actions reflect their parents' attitude and behaviour for this one reason. In my opinion, some overinvolved or uninvolved parents do not really know their children. The students wear different masks at home and at school, which means that they behave differently at home and at school. Hence, teachers are to be solely blamed when their children are punished or shall I say, literarily "abused" by the teachers when they commit disciplinary problem. How funny is that? If parents themselves are not convinved of the capability of the school as a whole, it is certainly impossible to successfully improve our country's education system. The question to be asked here is why are the parents behaving weirdly? In relation to the country's effort towards paradigm shift and global thinking, it is indeed surprising to witness some citizens who still lack of general knowledge and self-awareness although our country has been independent since year 1957. Anyhow, I am not 100% blaming the parents for this happening but these are some of the truths in our developing country.
The next point is that being a teacher requires the person to be physically and psychologically ready to carry the idealistic image of a teacher. Once a person is a teacher, he or she is automatically seen as a role model. In other words, the teachers have to fulfill the expectations and demands from the public in terms of the specific way that teachers should behave, present themselves, and to some extent, pretend to be the figures that they are expected to be. Believe it or not, it happens. "Practice what you preach" made a discipline teacher at my previous school trimmed his hair until there was almost completely none because he wanted to show the right example to the fellow students. People should bear in mind that teachers are homosapiens that live like others of their kind. It means that they have their own daily routines to deal with such as themselves, family, friends, society and the environment. In this case, a teacher is always a teacher no matter if he or she is inside or outside the educational settings. Teachers are usually aware of the roles that they will play once they have decided to end up in this profession. Therefore, even if the teacher does not want it to happen, they have no other options but to accept the fact that they are public figures, in a way or so. It is not so bad afterall because teaching is very rewarding once the teachers discover that their students excel in their academics and succeed in their life as individuals who are able to contribute to the community. It would take years and centuries for an effective teacher to be forgotten by the students, considering their performance at school.
Teaching should never be a last resort for desperate unhired post-graduates who are job hunting nor does it should be seen as a relaxing job because of the short working hours compared to other government professions. For example, the Malaysian government has introduced the Post-Graduate Teaching Course (Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah) to train the post-graduates for the teaching world. So now the questions are, "What makes us so sure that they are really interested in teaching?" and "Are effective teachers born or made?". There are certain qualities and favourable types of personality that teachers should possess. I did a research on how students view teachers' personality and classroom management in Malaysian secondary school. It was found that 90 out of 115 respondents (78%) mentioned that they are able to notice when teachers are not interested to teach in the classroom. Majority of the respondents agreed that they are able to do so by looking at teachers’ facial expressions and teaching style. In my personal opinion, we should never just let any individuals without sufficient knowledge and suitable personality to be a teacher. Students are not guinea pigs that should be constantly used in this kind of experiment, because this would imply a bad perspective on the teaching profession itself. Furthermore, students are able to think for themselves. If our education sector lacks of quality manpower in the teaching profession, try looking again because there are many other qualified candidates who are sincerely wanting to work with the children genuinely.
Next, where on earth do people get the idea that teaching is a getaway or escapism to a more relaxing occupation. Today's teachers are not like yesterday's teachers, I am not being judgmental but it is apparent nowadays that teachers carry more responsibilities or burden, depending on how they perceive their tasks. Furthermore, they do not just have to teach but they are given other responsibilities in the school administration too. I could still remember having a separate conversation with two different teachers in a school during practicum. The first teacher mentioned that teaching has now become the second importance for her after other school related activities because she has to handle co-curricular activities, school administrative work and other workloads. The next teacher who will be retiring in a few years mentioned that her passion level for teaching has decreased for the increase of new responsibilities in school other than teaching. Moreover, in today's globalisation world, teachers are required to get in touch with new technology, new knowledge and new skills to be incorporated in the classroom as well as for self-improvement. An example would be the ability to utilise the computer and the internet resources to assist them in teaching. They are very fortunate because the government is also providing them with free laptops to assist them in their work, and hopefully they are able to utilise them to their fullest.
Several years ago, my friend whose mother is a teacher asked for my clarification if I really want to take up the teaching course because from her observation, all her mother does was basically routine work. Besides that, a tuition teacher expressed his surprise when I told him the same thing. Previously, I mentioned that teaching is indeed a noble job, and now what's with this clarification and surprise? It is not so bad afterall, isn't it? Maybe it should be mentioned over and over again that once a person becomes a teacher, he or she does not need to dream too much in changing the system. After few years they will be going with the flow and if they survive, thank God, whereas if they drown, just follow the light at the end of the tunnel. In other words, teachers still have to follow what the Ministry of Education has planned for the schools. In my Professional Development class discussion, I found out that not many educators are up there in the ministry to implement the changes and development in education. I think that we need real people who deal with the real school experience to be making the decisions in improving the school system. There was once an issue about placing the Excellent Teachers (Guru Cemerlang) in the Ministry of Education because it would shake the performance of the students and the school once they left. They should then be remained in the same school to benefit the teacher and students by sharing their ideas, experiences and knowledge so that they can improve. I hope to see that my country has a well structured plan that is workable, so that precious time for planning is saved and the people can start progressing instead of lagging behind, wondering about the already knowns. We have built the tallest building, became the best host for the Commonwealth Games, we claimed ourselves as a global community and there is no doubt that we should be able to improve our approaches in improving the educational system.
In conclusion, teachers in Malaysia still face many kind of obstacles in this profession. In fact, teachers from all around the world might face the similar obstacles in the profession. The responsibilities, expectations, issues and happenings that relate to teachers really exist. Teachers play an important role in the society thus, everyone in the country should be aware of their contributions to the improvement of our national standard of education.
- Teaching resources
- Teacher development
- Teacher training