Thursday, May 22, 2014

Teachers' Day 2014

Writing a Teachers' Day post has been a yearly ritual for me. I just have to write one in order to reflect on how another year of teaching has changed me.

This year's post will be short (I think). Out of all the facebook posts on Teachers' Day last week, my favourite was this, written by a friend, on her timeline:

"May we never lose the flame"

Those simple words meant a lot to me. Some people become jaded after several years of teaching. And it's not hard to see why. Teachers are overworked and under-appreciated and criticisms are constantly hurled our way. But as the saying (attributed to Mother Teresa) goes:

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Last year, Ainur shared with me this link: 'Without teachers, the classroom is just a room'. The excerpt that I really like (because it mirrors my own belief) is this:

"[A young teacher from Houston, Texas] said that when he reflected about what it meant to be a good teacher, he realized that he had to live the values he was trying to instill in the students. Then he said that once he reflected on what it meant to live good values, he stopped thinking just about being a better teacher and started thinking about being a better human being."

That's my core teaching philosophy as well. For me, being a better teacher equals being a better human being. Thus, it's a continuous, never-ending process of improving oneself.

Though I fall short of the ideal many, many times, I hope that I'll never stop trying and that the flame will never stop burning.

Happy Teachers' Day to all educators!


Alhamdulillah, I was discharged from the hospital last Sunday (May 18) after a four-day stay.

Let's have a quiz. How much do you think I had to pay for:
1) The surgery (laparoscopic appendicectomy),
2) The lab services (full blood count, etc.), and
3) The 4-day stay in a third-class ward (i.e. 1 room = 4 beds, with en-suite bathrooms)?

The total amount printed on my bill is RM 77. But since I'm a government servant, I didn't have to pay a single cent.
I was taken aback when the lady at the counter said I didn't have to pay. I mumbled a quick "oh, okay, thank you" before leaving the counter, still dumbfounded.

Even if I had to pay, RM 77 is a steal. We often hear of people in other countries not being able to afford health care because of its astronomical charges. In this instance, aren't you glad you're a Malaysian?

Yes, it's easy to lament the many, many things that are wrong with our country: the dismal state of the education system for one. The tolled roads. The water crisis. The GST. The political bickering. The list goes on and on.

They are all legitimate grouses but you have to give credit where credit is due. Malaysia is touted to provide one of the best health care in the world and we should all be thankful for that.  

The only thing that I can complain about is the overcrowding. I had to wait for 4 hours before I got to see the doctor. And when I went back to get my MC and to set an appointment for my follow-up check, I was aghast at the amount of sick people crowding the waiting area. They must have had to wait for hours. Sick people shouldn't have to wait for that long. It's just not right.

My stay at the hospital has made me appreciate nurses and doctors on a whole new level. I was so relieved at being discharged because hospitals are such a depressing place. There's suffering everywhere you look. And after some time, it just became unbearable.

For example, the lady on the bed next to mine is suspected of having breast cancer while the one opposite my bed, broke her leg in a road accident while being eight-months pregnant! Then, on Saturday (May 17), I received the tragic news of Ira's passing. That really put things into perspective. All my "suffering" seemed like small potatoes in comparison.

That's one of the reasons I keep reminding myself not to make a fuss. To smile and just roll with the punches. To make light of the situation. Ala, appendix je pun...

So I wonder how the nurses and doctors do it. How do they cope and still function even after witnessing so much suffering and so many tragedies on a daily basis? Maybe they need to put aside their emotions to get the job done? To distance themselves and be less empathetic? No wonder Abafan can be so unfeeling at times... hahaha

Now that I'm home, I just have a week or so to finish marking, pack for my Kazakhstan trip and settle the miscellaneous school stuff before the mid-year break begins.
And then...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hospital Ampang

May 17, 2014: My 3rd day in the hospital and I'm bored out of my minds!

It's good that I get to catch up on my reading but after finishing Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs, the current book that I have on my bedside doesn't interest me as much.

My hand is still tied to the drips (they're alternating between sodium chloride & antibiotics, with periodical injections of painkillers), so my movement is restricted.

Alhamdulillah, the operation went well. The pre-op diagnosis was acute appendicitis but post-op, it was revised to perforated appendix.

