We have probably all had our fair share of bad teachers. Some berated us for mistakes and traumatised us in front of the whole class; some marked us for a momentary weakness or an ideological difference, making hell out of life in school. In my case, one threw out my books and bag because I could not name the Arabic third person pronouns for the word “kitab”.
Our experiences and definitions of bad educators will differ, but we know them as bad educators for the way they made us add the word “bad” in describing them. We will never be out of the woods on the tragic tales of bad teachers as we are not meant to. They will continue to exist and to stain our perception of the classroom. So it would be futile for me to write this piece with the intention of clearing their image.
But out of these bad experiences arise individuals who raise the flag of hope over destroyed reputations and lost respect.
Mai can still remember the name of the ustazah who gave her unjustifiably low marks in her exams and badmouthed her to the school’s muslimah posse because of ideological differences. These experiences became the reason for Mai not to do the same.
Zam, on the other hand, was blessed with a nurturing school environment. He never had to experience bad teachers as others did. But he was keen on exploring the experiences of others.
Both are my classmates, and future educators. They were stirred to restore the trust in educators by the experience of neglect and violation of respect.
“Imagine a dirty river,” said Zam. “We can try to clean it, but it will still turn out dirty. The same goes for the system we are in. It will be difficult for us to fix it, not to mention the amount of time we will have to dedicate to it.
“But there is a need for it.”
He also knows that he will not be able to bring about change on his own. But there is no need for him to do it alone as his desire for change is shared by many other future educators.
Mai highlights the human aspects of being an educator. When educators are understood as someone like us, it becomes easier for us to understand their vulnerability and the weaknesses they may project. Bad educators are made to uphold their reputation, even with the insecurities they may have about their capabilities. Some learn and grow from their mistakes, but some fail and spiral into a being they may have had no intention of becoming.
All the more reason for them as future educators to become better than their predecessors. There is no need for them to beg the people they may teach to understand their personal weaknesses because they are building a way for them to manoeuvre their universal weaknesses as human beings from their own might.
Apart from their willingness to understand the reasoning behind the behaviour of bad educators, they are adamant on not compromising the livelihood of the students they will have to face when the time calls for them to contribute.
Their careers will be a constant teaching moment. The upcoming environment will be volatile and different from the classrooms in which they are readying themselves. For the sake of those who will depend on them, they are willing to reflect on their own doings and to learn in an endless journey of growing.
For those who have been hurt by bad educators, no apology will ever be enough to unhurt you. But from the classroom injustices that occurred will come a drive to correct these and to change the way we allowed problems to settle and muddy the pedagogy. A new line-up of teachers will be readied and positioned at the classroom doors, and as they enter and face the tumultuous climate of learning and teaching, hope for this tarnished reputation will be renewed.
For parents who read this with the fear of bad educators scarring their children, just as they themselves were scarred, fret not. Future educators will be there to take away the fear you have and restore the confidence you set over your hope for your children. Love and care will be the guaranteed classroom exchange.
There will be outliers who might not live up to their potential as educators, but as long as there are teachers who strive to live up to their own hopes for themselves, there is still something worth cherishing: a title, reputation and service.
And for future educators, while your reasons for entering this field may vary, the hope of your outcome is universal.