Being a Teacher

To some, I am known as a student. To another, I am known as a friend. To others, I am known as Nazira. But to (sometimes) two people, I am known as their teacher. To be honest, this journey was not what I expected it to be.

At least once a week, I come by each of my tutees’ homes to teach them English and/or Mathematics. Each time I meet them, I spend at least an hour teaching them what is required for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

When I first started one-to-one tutoring, I was very focused on the money. Tell me straight, who really wasn’t? Per hour, you get at least $10 and it’s the most flexible job one can have. For one of my tutee, it was a fixed rate of $120 per month, one session (2 hours) per week. For the other, it was an hour and a half, $12 per hour. To those who were wondering, yes, I am charging slightly lower than market rate, but this job still does pay well.

However, as time passed by, I realised that teaching was not about being correct all the time. This made me vulnerable to mistakes too. To be honest, I felt embarrassed whenever I made a mistake or when my tutee corrected me for a mistake I had done during calculations. But I realised that I am human. That my tutee is human. That it is unfair for me to demand him to be correct all the time and stop making careless mistakes, when I make mistakes too.

Then, I realised; my job was not only to teach them the correct things, but also to do the correct things. Like never giving up, like listening to my tutee’s musings and imaginative bursts during creative writing.

There were also times when my tutees lied to me. Those lies ranged from simple white lies to grave lies that bordered on cheating. Of course, I was mad. I was angrier than if they had gotten a question wrong. Actually, I was never ever mad if they got a question wrong, only annoyed. But lies. I can never understand the purpose of it other than to cover one’s ass. I lie too, but many times I realise that lying gets me nowhere. I get mad at my tutees for lying to me and their parents. More importantly, they lie to themselves. I felt this innate responsibility to melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya.

I hate that my tutees waste their time lying. Other fruitful things could have been done in place of lying. Then, I realised; my job was about teaching them moral values that mainstream school may not have emphasized that much due to the rat race in education. But those have to be done through action so I try extremely hard to keep up with the many morals society placed upon us and hoped that the child understands why.

I am just a private tutor who initially ventured into private tutoring for the money. But my jobscope became so much larger than I initially imagined. I end up tired, frustrated, and sometimes on the verge of giving up. I have made one of my tutees cry multiple times because of lying, and scolded the other a few times because of a terrible attitude. But I want them to know that they are very smart students who shall not be inhibited by their learning abilities, and more importantly, I want them to grow into someone whom they would respect too.

Then, I realised that being a tutor was never about academics.

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