Recently, I’ve had a very frustrating conversation with a narrow-minded person about teaching. Basically, he thinks that tertiary education is more superior than primary education, which I strongly disagree with. I find it amusing how people assume I’d go into tertiary education or go for administrative positions after completing a masters degree. They say if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work another day in your life. I love primary teaching; I know I’m good at primary teaching; and I chose to teach primary (despite the fact that it’s paid less than secondary and tertiary teaching).
I believe that primary education is more important than secondary and tertiary education because this is the stage where children build a strong foundation in terms of their social skills, interests in learning and independence. I don’t care about their academic results, but I praise them for trying and improving, for sharing and helping others, for being creative and cooperative.
I remembered coming across this quote when I was an undergrad, training to become a teacher. It says, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” At that time, I wasn’t sure what it meant, but then it became clearer to me after I started teaching. Kids won’t remember what you teach them, but they’ll remember how you make them feel. Malala mentioned the teachers who influenced her most in her book: Miss Ulfat who appreciated her and helped her believe in her dreams; and Madam Maryam, who was bright and independent, who had been to college and had a job earning her own wage – everything Malala wanted to be. I am an English teacher but teaching English is not my main job (I’m terrible at explaining grammar rules and to be honest, most of language learning happens outside the classroom). I try to make learning fun for the kids, so that they’d enjoy learning. I tell them my personal stories, in hopes of them understanding that learning English is not just for tests and exams, it’s a skill which allows you to travel and make friends with people form all over the world. I try to instil the habit of reading in them because that is the first step of independent learning.
I’ve thought about changing careers but eventually, I realised primary teaching is what I love and what I’m good at. I’m really lucky to wake up to a job offer two weeks after I submitted my thesis. I had plans, but nothing went according to plan. Life always has its own way of surprising me. When I was in despair about my future, I try to believe that God’s plans will always be greater and more beautiful than all my disappointments. I’m excited yet scared to find out where I’ll be teaching next year!