Voices of Zhenghua

A Silver Lining In Every Dark Cloud

"Cher, don’t be so angry lah."

"Do you know how it feels to stand right here, right now having to stop every 5 minutes or so and interrupting my own train of thought just so I could stop you from talking and to pay attention to what I’m saying?!"

Silence fell. It sounded like deafening thunder. But I knew it would probably only last for as long as the scolding did. Then we would be right back to where we left off.

When I first came to this school, I was well-informed of the classes that I would be taking over. I was fully aware of what I was getting myself into. But I was truly caught off-guard by the infamous 3N2 in 2008. They were really a handful. I had a very difficult time in getting them to hand in their class work. Out of forty, only ten or fifteen would fulfill my expectations. When I was informed that I would be following the class up to 4N2, as both their English Language teacher and Form teacher, I wasn’t surprised but I was sure it would be an exhilarating roller-coaster ride.

True enough, 4N2 (2009) was the epitome of all things bad. Many teachers complained about them to me. I was their aunt agony and a fellow complainant at the same time. There were plenty of problems; not handing in homework, skipping class, wearing multiple studs on not just the ears, having dyed hair, using vulgarities as sentence punctuations, getting caught outside school for smoking and worst of all, being absent from school without a valid reason. There were plenty of phone calls to be made everyday. Fortunately I had a co-form teacher, Miss Siti Farhana, with whom I split the calls with, to help me call about ten to fourteen students everyday. It was really tiring and trying.

It was also tough to motivate the class to study. The class dynamics was not good. Many would discourage their classmates from studying by saying things like "Aiyah, you study also for what? Still go ITE one ah!" I even had some students hurling profanities at me when I scolded them for not doing class work. It was in times like these, that I felt like running - to just drop everything and run.

I had to push myself to be strong everyday to face them in class and to give useful timely advice when needed or whenever I saw appropriate. I also remember the rush of heat in my head each time I conducted my scolding-cum-lecturing episodes, and almost always after that, I would get a splitting headache and my heart would palpitate furiously. There were also times when I felt really down and horribly frustrated. But I hung on. I believed that there was always a silver lining in every dark cloud.

As a form teacher, I knew that I had to try to make a difference. I found out through the numerous calls that many of them had personal problems of their own. Those who were regularly absent, could not really focus when they did appear in school. They were distracted by their problems from outside involvement with wayward friends and some also had to work to support themselves due to financial problems at home.

I quickly came to a decision - I took the softer approach. I started to talk to them like a friend. Slowly, they opened up and I began to see where they were coming from. They did try to catch up with their revision towards the N level examinations in September. Honestly, I didn’t think that all of them would make it to Secondary Five. I thought maybe ten or fifteen, at most, would pass. But when the results were out on the 18th of December 2009, twenty three of them made it! I was happy for them.

When I returned home that day, I reflected on all that had happened in the year. Amidst all the heartaches and challenges, I am glad that I did not give up. What the class had taught me was perseverance and resilience, and most certainly in the belief of better times ahead.

Fauzana Ismail