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Teaching on the Fringes
One month shy of her first year anniversary teaching in a public secondary school an hour out of Ipoh, Perak, Adeline Chua shares her journey as a teacher.
Teaching is serious business and those who take up the cause, should be lauded. Through Teach For Malaysia, everyday Malaysians like Adeline can choose to take two years off to teach English in schools (for her, in Bagan Serai, Perak) and directly impact the Malaysian education system.
Why did you decide to be a teacher?
After a short stint teaching English in Cambodia, I came back absolutely clear that my values and the way I was spending my time didn’t match up. In the movie “Flakes”, Zooey Deschanel’s character says, “There is no such thing as just a job. Anything that takes up your time takes up your life.” We put forth our best selves when we are at work, so it’s only logical to spend those hours devoted to a cause that’s important to us.
Is teaching what you imagined it to be?
Being mentally prepared never really prepares the heart for what teaching entails.
What are some of the challenges you face each day?
Prepping the students for their exams and meeting them at their level, for example, my average 14-year-old is at a Standard Two level of English.
What do you love most about teaching?
Unexpected successes. Slave through a lesson and they will fail to answer the workbook questions that test critical thinking. A few days later though, they’ll casually draw a comic strip summing up what they’ve learned in your lesson and drop it at your table. Those moments are so good that I enlarge it and tack it on the board for the world to see.
Do the arts help kids learn better?
School gets boring when students don’t get to show us who they are. Imagine receiving and then regurgitating [the teaching], without any part of yourself showing in your work. That’s brain numbing. I try to incorporate as much room for imagination or self expression in my lessons.
What are your aspirations for your students?
That they learn to live with integrity, and to have the courage to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
What would you say to other young people who are interested in Teach For Malaysia?
You will cry at some point, but that’s okay because it shows you care about what you’re doing. It’s the caring and then the doing that will bring about the change that you want to see in these kids.
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