A dedication to the mindful scary, fierce teachers

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A dedication to the mindful scary, fierce teachers – of teaching people or educating human beings!

Teachers have always fascinated me. Teaching is a profession many would not be able to commit and be genuinely good at as it involves a lot of mental, emotional and spiritual strengths.

Genuine teachers are beautiful souls. In this article, I would like to highlight those beautiful souls among those who we address as the scary, fierce teachers. Heard of this before?; ‘you have to be cruel to be kind’. My contention is that the scary, fierce teachers in actuality could be the most gentle and kindest of all souls. The mindful scary, fierce ones. I speak such from my own experiences; though I don't consider myself the scary, fierce teacher.

Those people who we called ‘Teacher’, ‘Miss’, ‘Madam’, ‘Sir’, ‘Cikgu’, ‘Puan’, ‘Ustaz’, ‘Ustazah’; were very much involved in our early development as a human being. Yes, they could be really strict and fierce, scary at times. I recalled a few smacks I had on my palm for every wrong answer I made in  ‘congak’ (‘pop quiz’) during my Math class; I even had questions marks doodled on my cheeks by my English language teacher just because I missed them at the end of the sentences I wrote in one of my writing exercises. On one Report Card day, I heard my class teacher telling my mom and dad that I was ‘degil’ (stubborn). The irony of it is, despite being upset or disheartened or even disagreeing with what they did or said about me, the respect remained intact. They WERE my teachers. My parents too were never against what the school decided for me, even in their manner of punishing or emphasizing discipline upon me. Oh my, those scary, fierce teachers.

I learned a lot about educational psychology and classroom management during my teacher education degree programme. As I pursued my higher education in Masters and Doctoral studies, I became more and more aware of the true meaning of teaching and educating. Simply put, it is always easy to teach ‘people’ (‘orang’), but it is a great challenge to educate ‘human beings’ (‘manusia’). Those teachers I had were genuine teachers. Yes, they were fierce, scary at times; but they were such out of their passion and commitment for their students who they wanted to potentially become ‘human beings’. They were mindfully fierce and scary. Parents those days saw teachers as professionals with authority. No questions asked, no decisions contested. If we walked down the memory lane, I am sure many of us would agree that despite those scary, fierce teachers we had in school, we made it through and for the fortunate some, we made it big. One success factor would definitely be those mindful scary, fierce teachers. Those smacks on my palm, the doodles I had on my cheek and the label I received had all part and parcel made me what I am today; a better person than what I could have been without the scary, fierce teachers in my school life. They have educated me to be the ‘human being’ that I am today. How mindful of them!

To date, I am still fascinated by teachers whom my children addressed as scary and fierce. I see them now through the experiences my school-going children told me. Comparing our times, my children’s schooling experiences differ a lot from mine. The emphasis on examinations is more obvious than what it was during my time. We had all the public examinations too though they were called differently then. Interestingly, I couldn’t recall any public announcement through the media of how certain schools had performed. The schools’ performance upon any big public examinations such as SRP or SPM was never a headline or became the main news in newspapers or TV bulletins. Best, there was no ranking or categories of schools. As a pupil, I had observed that my teachers were not pressured to produce results from the public examinations. In comparison, teachers nowadays have to endure a totally different emphasis when it comes to public examinations and public announcements of their school’s performance, categories or ranking. At this point the question is, could this be a pressure to current teachers? Coming back to the scary and fierce teachers my school-going children told me about, I couldn’t help but to wonder what made them such? I am as clueless as you could be in guessing the reason why. But my best guess is that it is possibly related to the pressure from the emphasis on examinations and producing results, among other things.

As the Ministry of Education is seriously reconsidering the assessment mechanism in schools, let’s have faith that our teachers are among those who would benefit the most out of the new policies on education, assessment and public examinations. Let us cherish our teachers and support their burning desire to really, just teach and educate; produce the human beings our country would need as the country’s talents (‘bakat’). Mindfully, be scary and fierce as they could be, as we know they are such for the right reason due to the right pressure – producing human beings.

As Yg Bhg Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Rahman Arshad once said, “masuk sekolah, orang; keluar sekolah, manusia” (to be educated are the people, educated are the human beings).


Faizah Abd Majid
Author: Faizah Abd Majid

Professor Dr Faizah Abd Majid is a Professor in Adult & Higher Education at the Faculty of Education, UiTM. She has received both international and national research grants and published in various indexed journals all within the areas of Adult & Higher Education, TESL and professional development. Besides training pre- and in-service teachers, Professor Dr Faizah serves as a master trainer in the Malaysian Higher Education Leadership Academy (AKEPT) in which she develops modules and facilitates the professional growth of fellow academics across the nation. In this regard, she concentrates on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL).

Her achievements include the following. An Invention entitled ‘STAD: Strategizing Training for Adult Learners’ has won 4 Gold Medals in both local & international innovation competitions in 2014. She was awarded ‘Best Student Paper’ in the International Conference on University Teaching & Learning in 2014. Also, the Minister of Education awarded Professor Dr Faizah ‘UiTM Best Trainer’ in 2011. The ASIA TEFL President awarded her ‘Best Paper’ in Fukuoka, Japan in 2006. Currently, Professor Dr Faizah is involved in a 3-year project on Social Innovation, which received its grant from Erasmus+ (European Commission). This project involves 7 countries around the globe with the total grant of Euro 999.999. Simultaneously, she is leading a 2 and a half year project on UiTM Social Innovation Support Unit with a total grant of RM310,552 received from Erasmus+ (European Commission). Recently, she was awarded the ‘Distinguished Scientist in Adult Education’ by Venus International Foundation.

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