[Yes, I'm showing off my newly-acquired medical jargon, after poring over my medical records. Haha]

The painkillers help to dull the pain but it still hurts when I want to shift my position, for example from lying to sitting to standing. 

I haven't eaten for 58 hours now and man, am I hungry! At first, it was because I had to fast before the surgery could be performed. Later (post-op), I was put under clear-fluid-only diet. It was horrible (no Teh Tarik!). Thankfully, my surgeon came round just now and upgraded me to nourishing-fluid diet (whatever that is).

I wrote on facebook how I hated troubling my family and friends and how I couldn't have made it without them. I'm particularly indebted to Mama & Kakak who take turns watching me round the clock. Mama takes the morning shift while Kakak takes the night one. 

Mama made me feel like a small kid all over again when she brushed my hair, clipped my nails and wiped my face with a wet towel. It reminded me of what a friend had said of her parents when they pulled her through a particularly rough time: "Sampai mati pun, I can't possibly repay their kindness & what they've done for me". My thoughts exactly.

Kakak hurt her back from sleeping in the uncomfortable chair by my bed. I tried sharing my bed with her when the nurses weren't around. Sometimes it worked but other times the bed made weird creaking noises, so we abandoned the effort. 

One night, around midnight I suppose, Kakak went to the toilet further down the hall. She had the impression that the toilets in my room were reserved for patients only. She was by the sink when one of the toilet doors shut mysteriously. Needless to say, she quickly bolted from there and in the end, used the one in my room anyway. We had a good laugh about it when she told me the morning after.

What has kept me amused thus far is observing the doctors' daily rounds. Have you ever watched Grey's Anatomy? Well, the scenes are replicated with different characters. A specialist will be surrounded by a crowd of housemen trying to impress him/her and outdo each other. Some of the specialists have the most colourful personalities. One lady took a look at a patient's chart and bellowed; "Who overrode my decision?!?" and stormed out of the room to look for the culprit. Another, brutally cut short one if the housemen's report. "I want summary!! I don't care when she got married, where she works, etc. I want summary!!". The poor guy stopped talking and another housemen quickly took his place by providing the pertinent "summary". Despite similarities to the TV show, unfortunately, there's no McDreamy in sight.

Before I was operated on, the doctors stopped by quiet often. Now that I'm recuperating, I guess I'm less interesting because the visits have both decreased and become shorter. I'm not sure whether I should be relieved or feel slighted. Haha.

What I am thankful for is I'm no longer subjected to embarassing & invasive procedures. Some of them made me feel like digging myself a hole and hiding from humanity forever. 

Before I end this post, I have to thank all the staff here for taking good care of me. The young Dr. Khairiah (she's only 26!) looks after me really well. The nurses are really nice too. And my anaesthesist, Dr. Nirpal, was the first person to wish me Happy Teachers' Day.

Thank you to those who visited me. Even those who couldn't come to the ward because visiting hours had ended. I love you guys! And thank you for the flowers; they brighten the room considerably :)

Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors. I'm writing this on my phone, with my hand still tied to the drip. So yeah.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Teachers matter

I felt compelled to write a Teachers' Day post today and not wait 6 more days after watching the video below:

It nearly brought me to tears. All the things that were said, really resonated with me.

This is my 6th year of teaching and though I'm no longer a rookie, I still need to be reminded that:

  • Everything is going to be okay. Things may seem tough right now and at times you may feel like you want to give up. But please don't. Just know that you'll make a great teacher.
  • [Though] everything feels overwhelming, terrifying even... but you're going to make it through this.
  • Those kids in front of you: They WANT to learn. They NEED to know. Try every crazy thing you can think of. In the end, those are the things that they'll remember.
  • Your students need you there in front of the class and they truly appreciate all that you do for them even if they don't show it all of the time.
  • When a kid says your class is BORING!, don't take it personally. It happens to everyone.
  • Holding your kids accountable is the greatest act of love you can give them.
  • Teaching is never an exact science and it's okay to struggle to find the answers.
  • This is one of the most important lessons to learn as a teacher: You will fail. You will make mistakes and you will embarrass yourself. When you do, accept it with grace and humility.
  • Lives and futures depend on you; It's scary and exhilarating [to know that].
  • So keep up the great work, seek help from those around you and just know that the work of a teacher is of the greatest importance.