Back in primary school, I used to score second highest in Chinese Lanaguge for the entire level. This was thanks to my mom who would always encourage my interest in the language by bringing me to Popular Bookstore at Brash Bersah Complex or the now defunct National Library at Stamford Road. When I got to secondary level, my interest for the subject was totally smothered by boring teachers. In fact, I began to dread studying for Chinese for my O Levels. I eventually got by with a B grade. Thereafter I totally detested the subject at A Levels and I was just relieved to be able to pass it. Interestingly, that experience had significantly shaped my teaching life - I made a decision never to be that boring teacher ever. Moreover, I pray that my own children (in future perhaps?) would not be 'tormented' by indifferent teachers.
The above thought came to mind while I was relieving a class. Most of the kids were rejoicing over the fact that they had performed poorly for the same subject. In fact some of them boasted their single-digit marks by announcing them to their classmates and myself. When I asked some of them how they had fared for other subjects, I discovered that most of them were in the red too. My heart became heavy when one boy told me, "Sir, I don't want to be retained."
I am not a full time teacher anymore and I don't even teach academic subjects in schools now. I felt a little disturbed by the above encounter because :
1) a lot of kids who come to me for tuition have either failed their English or just passed. Whenever I ask them if they are given remedial lessons in the school they come from, I am frequently told that they have none. One of them, a secondary school student, with a primary school level English competency, mentioned that he had never been remediated by his teachers in primary school at all. How did students like him slip through the cracks for so many years I wonder?
2) lazy students aside, are teachers bogged down with so many duties that they truly do not have time to perform one of the most basics in teaching - remediate weak pupils? I understand that predicament, being one anvil in the MOE machinery myself before. However, that was one aspect I refuse to compromise then. Perhaps that's just Darwin's survival of the strongest at work in today's competitive education system - a daunting truth and pill that is hard to swallow?
On a positive note, I came across this other student from the same class doodling away. He's slightly austistic by the way. There and then, I was totally impressed by his skills and so I told him that I like his drawings a lot. He beamed this smile which told me that appreciated the affirmation and that which also made my day.