The Fascinating Rewards of Teaching 

By Sunshine Naga Moony

There is a teacher in every one of us, I believe! It’s just a matter of whether we acknowledge it or ignore it due to lack of interest in the hassle of teaching or tutoring. One may actually realise that the interest for teaching can arise at whatever age it might dawn upon us.

As for me, I realised that from a very young age of 10. I had lived in a small town in Butterworth on Penang’s mainland side after my late father’s retirement from the police force. Before we moved to Butterworth, we stayed at the police quarters in Carnarvon Street on the island, right smack in the Unesco Heritage City of George Town.

At the quarters, we were the only Indian family amongst the Malays and Chinese police personnel and their families. From that melting pot of different races staying together, somehow my Bahasa Malaysia (Bahasa Melayu) was above par.

In fact, I dare say it was better than most of the Malay kids who grew up with me. Like the famous saying goes, I sleep, eat and speak the Malay language with the proper accent that no one, without seeing me, would even know that the person speaking is actually a non-Malay!

So, when I moved to our new home in Butterworth, my new neighbours (mainly Malay residents) were somewhat delighted or amazed with my command of the Malay language. My house was situated in a small kampung where most of the young girls went to the same school nearby.

That being the case, almost all the parents in my kampung discovered that I always scored the highest marks for my Bahasa Malaysia. In fact, I also realised that I could be adept at scripting Malay ‘pantuns’ as well. At present, I have joined a Malay Facebook and WhatsApp group where we “buy and sell” (the Malay parlance for exchange) our ‘pantuns’ for fun.

Anyways, back to my kampung life. It soon dawned on me that one by one the parents would ask their children to come over to my place to study with me. Soon, my hall at home would be filled with kids who came over to brush up their school work. And guess what? Some of my seniors also came over to study and even asked me to help out with their school work!

At the tender age of 10, I used to tutor these kids almost every weekday. I guess this was when I realised that I was born to be a teacher. My tutoring took a temporary halt during Form 4 and Form 5 as I had to tutor myself in preparation for my MCE examination.

But something happened even before I could get my MCE results. My parents married me off to someone in an arranged marriage! Strange as it sounds but it did happen.

Hence, my dream of becoming a teacher dropped like a hot potato. After 10 years of unhappiness, I finally threw in the towel and sought my freedom.

After my divorce, I returned to my family home in the same old kampung. I got myself a job in a factory. Upon seeing my return, many parents started seeking me out to tutor their children which I obliged for a fee, of course!

At the age of 28, I became a factory worker-cum-English and Bahasa Melayu tutor. My love for teaching made me understand each of my students’ needs. As such, I used to prepare different methods of teaching for each individual.

It may seem tedious for those not into teaching but for me, it was quite challenging. This kept me searching for more ways to improve this art of teaching.

Soon, results were showing. Their parents’ happiness was not comparable to the gratitude of the students who were only too happy with their achievements.

For me, nothing compares the proud or glowing feeling of a tutor whenever I am greeted with so much affection upon entering a bank, school or any other place where the kids you had tutored are now holding some important positions in these institutions! Greetings of “Good morning/afternoon, teacher” from your former students, the sudden turn of heads from other people there and their looks of admiration really make my day. That proud feeling lingers on for the whole day!

Fast-forward to the present day, I am now 63 years old and living alone. My tutoring is what keeps me going. I love teaching kids who love to learn and this happens to be a win-win situation for all of us.

In life, there’s always hope.

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