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Choose Teaching

Every school is crying out for good teachers but where are they coming from? They cannot just appear out of nowhere. The best of our young people must choose teaching as their vocation and go out into the great harvest fields of schools to nurture, guide and teach our children.

“The churches must see the teaching profession in the same light as local or overseas missions. Every teacher who is mission-minded is God’s powerful missionary or youth worker in our schools.” says Yap Kok Keong, chairman of the Malayan Christian Schools’ Council.

To promote teaching as a vocation and mission, the MCSC has produced a booklet and DVD. It is their sincere desire that every church concerned with the education of our young obtain a copy and disseminate the information and call to their congregation, parents and youths to choose Teaching as a vocation and make a difference to the country and for eternity.

The resource is available from Methodist Council of Education (03-79565310). contact.us[at]methodisteducation.edu.my

“Whom are you serving?” – Phua Seng Tiong

My first posting as principal was to Sri Sentosa. After being “acting head” there for five years, I got a letter saying, “Sorry, we can’t confirm you.” Everybody was saying, “Wah, Sri Sentosa very good now.” And here was this letter saying I couldn’t be confirmed. It was mind boggling.

I remember sitting in my room and asking the Lord, “What’s happening? I thought I did a good job.”

His answer hit me like a slap: “Yes, that’s what you think. But whom are you serving?” Suddenly I realised how badly I had lost my bearings.

After that, the issue of confirmation stopped bothering me. If they didn’t want to confirm me, that was their problem. I was working for the Lord.

Others didn’t take it so well. My senior assistant was so upset on my behalf he had sleepless nights. I asked the Lord, “Should I appeal?” He said, “Yes you should.” I was reluctant because it seemed like blowing my own trumpet. Sri Sentosa’s achievements had been a team effort. But the Lord said, “No, you’ve got to make a statement.” So I appealed.

The appeal was rejected.

Once again, I asked the Lord what was going on. He said, “Don’t worry, I have a purpose for you. I know what I’m doing.” I could only say, “Well, I don’t understand. I don’t understand and it doesn’t make sense. Lord help it make sense to me.”

Well the Lord knows how to honour you, you know. What happened next was incredible.

Perhaps they felt bad about the grades they originally gave me, because when the first SSB came out I was one of the few Heads who got “melintang”!

The next surprise was a letter inviting me to receive the “Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang”. I was the only principal in Wilayah to get it. When I took the letter home to show my wife, we had such a good laugh.

I believe that every teacher with the necessary seniority should seriously consider accepting positions of leadership.

Look to God for recognition – Yin Kam Yoke

Nothing was impossible or too much for me. I was not yet a Christian then but being educated in Methodist and Convent schools, I must have been influenced by Christian ideals, especially the Convent motto “Simple in Virtue, Strong in Duty”. I certainly admired the nuns and their life of sacrifice, hard work and love and tried to emulate them.

The desire for recognition is the cry of the human heart. Just as every child was important to me, so was every teacher but my principle was to “catch them doing good, not to catch them doing wrong.” So reminding and giving ample notice was my forte.

My thoughts to practising and novice teachers: “If you look to men for recognition and reward, you will be sorely disappointed. It is better to please God by looking after His little ones. Give of your best and God will do the rest.”

The impact of dedicated lives – Dato' Brother Michael Jacques

Why I took up teaching?

It was not my first choice at first but I did want to embark on a career that would be meaningful and of service to society such as a doctor or a priest. My views changed with encounters with capable, dedicated and caring teachers, committed full-time. The Brothers influenced me by the example and complete dedication of their lives to teaching as a career that should claim their whole attention to the work as a mission and a vocation that was full in itself. The complete teacher’s example of total dedication at sacrifice of personal interests, working for the education of the whole man academically and spiritually to lead useful lives, expecting no reward and accepting none from pupils or parents, being counselor and friend at all times, an irreplaceable role of a good form teacher: all these elements had their influence in my choice of a career.

