It’s about bold sacrifices and having a strong inner conviction that we really have to be the change that we seek. Here, in Part 3 Jarod Yong concludes his article about life as a teacher in the rural regions of Sarawak.

Teaching in the interiors may bring horrible living conditions as I’ve mentioned in Part 2 of this article.

But, as with every situation in life, where there are cons, there are pros.

The working conditions in my interior school are actually pretty sweet!

Sense of Achievement

Teaching in the interiors brought me a great sense of achievement.

As an English teacher, I had a gargantuan task ahead of me. A majority of the students had little or no foundation in English even though they’d gone through 6 years of Primary education. None of the students could speak English. None of them were interested in “Bahasa Orang Puteeeih“. 70% of the students fail exams.

I started at the bottom. When you’re down there, there’s no other place to go but up.

To promote the language and get students interested in the language, I mobilised a group of excellent students and started an active English Language Society with activities like weekly fundraiser sales, competitions, movie making, a treasure hunt and an English Language Night with student MCs, songs, dances & a sketch.

To improve their academic performance, I analysed the exam questions and their answers, and found a way for even the weakest students to get a few marks. I gave Best Exam Technique talks. I drilled. I rewarded. I punished. I motivated. I brainwashed.

I took over the school magazine and reimagined it. I made it attractive and produced it in English to make sure that students read at least 1 book in the English language every year.

Students have already had very little so the little bit I did bore a lot of fruit. Last year’s PMR results were unbelievable even to me. The students’ attitudes toward the language also improved significantly. Many of them are now willing to attempt a conversation in English with me.

Sense of Achievement
The smarter ones know not to look up at the solar eclipse. (pix by author)

There is also a sense of prestige attached to the profession.

Even more so when you are identified as a good teacher.

Parents, elders and locals here still respect teachers partly because my school has done very well academically and have maintained good discipline.

Parents will accept your every reason for disciplining their child and some will even give you permission to beat up their kid as long as their bones don’t break. The reason for this is many parents are unable to control their children. They rarely see their kids because most are sent away to boarding schools since they were 7 years old. They have not developed the skills to discipline their children so they leave it entirely to the teachers.

So essentially, these kids are yours too. Who’s your daddy?

Low Pressure

Low Pressure
There are no soccer players in my school. Only fans, spectators and two new soccer balls.

I actually do not feel any pressure to perform at my school. Parents and administrators don’t breathe down your neck.

I guess this stems from the fact that all my colleagues and even my principal are new. It could be the same at other interior schools. Your colleagues could also be rejects who’ve been pushed deeper and deeper into the interiors.

I can probably be a teacher who does badly in my lessons and contributes nothing to the school and still be just fine. Big guns from the ministry rarely have the balls to travel into the interiors.

Sadly, that’s not how I roll.

I take the low pressure, low expectations and low experience levels, and see it as an opportunity for creative freedom.

Therefore, I am able to materialise my ideas with very little resistance. I can do absolutely anything and receive support from my colleagues because they are young and eager. They are also very approachable for help. Many are willing to go the extra mile to help the students. They are also very talented too.

I just have to learn to push the right buttons and pull the right strings.

Good Health

Good Health
I used to run for fitness. Now I run just to stop talking to myself. (pix by author)

Living in the Green Lungs of our country does have its perks. Every breath you take is fresh air. The deeper you go, the more you can literally taste the sweetness of the air through your lungs.

Also, with no electricity and no distractions, what else would you do in the afternoon besides exercise? Every one of the teachers at my school has a sport. Some go jogging, some play badminton, football, volleyball and some do gardening.

Teachers are also forced to cook for themselves. The nearest eatery is 1 hour away in town. I don’t think it’s worth it to spend RM50 on a 1 hour boat ride to have food cooked for you. You can’t find a KFC, McD or any of that artery clogging stuff here. All you’ll have is good ol’ home cooked food.

All of the above contribute to good health. Only the most determined will leave in a worse state of health.

BIG Allowance

BIG Allowance
No KFC, McD but we have spanking new ATM facilities dispensing crisp Ringgit notes 24/7. (pix by author)

Finally, teachers in the interiors receive a special allowance called a Hardship Allowance. Rightfully so.

I receive RM500 extra every month. Depending on how hard it is to get to your school and how harsh your living conditions are, the allowance can be either RM500, RM1000 or RM1500 every month.

Life as a teacher in the interior is hard, but every time it’s payday, I’ve got a BIG smile on my face.

So you want to be a teacher?

I just can’t be bothered about why you want to be a teacher. Everybody has their reasons and these reasons can change with time.

Also, you’ve had years of lectures on what a teacher is and you’re probably sick of people telling you what kind of teacher you have to be. You’ve probably already made up your mind anyway so I’m not going to bore you by jabbering about how much you should or shouldn’t be like ME. hahaha.

We are not the masters of our circumstance. But we are the masters of consequence.

Wherever you’re placed, if you like it, good. If you don’t … good.

Both present you with unique opportunities to shine … or not, it’s entirely up to you.

One thing I will tell you though is too many people let fear dictate what they do in life.

Too many people especially try to escape the fear of embarrassment and they live with regret. Although they justify their actions with layers and layers of excuses. Deep down inside they know that they did what they did purely because of fear.

Malaysia needs teachers who are bold. Malaysia needs teachers who are willing to stand up and be counted. Malaysia needs teachers who will courageously risk everything they have to teach a constantly evolving new generation. Modern teachers need to think and move out of the box.

