When it comes to teaching, most of us would agree that it’s not an easy job. Yet, some Singaporeans remain ignorant of the responsibilities that our teachers have to undertake.
“It’s just teaching and marking, how difficult can it be? Just ignore and put up with the occasional problem child and unreasonable parent.” Sounds familiar? Well, here are 10 confession stories from teachers in Singapore that’ll give you a glimpse into the different types of trouble our teachers have to deal with.
“I was chaperoning an overseas programme for three days and two nights with 80 students, and there was a case of very bad food poisoning.
The students were shitting everywhere, literally. When the toilets were full and they couldn’t hold it in, they shat in the sink, in the corner of the room… basically everywhere. On the bed. On the floor. The teachers had to clean up after them. It was… sick, man.”
“One of my colleagues was ambushed by his students. He wasn’t a particularly bad teacher or anything, just doing his job like scolding the students for not submitting homework, attending classes, or paying attention. The students would curse at him and he would call their parents.
One day, a group of them waited for him at the bus stop and beat him up with a green public dustbin, until he lost consciousness.”
“I had a boy in my class whom I think was sadistic. He would catch insects and dissect them part by part.”
“There was this girl who was always sleeping in class and refused to submit any homework. I called her parents in hopes of finding out how we could help with her behavioural issues, but I used my house landline to make the call.
15 minutes after the call ended, my house phone started ringing. I answered the call to hear a string of Hokkien expletives. The caller hung up immediately after the outburst. Another 15 minutes later, the same thing happened.
The next day, I reported the incident to my principal. Her parents were called down to school. She admitted to placing the harassing calls but instead of apologising or feeling remorseful, she hurled profanities at her parents and the school principal, which got her a lengthy suspension.
However, I got through to her during this time as I continued to send work to her and counselled her over the phone. When she came back to school after the suspension, no further incidents occured and she graduated. I met her recently a few years back and she is happily married with kids.”
“I followed the kids for an overseas camp once. Long story short, the first aider had sleep paralysis the first night and ‘heard’ someone talking right next to her ear saying ‘don’t want leh’ after she asked for it not to disturb her. The next night, my sentry duty partner had absolutely no recollection of walking the rounds and chatting with me when it was our turn at 3am. I don’t want to know who I walked with for 10 minutes.
And the final day – right before leaving, we lost the key to one of the villas. The girl took out everything in her bag but still couldn’t find it, so we reported the key as lost. When we got back to Singapore however, she unzipped her duffel bag and the key was there. Right on top.”
“Not a teacher, but I took a camp for an ‘elite’ primary school once. It was shower time and the number of parents who came down to the campsite to shower their kids was astounding. One of the kids told me he couldn’t shower, because there was ‘no milk’.
We asked what he meant because we thought he had to drink milk before his shower or something, you know? Turns out that his mother showers him with actual milk. Yea…”
“Once, during a Parent Teacher Meeting, my student’s mother started to cry and rant about her marital issues. She complained and wailed about how they were going to get divorced and how horrid her life was.
My student just sat next to her mother in silence holding back tears of embarrassment, practically pleading me with her eyes to end her agony. Thankfully, I never had a need to meet her mother again after her grades improved.”
“This may come off as surprising to people who lead sheltered lives, but not everyone is lucky to be born into wholesome families. I once had a kid who got caught for having weed and glue in his bag, and he came to me for help saying that his parents would kill him if they get confiscated.
There are also cases of druggie parents who turn their child into a runner. When kids have toxic parents the first person they usually turn to are their teachers, so we’re like their parents.”
“There was this girl in my school, she was pretty much the queen bee of the student cohort (it was a girl school) and she was the mastermind behind several rebellions. There was once she force swapped timetables with another class because her class didn’t like PE lessons, so she had her entire class swap lessons with a sports class.
They were pretty thorough about it too; they got the fake timetables printed and handed out to everyone in both classes. Only the teachers had the original (and correct) copy, so they were confused. Sometimes her class would also have hotpot parties at the back of the classroom, alcohol included.”
“One of my students came up with the ultimate prank for April Fool’s. During class, her classmate informed me that she was feeling unwell, so I allowed her to rest. In the middle of the class, she started retching and vomiting into a plastic bag, so I went over to check if she was alright.
One of her classmates took the bag of vomit from her, produced a disposable spoon out of nowhere, and started eating her vomit. And then the rest of the class followed suit.
It was a bag of yoghurt and Koko Krunch.”
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Our teachers have to put up with so much more on top of their lengthy working hours, and most of them go out of their way to do more for their students – I’ve had teachers staying back in school with me till 9pm to help me with my studies, and they are not required to.
Too often do we Singaporeans take our teachers for granted. What can be done to alleviate the responsibility on their shoulders, and how can the country better compensate them for the sacrifices that they make for the welfare of Singapore’s children?