A Matter of Professionalism

I would be the last person to talk about professionalism in teaching.

But when I watched the videos featuring 'cikgu' Shida on Youtube, I could not help but ask 'Is it really necessary to go to such length?". Heck, I cannot even bring myself to embed any of the videos here on my blog. For those who have never even harked about her prior, cikgu Norshida Abd Aziz, prevalently known as Cikgu Shida, is an English teacher at Sekolah Rendah Pulau Padang, Bota, Perak. She is an overnight Youtube sensation for her multiple videos miming and lip-syncing songs by popular local and international artists. In one of her interviews on one national TV channel, she revealed that one of the drives propelling the creation of the videos was as a means to attract students' attention and foster interests in music subject, something that she was made to teach in the school despite her having no academic background of it. 

The pivotal question is, how will it affect the professionalism in teaching?

Although the only teaching experience that I have had so far is from my three-month practicum stint, I can say that the experience sufficiently qualifies me to assess teaching as a daunting and both mentally and physically draining profession. As if teaching the students coming from different socio-economic backgrounds and having various learning abilities and paces is not challenging enough, teachers in school are also bogged down with countless administrative work and perpetual co-curricular activities throughout the year. Yet, despite all these, teachers are expected to remain dedicated and devoted to their core business in schools - to teach. 

Getting the students to sit and listen for at least forty minutes in class has been one of the most challenging parts in the teaching profession. Many scholars believe that one of the first steps towards students' positive engagement in classroom activities is by making the teacher's characters likable to the students. Perhaps, this is where the ideas of the videos stem from. Nevertheless, publishing the videos on public video-sharing website is simply out of the question (and line). Cikgu Shida might have never intended it for public viewing in the first place (as some have stated that she uploads the videos for her students), but it has obviously reached out to the publics. 

And now that it has, we must ask ourselves "How will the publics now view the teaching profession?".

Years ago, as cliche as it might sound, teaching was a highly respectable profession. The mass society regarded the profession with complete reverence, as they could see the need for education to better their standard of living and to foster moral conducts among the young. The teachers were always seen as role models to the students, and the teachers were proud to display just how much the right role models they were, as expected by the society. All these could have been the very reasons why notorious and malignant cases involving students were unheard of at that time. The students revered the teachers because the parents did too with utter conviction and without questions, and this was down to the fact that the teachers's general demeanors were admirable and they set the best and worth emulating examples.

Fast forward twenty years later, pretty much everything has happened in schools, expected and beyond.

I am not going to rant on every malevolent case in schools, but I would like to share my perspective on the situation of cikgu Shida. The process is simple: she puts recorder/webcam before her, lip-syncs some songs, uploads the videos on Youtube, the students watch it, and they have a good laugh. And my question is, where do we go from here? What do we do after having a good laugh, seeing our teacher making a show out of herself on the world's most popular video-sharing website? And to think that she's teaching the primary kids, the jewels and foundation of our nation. The ones who will grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow. Is this precisely what we want them to see and emulate? If teachers, the ones who are supposed to be looked up to apart from their parents, are behaving in such a way, can we blame them if they grow up believing that recording yourself singing and making a fool out of yourself and uploading the videos on the internet is perfectly normal and acceptable? 

What's wrong with performing or singing in front of your students in music rooms and keep it perfectly academic and private there? That you can just leave everything in the music rooms once the class ends?

Cikgu Shida, in her defense, might be saying that it is for pure enjoyment, both for the students and for herself,  but she has, consciously or otherwise,  put the professionalism in teaching in severe jeopardy. She, as a professional government servant (the moment she took the oath as a teacher), should know better than anyone else, that we abide by certain codes of ethics that reflect  and carry the good name of this one of the oldest professions in the history of mankind. Again, in her defense, she might be saying that this is to build good rapport with the students, but then again, any average educator can tell you  that there should be a clear line between teachers and students to ensure that the students will maintain a certain level of reverence to the teachers, regardless how closely attached they might be to one another. In her defense, she might be saying that the orthodox ways of teaching are no longer efficient and effective, but there are many teachers out there who have never been on Youtube, but their former students keep coming back and saying "Terima Kasih, Cikgu", as the ultimate sign of reverence for a teacher, for their never-ending belief in the ability of the students to achieve, more than they thought they could do. 