To the novice aspiring to be a teacher, it is important he/ she examine very carefully why he or she wants to be a teacher. Teaching as it should be is not just another job: it is a mission and a vocation intended to mould the lives and characters of the young people put in one’s care. It must necessarily call for generosity and commitment. To be a good teacher, the novice must possess academic competence and also teaching skills that have been acquired by study and practical training. Love of children and young people is a must. It can be very rewarding because it is like looking after a young plant, seeing that it grows, matures and flowers and bring in consoling results from the gratitude of one’s pupils. They are citizens and, perhaps, community leaders of tomorrow.

Let the practising teacher remember that teaching is not just a job, an earthly career to ensure financial security. It can be all this but it is, above all a special vocation. The teacher who does not see things this way and is guided only by what he or she can get out of the job will easily feel frustrated and discouraged. The work then becomes a burden that is not worthwhile carrying on. This sense of vocation, of responsibility in the development of children to second the work of parents whose role the teacher assumes when on duty will make for commitment and perseverance. For the Christian Teacher, the profession assumes a new dimension: it is a work for eternity in the care of the Lord’s dear ones, each of whom is precious in His sight. Jesus words are clear on this subject – “Let the children come to me.” (See Matt. 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16). See also Daniel 12:3, “... they that instruct many unto righteousness shall shine like stars for all eternity.” Next to parents/ guardians, teachers are the irreplaceable formators of the citizens of tomorrow.

A sense of belonging: more heart than head – Datin Paduka Rev Sister Enda Ryan FMM

Of course being principal also had its ups, especially in the days when principals could really feel free to impart their own particular vision and philosophy to pupils and staff ... to leave their own mark on the school. Days which brought all together informally, in a spirit of fun and friendship, such as Teachers’ Day, were valued and enjoyed no end. On such occasions, and also at DAILY assemblies, one could impart a sense of belonging, a sense of being one family ... taking the opportunity to transmit the importance of prayer in times of sadness or joy. A privileged position, really.

Broadly speaking, I tended to favour use of the heart rather than the head, based on my favourite dictum of St. Francis de Sales: “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar”. Of course this involved much listening to long-winded explanations from all parties concerned, but usually brought about a general understanding of their motivations, clarified miscommunications and, hopefully, promoted better human relations all round. This was particularly effective when parents had complaints (real or imagined) against staff members. And, despite, at times being criticized for a too soft approach, I was guided and consoled by another rule-of-life, given by one I consider to have been a ‘Gospel woman par excellence’, as I left for Missionlands. “If you have to err, err on the kind side”.

A rural posting demonstrates God’s faithfulness – Satkunamary Gnanakan

Sometimes when we are there in the rural areas we wonder where God is or what He is doing about our situation. He has proven to me if He leads He will lead all the way no matter what the terrain. And so our rural postings are not wasted years. It is the very place where the Lord holds our hand to lead us one step at a time. Sometimes we are so cut off but the Lord never forgets us. His grace will see us though. I needed the rural experiences to recognize and realize this truth that He is always there. It was in the rural areas that I really learnt about my job.

God will give you generations to call you blessed – Elena Cooke

Did God give that young teacher generations to call her blessed? Will God give you generations to call you blessed? Surely only Heaven will tell the full, astounding extent of a Christian teacher’s influence.

If the truth were told, many Christian teachers are failures: failed doctors, failed lawyers, failed accountants. The reasons are many. Unhappy circumstances at home during that crucial examination year, a lack of money, examination nerves.

But perhaps the real reason goes a little deeper.

Would you be a teacher now if you could have become something else? Could it be that you were handpicked by God for failure? After all, how else could He have persuaded you to give up the thought of a medical, legal or accounting career to toil as a humble teacher in some unknown school?

The Lord called me – Eugene Morais

I received my calling to be a teacher when I was in Form Four. I prayed about it and spoke to friends and teachers. The willingness to put oneself in a position where one will have to extend oneself to the utmost, is not a quality to be gained overnight. But it can be taught and even caught and developed over a period of time. Confidence is after all a cumulative thing and one success leads to another; one victory no matter how small paves the way for the next and greater one.

After teaching for 5 years, the Good Lord has rewarded me. He has given me the opportunity to further my studies. I am currently in my second year doing my Bachelor in Education. I thank God for the scholarship. You see, God has never let me down. I just acknowledge Him as my God and Saviour and He just directs my path.