Are you going to make a difference? Or are you going to join the rest in indifference?

Being a teacher means so much more than to just teach.

So you want to be a teacher? Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this article.

Jarod Yong is single and available but he makes very little money and he lives in the jungle. Any takers? Chicks only, mind you.

10 replies on “So You Want To Be A Teacher (Part 3)(Stories from the East)”

  1. Hi Jarod!

    Love your article, truly inspirational. Am currently looking into edu needs in Kota Marudu, Sabah. Would love to network with you on how you evolve your teaching methods, without reinventing the wheel, that is.
    Hear from you soon?


  2. fiona: Just by asking those questions, you show that you have the awareness that few posses. You can be good & you can make a difference in the lives of the children that you teach.

    It just depends on how much you are willing to give & how determined you are against the MANY disappointments you will experience once you actually become a teacher.

    Many deadwood teachers I know were once idealistic but changed after they faced more disappointments than they could handle.

    voster: The captions on the photos are NOT mine. I could not submit the photos along with the post so I emailed it to a curator. My captions would most definitely have been more witty. hahaha~~

    Low expectation & low intervention? I would say a whole load of luck.

    Izzy: If only such an award exists. hahaha~~

    I'd rather have cold hard cash that I can spend in Thailand or Indon. hahaha~~

    Anny: You are right. As long as your heart is in something that you do, it can only be done right.

  3. Like I said in your blog, loveeee your articles…you even inspire a 60-year-old man to want to be a teacher ;)

    "But one thing’s for sure, as I edge on closer to 30, I’ll have to think about family & making more money. Attitudes & habits might change."

    I hope you will keep your idealism regardless of what you will be doing but I'm sure you will do very well whatever you set your heart to do!

  4. Ok now i finished the sequel. =)

    I know these stories, mostly because i am an avid reader of your blog, or maybe because i know you in person. I am so proud of having u as my idol teacher. You might not asked or anything, but believe me, people can see your effort, n they thanked u for that. Im not surprised if one day (n in near future) you are given an award for being most inspirational novice teacher.

    Good luck, Jarod. Be happy always.

  5. Apart from the archaic use of that miserable term 'soccer', great article.

    A low expectation job is only good if there is low intervention. That your school's administrators deem it appropriate to give you free rein in many things to go with low expectations is certainly far-sighted thinking or benevolent incompetence.

  6. Now this is what i call the reality of being a teacher.Well as a matter of fact,I'm on my way of becoming one too.. still chilling in my 1st year degree.My dad was a teacher (just retired last month and yet to receive his LUXURIOUS pension,i wonder hw luxurious it will be,i seriously just knew this,my dad never tell me anything abt luxurious pension!haha) for more than 10 years and I've grew up in the same environment.And I must agree that the life was hard,eventhough the pressure is lighter than those in the city (according to my dad).The city might be convenient and has everything to satisfy one's lust,but sadly the pressure is there too.Once you messed with the wrong kid,you might deal with a lawyer!Once a kid fail to get straight A,you are to blame! Heck I've never gone through any practicum before,only SBE for once, but my dad had lectured me enough.How I should be posted to the interior and obediently teach there for few years,getting as much allowance possible,live the life in the jungle and learn the hardship before I have gathered the enough money to get married and apply for a transfer to the city.And even better if I am willing to stuck there after I got married as the life is much more simpler and of course,more allowance!So I do agree that freshly graduated teacher should be posted to the interior to teach,well for maybe at least one year!For them to really understand that being a teacher is more than just to teach.Even now in the institute,we are religiously reminded on how lucky we are to be the chosen one out of hundreds thousand that applied to get in.It's undeniable that MOST are seeing the so-called EASY life of only teaching and having a stable financial income.It's hard to meet some real teacher like you these days.Being indifference is what most teachers are now,I do hope I could be the opposite one like you by the end of the day.I know it's hard and in the meantime,I don't think I have the guts and adequate inspiration for me to be one.In God willing,in the coming years and maybe after being exposed to the world of teaching even deeper and experienced it myself, I hope I would one day.:)

  7. 19YO: I will, thank you.

    Sam: Again? Dont you do prose? I cant help but think that this is Sam's SPAM. And you know what ppl do with spam…

    Now, if only I could find the delete button…

    Adam: It means a lot to get compliments from someone who has gone through much more in life. Thank you.

    Being 60 is not an obstacle, it probably means that you have even more to give than I do. You dont have to get into teaching formally. You can make a difference by volunteering or mentoring at church or coaching a sports team. Do something simple & something you'd find great satisfaction in.

    Stamina? I'm not sure. I am a very determined & hardworking person & ppl like me are sometimes resented & oppressed in the public service. I guess time will tell.

    But one thing's for sure, as I edge on closer to 30, I'll have to think about family & making more money. Attitudes & habits might change.

  8. After reading the 3 parts of your article, I really want to be a teacher and join you in your worthy endeavour of educating our younger generations. But, I am already 60 years old and not that young like you. So how? Anyway, with your sense of humour and optimism, you would go far in your teaching career.

    At the end of this month, I am going back to my old school after 40 years to celebrate its 120th anniversary. I will be thanking at least one of my old teachers who I know for sure will also make it to this auspicious event. For those teachers who could not make it, bless them all. They really had done a mighty good job.

    The question now is, do you, young man, have the stamina and endurance to continue this noble task and profession for the next 30 or more years? I pray that you do!

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