Tuesday, August 27, 2019

4 BATTANI 2019

This is a long-overdue appreciation post dedicated to my 4 Battani students.

This year marks the 10th year of my teaching career. And in 2019, I had the good fortune of teaching 5 Ibnu Sina, 5 Razi and 5 Biruni. Though these classes differ in their language abilities, I loved teaching all of them. You need to have chemistry with the students in order to enjoy teaching the class and I was fortunate in this regard.

But 4 Battani was another matter altogether. Although I was their class teacher (on top of being their English teacher), they drove me crazy every single day. To compound my misery, I also taught them Civics, so I had to see them multiple times per week.

The problem was, the class was extremely noisy and I always had the feeling like I was talking to myself because no one was paying any attention. It was incredibly frustrating. No amount of yelling, begging, emotional-blackmailing or other strategies (subtle or otherwise) seemed to work.

Their other subject teachers seemed to be having a tough time as well. Like a support group, we often exchanged horror stories to make ourselves feel better.

Things took a turn for the worse when I said or did something to Iman (one of the chief troublemakers) which started a cold war between us. At first, I ignored him as a means of punishment but realizing how childish that was, I tried to mend the situation. Things gradually improved but still a gulf had opened up between us and I thought it could never be bridged. See, I had taught him when he was in Form 2, so we go a while back. We used to get along fine before this mysterious falling out happened. At the height of the crisis, there were times when I caught him looking at me with unadulterated hate.

 One day, I was explaining some things to another person when Iman called me repeatedly: “Teacher, teacher, teacher.” I shushed him, finished my explanation, before turning to him and said (while shaking his shoulders): “Apa dia Iman? Kenapa? Kenapa?” We both burst out laughing at my exaggerated manner and the last traces of the bad blood between us seemed to evaporate away.

After news of my impending transfer spread, the whole class wrote me messages that made my head spin. What? You guys actually liked me? Why did you make my life so miserable my job so hard then?

For the record, I didn’t leave because of them. It was just time for me to move on after 10 wonderful and bittersweet years at Melawati.

Anyway, after transferring to my current school, I came back a week later in order to celebrate Raya with them. It was the best farewell party ever. The kids brought a cake and lots of food. The boys sang songs and turned the class into a mini concert. Some of them gave speeches that teared me up a bit and we took lots of photos and boomerangs.

Ironically, it took my going away to repair the relationships between me and my students. Since my transfer, we played bowling together, they came over to my house for Raya, and we even went hiking together. They’ve renamed one of the splinter chat groups Syada’s Family and have taken to calling me Mummy.

We’ve come a long way indeed.

I’m writing this story so that, whenever I have other difficult students whom I feel like strangling, I will hang in there and not give up on them.

"I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized."
-Haim Ginott     


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