Until recently, I have never considered becoming a teacher.
I guess this was partly because I have always been terrible at teaching. Whenever I tried teaching my classmates, instead of clearing things up, I would leave them even more confused.
I was not like other people who could explain things very well. Because of this, I felt that the ability to teach was something innate—you either have it or you don’t.
I have also considered myself as someone who did not have the patience to endure the process of teaching. To add to that, I have always feared teaching because of how demanding it could get.
Let’s face it. Teaching is a very tedious process which requires tons of effort, time and skill. From a student’s perspective, I have seen many of my teachers who have become jaded after many difficult years of dealing with troublesome students, difficult tasks, nagging parents, etc. The list goes on and on.
For most of my life, this was how I felt about teaching. I not only disliked the idea, I was also unwilling to try it.
I was sure I would not change my perspective. After all, I was completely content with myself and with my life.
However, all of a sudden, my life took an unexpected turn. My outlook changed completely.
It all started when a friend, Trevor Yu, invited me to volunteer as teacher for the Cribs Foundation, a place which houses children who have been neglected and abused.
At first, I turned down the offer. However, he would not take no for an answer and after much persistence, he finally convinced me to join.
Distant and reticent
Our first day in the foundation was nothing special. We just taught some kids basic math such as subtraction and multiplication.
The children were quite distant from us. They were reticent and barely uttered a few words whenever we asked them questions. We tried to engage them in conversation but to no avail.
Somehow I felt that this volunteer experience would turn out to be waste of time.
In the first few weeks, I considered teaching in the foundation as a chore, something I didn’t want to do, but which I was obliged to do.
I felt that instead of spending four hours a week in volunteer work, I could’ve just used the time to chill, hang out with friends or do productive things such as homework or being active in my school clubs and committees.
On the fourth week, however, I started to notice a subtle change in my students. They were becoming more focused, more active and less reserved.
Quite surprisingly, most of them started to participate more wholeheartedly and weren’t afraid to ask questions.
One by one, these students started to open up to us, sharing their stories and laughing at our jokes.
What struck me was that they eagerly said their thank you’s and goodbye’s when we were about to leave.
From their gentle and playful smiles, I could see that they were really eager to learn more from us in the coming weeks.
As I continued my volunteer work in the Cribs Foundation, I felt that my relationship with the students was developing and getting stronger.
I also sensed that I myself have become more enthusiastic. I used to let out a sigh of anguish whenever I did volunteer work, but now, I was more eager to visit the students, even making my lesson plans in advance and bringing candies and snacks for them.
As my students and I grew closer, I started to see something I hadn’t seen before; I was deeply touched by my students’ enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.
It’s really amazing how these students value their education. I noticed that they found joy in even the most simple things, such as memorizing the multiplication table or learning how to write the Roman numerals.
From casual conversations with my students, I’ve learned about their personal ambitions, which made me realize why they are so driven to improve in their studies.
Although I’ve taught my students a lot, I’ve also had the chance to grow as a person and learn from this endeavor.
Teaching at Cribs has taught me the value of education, that it is a gift that can shape the lives of people because it enriches not only their knowledge, but also their personal character.
Teaching others can bring about a sense of self-fulfillment because through education, one can contribute to other people’s growth and development.
Sharing one’s time and skills for the betterment of others can inspire others to pursue their dreams and work to the best of their abilities.
Teaching in Cribs has made me realize that I actually matter to someone out there.
By simply showing up every week to teach, I could make the orphans happy and make them feel special, which is what they’ve always wanted.
I’ll admit that I joined the Cribs Foundation for the wrong, selfish reasons, but because of what I have experienced along the way and what I have seen, I believe that I have stayed for the right ones.