Could the Lord be calling you today to join the teaching profession? Search your heart. You may not succeed in the sense of making a sensational splash in the newspapers, but you will have at least sown a seed. And our students could be better people because of you!

Making a difference in lives – Julie Wong

Teaching is a calling that can make a difference in young people’s lives. Many will pass through the world without the touch of God’s grace and it is my prayer that I will be able to bring God’s love into the lives of those who are sent to me by giving myself to them.

Let me share the story of one of my students. She was in Form 5 and she had been given 3 months to live because she had been diagnosed with brain tumor. She was a gentle caring and soft-spoken student. After she left school we continued to keep in touch. My friend and I would visit her in her home whenever we could. During one of these visits she received Jesus into her heart as her Lord and Saviour. The joy of the Lord was evident on her face. She went through the operation and her treatment. She never gave up hope in Christ. Her mother who loves her deeply accepted Christ a few months later and they were baptized in a local church. Both their lives were transformed. Her new church friends enriched her life through regular prayers and encouragement. Today, after 5 years she is a living testimony of God’s healing grace upon her life. God had answered prayers. Not so long ago her father also accepted Christ. All the altars in the home were removed. This was indeed a major decision the family made, as it was now the only Christian family in a Chinese new village. Our Lord had not forgotten this very special young lady who had gone through so much hardship and pain. Whenever I think of her I am amazed at Jesus’ love and I am glad I was her teacher.

Today the teaching profession is not the same as when I first became a teacher in Pahang. Students make greater demands on the teacher and the teaching environment is fraught with tensions and strains. But Malachi 3:6 encourages me for it tells me that “I the Lord do not change.” Therefore I have remained a teacher all these years. It is one thing to know my calling and another to walk in my calling. By His grace, He enables me to carry on.

Called to display God’s splendour – Phua Ah Eng

In 1994 I was asked to be the afternoon supervisor. I was reluctant to take on this responsibility but on the day I was to give my reply, the Lord gave me these verses from Isaiah 61: 1-4. It was a call from God that He had anointed me to preach good news to the poor ... to bind up the broken hearted ... to comfort all who mourn ... for the display of His splendour. In the years I took on this post I have seen the reality of these verses over and over again as the Lord opened doors for reaching out with His love to parents and students.

Not long ago, an ex-student (a very naughty boy and a dropout) came to visit me and invited me for lunch. He saw the cane on my table and said “... this is the cane that taught me and helped me, thanks to you...” Those were precious words to me because it was an affirmation of my calling.

This then is our reward as teachers. Not material success but a deep sense of knowing and believing that it was through us, Christian teachers who care, that God’s love and splendour can be known by the hundreds whose lives we can touch. To be a channel of love and blessing to my students and colleagues is my daily prayer.

Being involved in lives in order to build for the future – Vimala Mathews

In the beginning, I was totally focused on getting students to pass exams and get on with life.

Somewhere along the way, I become more involved with students as counsellor and career guidance teacher.

I saw that children needed someone to talk to , they need help and encouragement. I saw my self as a person who led children to do their best, helping them to make decisions and guiding them. Soon I placed greater importance on their lives not just on exam results.

The joys of teaching were that we build people, they become confident young men and women because of you. Sometimes they recognise it and thank you, sometimes they don’t; I feel it does not matter, as long as you know what you do is good. Your influence on your students continues into generations because this influence lives through families.

Your influence never ends, it seems.

God’s provision: My power – Molly Chong

With the passing years, I began to feel God’s deep love for the children He placed in my charge. I began to really understand what He meant when He said “suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. From that point on, I realized that becoming a teacher was God’s calling upon my life. I felt His burden for the young adolescents who needed emotional guidance. God provided for me to be trained as a counselor. Later on I was given the opportunity to take charge of the Christian Fellowship of the school. These two roles complemented each other so well. With God’s favour, I must say I enjoyed 14 most fruitful years of my teaching career, witnessing how God could work in such powerful ways through the many young lives that were touched, young lives that would otherwise have been lost in the perplexities of growing up in the midst of wrong influence, senseless rebellion and the problems of broken homes.

