Sunday, October 16, 2016

O Cikgu!

One would think that a teacher does nothing but teaches her students in a classroom, checks her students' assignments and sets test papers. Only a teacher knows that there are countless of other things to take care of—countless because the tasks are really endless.

Borrowed from Fb

During my time as a teacher, every teacher in my school took turns to be ‘duty teacher’ for one week. Each teacher could be duty teacher several times during the school year. A duty teacher had a list of extra responsibilities piled up on top of her normal duties: she acted as jaga at the canteen during break; supervised a class to clean the school compound after recess; arranged for classes to have relief teachers if the normal teachers were absent; wrote daily reports in the school diary; checked/graded cleanliness of each classroom and gave detailed comments; took care of sick or unwell students; the list went on and on.

One of my favourite groups of students

When I was duty teacher what I dreaded most was driving sick students home or to the hospital. What if an accident occurred? That question had always accompanied me every time I had to drive students somewhere. (There was no way to avoid acting as a students' driver if you had a car.)

Apart from driving ‘at your own risk’ we, ordinary teachers, also had to pay for the extra expenditure incurred. Besides that, we were forced to miss our classes and had to play catch-up when we returned to the classroom. Needless to say, I found being the 'duty teacher' extremely stressful.

I'll never forget the first time I had to drive an ill student home. I was a novice driver then, having just passed my driving test and obtained my driver's license. This student lived at the end of a narrow kampung road. The side road leading to her house was perpendicular to the main road which ran along the river bank. There was a steep slope where the side road met the main road. You had to accelerate to climb the slope and turn sharply right or left to avoid landing into the river. A slight mistake and I could have become food for fish or the resident crocodiles.

Fortunately, that was the only time I had to drive to that kampung. After that incident, however, I always asked what the road condition was like whenever I was told to drive a student home... Not that it made any difference.

There is another unforgettable occasion. I happened to be the first teacher to arrive at school on that Friday afternoon. A group of girls rushed to my car as I was getting out.

"Teacher! Teacher! I cannot see," said Siti (not her real name). She was also having stomachache and diarrhea. I immediately suspected food poisoning but couldn't be sure because she had trouble with her eyes too.

"Did you eat anything?" I asked the almost hysterical girl.
"Ya, cucur udang di kantin," she replied. She was scared she'd turn blind and insisted she wanted to go to the hospital. I let three girls—Siti and two friends, pile into the car. Siti would need help if she really 'couldn't see'.
I remember the drive all the way from Putatan to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Siti was groaning and crying out in pain while the two girls and I tried to calm her down. Then when we got stuck in traffic just before reaching the hospital, she started kicking the back of my seat. She wanted to go to the toilet. Oh no!

We're almost there,” I said, “Sabar kau!” But she continued to kick my seat.
When we reached the hospital I told the two girls to accompany Siti to the toilet while I parked the car. She seemed better after the visit to the toilet. We spent a long time at the hospital. First, we went to the eye clinic where the doctor didn't find anything wrong with her eyes. Then we had to wait to see another doctor at the Out-patient Department. Luckily, Siti was much better on the drive back to school but we had missed half the day. (Siti’s was probably allergic to the cucur udang she had eaten.)

There had been other trips: visits to resource centres, attending student activities or inter-school competitions hosted by other schools etc. It was unfortunate and unfair that school teachers were expected to act as drivers during those days. Some years before my retirement, my school bought a van and used to ferry students (instead of depending entirely on the teachers.)

1 comment:

  1. What you wrote rang a bell with me. At my school duty teacher is called a smiling duty teacher. Like you, the first time an ill student was entrusted to me, I was worried. But I had a point. I did not know how to drive. So the cross principal had no choice but to take the student to the hospital. I still cannot drive, cannot overcome my fear.But you did a good job. But should anything happen, we have to take the blame. not fair.