Today marks a month that I have been a teacher. It is funny, because I have never thought of myself as capable, or even interested in teaching. Yet standing in front of the class is strangely one of the most natural things to do.
During the weeks of unemployment, I was plagued by the fear of getting stuck in a mindless, meaningless chore of a work. I refused to apply for certain positions even as the frustration of doing nothing mounted each day. In a class however, with all the expectant faces turned to you, this fear transforms into motivation – motivation to equip my students with all the skills and thoughtfulness they need as they figure their way forward.
Truth be told, I am barely qualified to teach. No accolades, no experiences, a graduate whose certificate is so fresh you can almost rub the ink off your fingers.
Oddly enough, it is perhaps this sense of uncertainty that binds the class and I together. The primal instinct is not to exploit each other’s anxieties. I could have smoked my way through lessons because students wouldn’t know better anyway. Just as likely, they could have pounced on the first timer who probably has never handled unruliness in the ways the experienced faculty would have. Instead, the instinct is to empathise. I try to understand when they are confused, tired, or worried. In turn, we share a laugh when I stumble, and they offer reassurances when I hesitate.
In class today, the task was to craft a purpose for a commemorative speech. A simple, straightforward task. As the lesson neared its end however, the conversation moved to people whom we have loved and lost, whom with every celebration about their lives will inevitably be tinged with lingering sadness. We joked about how the class is becoming a therapy session. A student cried as she talked about her grandfather, her hero. I shared about Ah ma. Tissues were passed around, and hugs were given freely.
In that moment, there was no teacher- student. Just people. Just people who have been through universal experiences. And I don’t think I would have found this sort of intimate connection in a cornered off cubicle.