I believed the moment I invited God to be my partner in this calling, every thing took on a new meaning. There was added zeal in everything I did. I began to thank God for every little blessing and began to look forward to each school day with blessing and hence began to look forward to each school day with expectancy. Apart from working to excel in my role as a teacher, I had a higher calling that is, to touch the lives of those who needed the love of God, be it a student or a colleague.

What I would like to say to those who are considering teaching as a career is to decide from the onset who you want to serve – God or man. Believe me, serving God is so much easier and fun. Why ... because He doesn’t practise politics and never wakes up on the wrong side of bed. Make serving your students your source of joy, appreciate them, pray for them and you will find much strength for the joy of the Lord is indeed our strength.

Partnership with the master in the classroom – Debbie Yeong

Who says I am going in the classroom alone to teach? “No way ... I am going in with the Master Teacher and He has gone in many months ahead of me to prepare the students and the environment.” So I go in to teach with joy because God enjoys teaching me and I’m going to enjoy teaching kids and seeing the light in their eyes as they experienced the joys of learning.

Just in case you think I have an easy time teaching because my kids are brilliant or my school is special ... let me assure you that my kids, particularly those in the Science stream are those who have not been accepted by residential schools. They are rejects – the best has been taken by the residential schools.

Build up to become a channel of blessing – Catherine Ooi Lian Ai

My first assignment was to a mission school where I recall having a wonderful time working with a team of dedicated teachers and under the mentorship of a strict but equally devoted principal. I learnt from the experiences of my senior colleagues who took me under their wings. It was in this school that I was moulded and groomed to face the demands that presented itself in teaching. It did not matter to me coming in the weekends to do “that little extra”, for a job well done was a reward indeed. This gave me immense satisfaction.

After 17 years in this mission school, I was transferred to a Sekolah Kebangsaan.

It was in the last school I was assigned that I experienced the frustrations that could arise amongst the staff if there was a lack of respect for one another or when there was envy and jeolousy, rivalry or favouritism. Working in such situations can be very taxing on the persons concerned but the efforts to mend things and learn from mistakes are lessons that can make us better persons, building up our character.

I praise and thank God for His guidance and blessings during my 29 years of teaching. The support from the parents and the love from the pupils are most gratifying, allowing me to enjoy teaching to my retirement on the 4th February, 2002.

To the young teachers, I say strive for excellence and work hard. Love what you are doing and you will find fulfillment when you realize that you have been used as a channel to touch and influence the lives of the many students under your care.

Courage to teach through service – Goh Hai Bee

Vividly I recall the most trying class in my entire teaching career. I had to handle a Remove Class for a teacher who was on maternity leave. It was the third week of September when I reported back for work. I faced that class twelve times a week, teaching BM. The classroom was always filthy and foul language was the order of the day. Keeping the class clean and trying to create conditions for learning was a daily battle. Discipline was alien to them. Sleep, foul speech, fights, boisterous play with paper balls and planes plus endless chatter were their normal routine. The last straw was when they wet the teacher’s table, strewed rubbish on the floor and scribbled profanities in Mandarin, English and BM on the blackboard. It was amazing that such language was mastered effortlessly!

It was the first period. I was in their class and they were at assembly. “Oh God, what should I do?” I cried in my despair. Under normal conditions, I would have waited to blast them. However, the Lord instructed me to sweep the classroom and clean the blackboard. Next, I drew on the blackboard the story of the stork and the crabs – a story sent to me by my friend, a BM specialist. When the dreaded students finally came into the classroom I could see some quizzical looks. Without mentioning anything, I proceeded with the lesson and ended it with a challenge to think about our actions. After the lesson, three giggling, innocent-looking girls came to apologize for their actions. Truly, “To educate is to guide students on an inner journey toward more truthful ways of seeing and being in the world” (Palmer, 1998 The Courage To Teach).

The battle with that class was not over yet. Well into Forms One and Two, some of the boys still continued to shout “old spinster” in Chinese whenever I passed by their class. They even had the audacity to repeat the same derogatory remark from the top floor of their classroom whenever they saw me heading towards my car in the car-park after staying on to clear the endless daily library work. They were literally testing the limits of my forbearance with them. As an ordinary teacher, the only way to cope was to ignore their remarks completely. How I behaved would project the condition of my soul onto my students.

