From One Cohort To The Next


2012 Fellow, Abel Cheah, welcomes the 2013 cohort to the Teach For Malaysia family and shares his reflections on being a year into the Fellowship. Abel speaks from his experience, sending a heartfelt message out to 2013Fellows to continue to press on and to keep striving for excellence. His speech is captured below:

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Yang Amat Mulia Tengku Ali, Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Abd. Ghafar, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah, Board of Trustees, guests of honours and the entire TFM Family. Good evening to all of you.My name is Abel Cheah and I’m a 2012 fellow. On behalf of all of us here, we congratulate you, the 2013 fellows, and warmly welcome you as the second Teach For Malaysia cohort.

When we, the 2012 cohort, sat in your seats this time last year, we had the same emotions as what you are probably feeling now. All of us knew why we signed up for this mission, but none us were fully prepared for everything we would soon face – and are still facing today.

Like you, we were apprehensive, anxious, excited, ecstatic — and we had a very vague idea of what to expect, except that the journey would be long and hard, but immensely rewarding and inspiring.

Like you, we began our journey as strangers from a diversity of backgrounds who were united by a common cause — but have today, the bond of a family (some of us will actually be real ‘family’ after the Fellowship…)

Like you, we gave up something to commit to this mission — including the comforts of our homes, the luxury of our jobs and the solace of being close to our families.

A year has now passed since we embarked on the journey you are starting today. And the question that is being asked, is how has it been for us? What have we experienced and done in the past year – that you will?

As an English teacher, I wrote down some verbs to answer this question. And because we’re still only a year into the fellowship, these action words are written in the present tense:

Learn at the Institute. Practice at Kem SKORlah. Sleep little. PrepareLaugh heartily. Weep for our country. Step into school. Crawl back home. Squat with the students to learn about plants. Look into their faces as they tell their stories. Read about their broken homes and lofty dreams. Brace for 200 more days of school. Celebrate the small successes. Recover from the daily disappointments. Stay up working on the Kertas Kerja, Buku Kehadiran, Buku Program, PBS filling, exam paper setting and essay marking, etc. Stay back to teach in extra classes. Converse with the teachers in the staffroom about the latest kuih muih to order in town. Connect with business leaders and future partners.

Rest and reflectStart over again, but this time, better.

Teach for the kid who works in the workshop every day after school. Teach for those boys who walk to your house every week to learn the difference between ‘is’ and ‘are’. Teach for that girl who is abused by her father, but wants to be a teacher herself, someday.  Teach for your country. Teach for Malaysia.

2013 Fellows, once again we congratulate you and we know you’ll do a great job! All the best.