If age is an indication, then naturally I can devise far more engaging and least orthodox teaching approaches integrating the most recent technology out there, since I am more widely exposed to the technology, and the fact that I am closer to the students, in terms of age gap, but I still believe in the power of upholding a positive and admirable facade as a teacher. 

Yes, I'm calling it a facade.

For I am well aware that each person has a different side, and teachers are no exception to that. Teachers are neither gods nor goddesses. Outside the school hours, they would love to loosen up. They would love to go for a movie. they would love to go out and have a go at a song or two. Like everyone else out there, they would love to do just about everything. But  the key to this is that, this life should be kept private. And once teachers step into the school compound, (and out of duty as educators) they should feel obliged to pull out the best facade up the sleeves, in hope that the students will have the best characters in front of them that they can model themselves after. It doesn't mean that teachers should be fearsome and punchline-proof. Teachers should be authoritative, not authoritarian. Teachers should be lenient, not rigid. And how in this leniency, students will find the greatest respect for and affection towards the teachers.

I remember one time during my practicum days, my students were literally dozing off soundly when I stepped into the classroom around 1pm. It was hilarious at the fact that before I entered the classroom, the previous teacher wished me "good luck". Then I knew what it was supposed to mean. I could have scolded them, I could have asked them to stand on their chairs until the last bell rang, I could have done so many typical, burnout teachers would do. But I didn't. It was well in my knowledge that the students were beyond exhausted after a long day in school, and it didn't help either the fact that it was during fasting month. Instead, I made a deal with the students. I told them that they could listen to and sing along with all my English songs in my phone, if they promised to copy down everything that I would write on the board. 

All of them were immediately wide awake, copying everything down while singing along to the songs played.
It was one of the best days during my stint as a practicum English teacher.

On numerous occasions, I allowed my students to list down several songs that they would like to sing in class, but the final verdict would be in my hand. I would make sure the songs chosen were not only enjoyable, but also contained good lyrics and language components that I could teach. In those three months, the students and I sang numerous songs from several artists including Michael Jackson, Simple Plan, Justine Bieber and even the theme song of the famous cartoon, Bob the Builder. The students enjoyed the lesson so very much, but as much as the success of the lessons flattered me, I knew I should leave everything in the classroom and that I should remain respectable to the students with certain level of connectedness.  

You see, I am not anti-changing in teaching, but I believe certain traits and comportments closely linked to the profession should remain intact and uncompromisable to ensure that the teaching profession will again achieve the pinnacle it once enjoyed. 

It deeply saddens me upon reading what cikgu Shida has written on her Facebook page, which goes to say "Pedulikan apa orang nak kata! Kau boleh?". Imagine what a mess this world would be if everyone lost their judgement and were as free to do just about everything without foreseeing the repercussion it could inflict upon the society. In fact, I presume those two lines represent the attitude of the young today, and how ignorant they are towards the consequences of their actions. It saddens me to the fact that, she's not just another lady on the street. She's not uneducated. She's a respectable woman. She's a teacher. If she had written her name as "Shida" or "Singing Shida", then I would not have minded. But what is written starts with a dignified title, and certain social roles and moral conducts are  immediately expected to shine from you the moment people say it. I hope she would soon realize that it's not just another honour. 

It comes with great responsibilities.

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Ibrahim Ismail said...


Aziz said...

I'm glad you like it :D

p/s: I have decided to remove her picture. It's too much to bear. Hehe

Iliana said...

i agree to just agree. :)

Aziz said...

Thanks, Iliana :)
I'm glad people can accept how I view this matter.

Izza Hana said...

teaching is a noble profession bcoz u have to sacrifice the wild person in u