Sunday, April 3, 2016

5 Weeks

It has been so long since I've sat down and written something to organize my thoughts and reflect. I am halfway through my teaching practicum and I thought it is appropriate to do just that.

Despite all the warnings from friends around me that teaching will not be a walk in the park, me being me, did not think much about it and just dove right in, expecting the teaching practicum to be just a tad more taxing than the contract teaching I did a year ago. Little did I know, my expectations is way off. I got myself into the practicum, mentally unprepared, with a mindset that I am still a student. Nope. That is not what teaching practicum is about. 5 weeks of slogging through day and night, stressing every hour about my backlogged lesson plans, being frustrated by students who just refused to behave as you would have them to, losing 5 kg in the process, I concluded that it is perhaps how full-time teaching is like. I find myself not being able to do things that I enjoy doing, for instance, practicing calligraphy that I have been trying to pick up. Getting the taste of what life of a teacher is like made me respect those teachers who are in the force for years. I caught myself thinking, "How do they even survive this? Can I survive this? How would it change me?"

The arduous journey made me think about my life choices. Did I seriously think that this would be something that I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life? What convinced me to pursue this career in the first place? Was it that 1.5 years ago when I made the decision, I am blind to other doors that were open to me? I do not have the answer. throughout the past week, I was questioning myself constantly, "Did I make a wrong turn?" Many a time I found myself thinking, "Would it be better if I had some 'accidents' that cause me to lose my life instead of going through this?"

Stop. Stop poisoning my mind.

Perhaps I have lost my mind, perhaps I have lost myself in the hustle and bustle of the teaching profession. I know I had to look inwards and talk to my inner self, what is it that made me happy. Scrolling through YouTube and Instagram, something caught my attention. Channels that I subscribed to, they are about crafting and cooking. Yes, I like to look at the process of making things and turning something normal to something extraordinary and beautiful, be it mouth-watering steak or beautifully crafted furniture. Yes, I like that. So, why didn't I pursue that as a career, apprentice under a master craftsman and do that for a living? It bothered me for a while. It bothered me hard. Self-doubt crept into my heart, like venom that is traveling up my bloodstream and into my heart.

Somewhere in my head, a little voice told me, 'teaching IS a craft'. It is analogous to Japanese sword making. You have to let the raw material dictate the end product. It is just like teaching. Students are our raw material. Instead of forcing them to fit into molds and standards, my job as a craftsman is to process them and refine them. Just like a katana, they flourish into a functional piece that function as what they were intended to. Just like katanas with their beautiful Hamon lines, they retain their unique grace while being a functional member of the society.

I too am like a katana being forged. The teaching practicum is my crucible, going through the last step of tempering and heat treating to ensure that I can hold my own edge. Swords that go through this process will be forever changed. Do you bend during the process and had to be discarded, or do you hold true to your shape and emerge from the crucible, a functional piece of art? Then I realized, that is the not the right question to be asked. It is a choice that I have to make. Do I choose to embrace this crucible and will it to shape me into a tool that can benefit those around me or do I let the crucible consume me and make me into a shell of my former self. I, for one, will not let myself become a zombie that moves along with my circumstances.

I will survive the crucible.

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