Sunday, December 18, 2016

Runaway Time

There was a time when I had to wash my hair every other day. On the rare occasions I was too tired, too lazy, too something, to shampoo my hair, I'd be punished with a sleepless night, turning and tossing in bed and scratching an extremely itchy scalp. The remedy was simple enough...

I'd roll out of bed and drag myself to the bathroom to wash my hair. Never mind if the water was cold or it was 2 a.m. After the shampoo I'd get back to bed and would sleep like a baby. Now, that was long past long ago.

These days I can't remember when I have last washed my hair. I can go for days without touching the shampoo bottle—seven days, ten days—hey, I must have gone two whole weeks with stinking, filthy hair. But surprisingly, no itchy scalp keeps me awake at night! My scalp must be so used to the dirt and grime that it has become immune to the muck and the living critters that nest in unwashed hair.

Google Image

Why don't I wash my hair more often? Time is a luxury these days, a precious commodity I can't afford to spend on myself. My clock runs too fast so I do everything in a hurry. In fact, I tackle a number of things at the same time. I have my breakfast while washing the dirty dishes/pots from the previous night and at the same time I am preparing the next meal and tidying up the kitchen and keeping an eye on the toddler so she won’t disturb Mr Hubby who is playing a game on his computer. I gobble up my lunch/dinner—meals that have taken me one hour to prepare—in five minutes.

My breakfast table on a typical day

If I'm quick at gulping down my food, I'm even faster in the bathroom. It's surprising how quick you can finish showering (and postpone your hair wash day) when you're convinced the house turns up-side-down when you’re not in the thick of things.

I've mentioned in an old post about keeping my things in designated places so that even in the dark I could get the items I need and I'd get very upset if anyone used my stuff and misplaced items. Well, this ‘making do’ in the dark has even extended to dressing. Everything is done by touch... like the visually impaired.

One evening we had to rush out to the supermarket so we would be safe at home before the downpour. As usual, Mr Hubby started the car and kept the engine running all ready to go before I was even out of the shower. I had to dress and get myself ready as well as  get the grandkid decent and help her with her shoes. I grabbed the T-shirt I had left on a hanger, got everything else by feeling and touching and got dressed in the dark. I didn’t want to waste two precious seconds to switch on the light. There was no need to glance into a mirror. Mr Hubby was waiting with smoke coming out of his nostrils. Hurry up! Hurry up!

The rain was just starting when we parked the car in front of the supermarket. We paused at the entrance to close the umbrella. There and then, under the bright lights, I noticed I had worn my T-shirt wrong-side out. I went ‘OMG!’ followed silently with ‘Lucky I haven’t stepped into the supermarket!’ I was vain enough to think that people would notice.

Dear reader, what would you have done if you had been me?

I walked back to the car, of course, shielded by the big umbrella, so I could turn my shirt right-side out. Oh, I could have done that right in front of the supermarket but I didn't want to be remembered for the wrong reason.

Slow down and relax,” I tell myself. “Wash your hair and take time to make moments special and memorable. And sometimes it's better to have the lights switched on!” Easier said than done.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

An Old Teacher’s Tale

With Form Four girls

I've just finished reading a book that reminded me so much of some of my former students—the difficult ones—the ones whose reason for coming to school seemed to be anything but to get an education.  They refused to learn and they made it difficult for their classmates to learn or to pay attention. They drained your energy and tested your patience. I always felt they should be handled by specially trained teachers but we didn't have that luxury here where hyperactive and aggressive kids sat in the same class as the slow and timid ones as well as those who could hardly read even after six years of primary school.

With a class of 45 to 48 twelve-year-old students packed in a hot classroom, it was often near impossible to conduct a lesson without some form of disruption during the teaching period. To many of the difficult students disruption was fun; a form of entertainment that got them laughs from their friends.

Form 1 and 2 students listening to some talk in the dewan

The fun began even before the lesson started, especially if the lesson was after break. The couldn't-care-less students would saunter into the classroom as late as 10 minutes after everyone was in. Do you wait for the stragglers to join the class before you begin the lesson or do you start the lesson without them? It's your choice. You and the students who were already seated in the classroom could wait for the rest. You just wouldn't be sure you'd lose ten minutes or twenty of the 40-minute period (or 80 minutes if it was a double period). You couldn't leave your class unattended to go search for the missing ones who'd most probably be loitering in the tandas, the much-loved meeting place.

I always chose to begin the lesson as soon as I was in the classroom. It would be unfair to the good students if I wasted their time by not beginning immediately. School protocol, however, demanded that the teacher had to find out from each late-comers why they were late and to administer appropriate action. So if five students were late, each one had to be attended to separately. Can you imagine the amount of time wasted?

Getting ready to run... Cross country

Best friends
I preferred the late-comers to enter the classroom quietly so interruptions could be avoided. Sometimes there were valid reasons for being late. A student could have been held up by a teacher. The girls had to line up again so the teacher-in-charge could check to see they were wearing slips under their long skirts/kain. Woe to the girl who was discovered without an underskirt... or who wore the wrong colour bra!

When you have spent time to prepare a good lesson plan and have been looking forward to present an interesting topic to your class, and the tardy kids purposely come late because it is fun; because they know you'd be annoyed; because they don't care, etc., -- take your pick because it doesn't really matter—your lesson is spoilt and your enthusiasm is replaced with frustration and helplessness.

I tried everything to make them come on time: scold, nag, remind, punish, reward. Nothing worked.  The same group of boys, and occasionally girls, would be late. They always had ready excuses: they had to see some teachers; they went for prayers; the toilets were crowded; they had their periods etc. They would especially take great delight to be late when the lesson was in the multimedia room (Bilik Tayang). They just pretended they didn’t know where the rest of their classmates were and, when asked, they would say that they had been searching for classmates and teacher everywhere.

One day I bought individually wrapped chocolates and put them in a glass jar. I placed the jar on the teacher's table in the multimedia room... visible to all who came in. The students who had come as soon as the bell rang sat down and eyed the jar, probably wondering if the chocolates were going to be alat bantu belajar—learning aids.  Each student who came punctually received a chocolate... a token from me to say thank you for being on time.

We started the lesson without waiting for the habitual late-comer, a boy who couldn't read a single English word. All eyes were on him as he strolled into the room and leisurely walked to an empty seat and sat down. Then he looked around and probably noticed several of his classmates still had their uneaten chocolates on their desks. What did this boy do? He saw the source of the goodies and promptly went up to the teacher’s table and pointed at the almost-empty jar. He wasn't even shy or embarrassed and giving him a chocolate was less time-consuming than explaining the importance of being on time.

Some students listen to you. Some don't really care but would follow the crowd. A few could not understand why you are forcing them to learn something they don’t like. If only the ugly ducklings know that they could turn into beautiful swans! If only the difficult students realize that the teachers are on their side—on their team—school would be much more fun.

The biggest consolation was to see kids develop through the years and to note how, at sixteen or seventeen, they have turned into confident, cheerful and friendly young people. Some made such amazing transformations that it was difficult to imagine that they used to be unmotivated, stubborn, rowdy twelve-year-olds.

Note: Pictures are from my collection and for illustration only. They are not photos of difficult students!