“Even when my students fail their exams, even when I feel inadequate as an educator, the priceless interaction with students is what drives me to continue teaching every day, and I think it’s worth all the sweat and tears.” – Samantha Loh, 2016 Fellow
I teach for Daniel* because he reminds me of, well, me. Daniel was a student from my class last year. When I first met him, he was sketching an anime character on a piece of paper with stunning detail. As an artist and big anime fan myself, I was instantly drawn to him.
What amazed me more was when I asked his class to write weekly journals. While his classmates wrote about their daily mundane routines and places they visited, this boy’s journal entries brought me through his adventures in the world of video games. He started talking to me more when he discovered that I also like drawing and playing video games. We then started to discuss our common hobbies outside of class or whenever we met.
As I got to know more about him, I found out that he was shy and meek around other students, including his own classmates. Often he would be found drawing by himself, alone in his own world, and it seemed that he felt like he didn’t quite fit in with the students around him because of his hobbies.
The solitude then fueled his introversion. This reminded me so much of myself back in secondary school, so I could not help but pay more attention to him. When I recommended new games to him he would actually play them and discuss them with me. I enjoy his companionship immensely even though I no longer teach his class.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised to receive a sudden text message from him. “You better continue teaching in the school next year.” It was as if he was issuing a command. “Why?” I asked. “So I will not be alone next year,” he replied.
His words touched me deeply.
Daniel recently told me that his ambition was to be in the video game development industry, and it resonated with my own secret ambition since childhood.
Even though I myself constantly struggle with being a teacher, I thought to myself, would I stay on as a teacher in this school for a few more years just to see Daniel work towards his dreams?
Yes. Yes, I would.
Teaching is a stressful job. A lot of time and effort go into ensuring that each and every minute of a lesson is delivered thoroughly – so that every student in class, at different levels of learning, receives the knowledge and attention they need. Helping to shape the leaders of the future generation is a pretty heavy burden, and for a long time, I was overwhelmed by the amount of micromanaging and multitasking that came with the job.
However, I feel that what happens in class is not everything there is to being a teacher. I personally also get a lot of enjoyment from participating in the co-curricular activities in school, interacting with students, joking with them and having fun. I enjoy hearing their stories and telling them mine. Even when my students fail their exams, even when I feel inadequate as an educator, the priceless interaction with students is what drives me to continue teaching every day, and I think it’s worth all the sweat and tears.
*Students’ names have been changed to protect their identity.
Samantha is a 2016 Fellow who is a second-year teacher at a school in Pasir Gudang, Johor. Samantha graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Life Communication from Sunway University. Teach For Malaysia recruits, trains and supports Fellows to teach in high-need schools across the nation. Beyond the Fellowship, our Alumni continue to champion education in different ways. To date, we’ve impacted over 44,000 students, working with the Ministry of Education and other partners.