Teach For Malaysia is holding our very first Summit this weekend – a gathering of our Fellows, staff and partners to collaborate and strengthen each other in the collective fight against education inequity.
Jarod Yong is an inspiring teacher who is dedicated to providing an excellent education to children in rural Sarawak. He teaches the English language at SMK Katibas, Song. Jarod will be giving the keynote address at the Teach For Malaysia Summit this Sunday, August 25. In an interview with us, Jarod shares his thoughts, hopes and motivations – we hope this will inspire you as it has inspired us!
1. What made you realize that you wanted to teach in the interiors of Sarawak?
Actually, I didn’t decide earlier on to teach in the interiors of Sarawak.
I had a heart to teach and serve anywhere in my country, Malaysia. So, in the forms, I put “Dimana saya diperlukan and kebolehan saya dimanfaatkan” which can means, “You can place me anywhere”.
I realised early on that it was not the place that mattered. It is who I am inside that matters more. A lump of gold will still be valuable even if you flush it down the toilet. A great teacher can shine in any school.
I was determined to root myself and make a difference no matter where I was placed. Be it on top of a majestic mountain, on an isolated island, in the middle of a forest, or in the concrete jungle. Wherever I am placed, I will go.
When I received news that I was posted in Sarawak and in the interiors, I embraced it. [I] did exactly as I’d planned 5 years ago and I guess I am still living it up today.
2. What is the best part of your day as a teacher?
You mean besides being able to bully these kids like a big brother? Jokes aside, every day I find that the children in Katibas are such a joy to teach. I have never seen kids so impressionable and so malleable. The way they open up to you and their honesty really makes you want to love them and protect them.
Also, there is a great sense of achievement working where I do. The students do not have anyone to help them except their teachers. Their parents live and work miles away. They do not have tuition classes. So you know that every bit of progress is because of your hard work.
3. What’s been the hardest part of teaching so far?
For many teachers, the hardest part is the students. There will always be students who will not be interested or who will not want to cooperate. I have those too. With these kids, just be yourself and trust yourself to make the right and fair decisions. The sad thing is many teachers become influenced by these difficult students. They get discouraged and they decide not to teach these kids. It should be the other way around. The teacher should stand firm on his beliefs and be the influencer. Be persistent. Be supportive. Be open to the child. One day, he will come out of his shell.
4. What keeps you going?
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” – John Donne
I have to emphasise to anyone who wants to be successful… DO NOT WORK ALONE!!
The greatest achievements in history were made by men who could inspire other men to work together with them to create something beyond themselves. Something which belonged to everybody and where everybody belonged.
Do you notice how the teachers who work the hardest always work alone? Do you notice that these teachers usually get 100% of the blame if a small part of their proactive programmes go wrong?
I created a project at my school with 10 of the most passionate and dedicated teachers at the school. We are a family. We watch out for each other. We empower each other to work at a higher level. We encourage each other to follow our hearts and pursue our dreams for the students.
Knowing that I belong at [this] school and that I have a family who will protect me, keeps me going.
5. How do you hope to inspire Teach For Malaysia?
There is nothing special about me. I can’t sprout sharp metal out of my hands or read minds. I am no miracle worker. I am not a great sage. And that’s the beauty of it.
People always think that they have to be charismatic, educated, rich, or well-connected to do something about what they are passionate about.
The truth is the exact opposite. Magic happens when a simple person rises up to the challenge of a problem that is beyond him. Along the way, people will empathise, be inspired and join him in his calling. Along the way, resources will find their way to him. Doors will open.
It doesn’t take a great man to inspire. It takes a great story and the faith of a mustard seed. I have plenty of both.