When educators become role models

IN the weeks before the year ended, we had seen the UPSR and PMR examination results being issued with the usual hype over top scorers while those who made it but with lesser pomp did not share the fame as much.

On this occasion, I was perturbed that increasingly our obsession with academic excellence is numbing our souls and we are beginning to churn out rote-learners. Those tipping on the wrong side are considered not worth discussing about and they are treated not worthy even as a human being.

Schools, in the frenzy to be at the top in their districts and states tend to focus on potential students who will give them the name and fame while the average and slow students get left behind. I remember yonks ago when I was a teacher, the slow learners would be left to their own means closer to the examination. The pressure from the "top" was so great that it would almost seem the right thing to do.

Having said that I am pleased that things are changing. I read with interest the Putrajaya Federal Territory Education Department's decision to implement the "inclusive system" where streaming is set to be abolished, at least in Putrajaya.

It is not clear if the initiative is on a trial run but I am happy that the system will induce a collaborative approach in the classroom. The less academically inclined will not be chastised against the brighter ones.

It is also my hope to see this goodwill extended to schools nationwide.

In this background, there are schools, with the head, supported by the parent-teacher association (PTA) that choose to do things differently by going the extra mile.

I do know that one secondary school in Taman Tun Dr Ismail chooses to deal with "academically needy" students with a compassionate approach. Everything in life is about perspective and empathy as they say and every teaching staff in the school lives up to these principles.

The school has special education incorporated into the school system and every year for PMR and SPM there will be students needing distinct attention or care, if you like. These are students with learning disabilities of varying degrees.

The school has a structure where such students are placed under the care of a single teacher although they are taught by different teachers for different subjects.

The chosen teacher is kind, innovative, progressive and practises inclusiveness and I find students naturally gravitating towards the teacher.

The teachers have done such wonderful work with the children that they deserve the highest praise, regardless of how the students performed in the examination.

With many subjects in the school system needing project submissions, the teachers created a system of communicating with the parents so that the preparation happens at home and the writing happens in the school. That way what goes for submission is the actual work of students.

If you imagine having to reply to parents' queries at all hours of the day, it can be pretty daunting but the teachers did it out of their passion for the children and their profession.

Kudos to these teachers and the parent-teacher association who supported the school and the teachers with their presence and their contribution in cash and kind. On the days of the examination, PTA office-bearers were in the school to ensure the sponsored breakfast was distributed before all went in to take their first paper.

The school and its teachers display exemplary commitment and dedication towards the students, gleaned from their internal motivation to make a difference. I know some teachers decided to take the special education students out for a movie and a meal after they cleared the last paper. This is not a norm and the bond that is created on such outings stays permanently.

This is commitment with a difference and it played up on the psyche of the special kids who felt really special being treated with such care and love.
To the school and its teachers, no words will commensurate their gesture of kindness and to the Education Ministry, these gems from the school must be commended in more than one way as it will set a good example for other schools to emulate.

To go the extra mile, resource is the least of the problems, all one needs is the desire to extend one's graciousness and everything else falls into place.

Life is never fair, as they say but the Mighty One that watches over us intervenes to compensate when such gesture is needed.

Happy New Year to one and all.

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