I believe my experiences in my present school are allowed by God to refine me and to enable me to gain self-knowledge. Indeed, “knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject” (Palmer, 1998, The Courage To Teach).

God refined me – Yen Yoon Lee

I did not get a transfer. Eventually I moved to Kluang although it meant having to sacrifice physical comforts. Getting up really early for the 40 km ride to school when it was still dark became my routine. After work, I had to brave the hot sun. There were countless times when I got drenched and occasions when I had a flat tyre. There were also minor accidents but I could see God’s hand of protection in every situation.

In my fifth year of service, I got a transfer to a Chinese primary school in Kluang. My love for teaching was renewed while working in that school. I thank God that He heard my prayer and made me a teacher. Deep within my heart, I believe this journey will continue till all that is purposed for me is fulfilled. Looking back, I can testify that all the circumstances, places and people I encountered were used by God to refine me to become more like Him.

Jehovah Jireh fills the gap – Peggy Chong

Today I am very happy and fulfilled as an educator. It would be ideal to have administrators who are understanding as well as efficient but my stand is, I would work in spite of their shortcomings and co-operate as best as I can in whatever circumstances. I am also learning to bridge the gap between my students and myself, to apologize to my students when I have been very harsh, to be compassionate even when it appears that they do not deserve any compassion. There is so much to learn, to be more gracious in speech and gentle in spirit. I am much assured that Jesus will change me from glory to glory as He has thus far moulded me from one who lacked compassion to someone who is filled with it. The road seems long at times and yet my Lord, my Comforter and Guide, is always there to guide me. Whatever I lack or am in need of, I only have to ask of Him, my Provider, Jehovah Jireh.

The healing power of prayer – Kua Kun Han

“You shall be my witnesses” is another gift that has to be opened. During my years in school, I had many opportunities. As I look back, I know I let some of them slip away. Some of those opportunities I didn’t see until much later. When you’re busy, they can be so easy to miss.

A school is the most wonderful institution there is – far better that some huge impersonal company. It’s really a very simple place.

School is also such a rich place because young people are fantastic. Teenagers are always one up on you. That energy, that idealism, can be so invigorating.

When you put educators with a couple of thousand young people, so much can come out of it. So much enterprise. Every day can be exciting.

I’ve seen this in my own classroom. When I was confident of a lesson – perhaps because I’d taught it many times before – the lesson would turn out mediocre or worse. When the topic was hard, my prayers would take on greater urgency and I’d pray a lot more. Those were often the best lessons. The kids would respond and I’d surprise myself. I’d actually walk out of the lesson feeling satisfied.

Teaching taught me to pray without ceasing. Not just by myself but with one or two others. Ignoring hunger pangs, we would gather during recess and pray. Once, when I began to wonder why I didn’t feel hungry, the Lord shot me one of his one liners: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” I had had gastric trouble for quite a few years, but the year we started those recess meetings it disappeared. I have never suffered from gastric pain since.

God provides the people to see us through – Gloriosa Rajendran

InStep: Mrs Rajendran, what was the most satisfying thing about your career?

Mrs R: I love teaching and throughout my long service, I have found being in school a most satisfying experience. As a Head in the many schools I have been, I have experienced little restrictions in carrying out the things I wanted to do. In fact, the highlight of my career as a headmistress was that all the Boards of Governors of the schools I have been to helped me a lot in developing the schools. In addition, I enjoyed excellent rapport with the Chairmen of the boards be they Christians or non-Christians.

InStep: What was your solution to the many problems you faced in the schools?

Mrs R: Pray and trust in God. I have had officers coming round to investigate the ‘accusation’ of me christianizing the students. I replied that I am continuing the work of the Christian pioneers of the Mission schools and also adhering to the Rukun Negara i.e. Belief in God. As I mentioned above, I had wonderful supportive boards who helped me solve the many problems I faced in the schools. I cope with problems by praying and also to play by ear each difficult situation and God has seen me through.


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