Friday, November 6, 2009

A Retreat for Teachers?

I stumbled upon this article from NST Online on the jobs rated most stressful by Malaysians and found out that teachers rank at number 6.

120,000 job seekers from have said it.

1. Prime Minister
2. Doctors
3. Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission
4. Chief Justice
5. Stockbrokers
6. Teachers
7. Attorney General
8. Inspector General of Police
9. Pilots
10. Journalists

     Apparently 120, 000 people perceive our job as being more stressful than that of the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police, which to me is quite a surprise.

     I still remember my ex-boyfriend telling me the reasons why he wanted to have a teacher as his future wife.

"...because you people work only half-day...and you have lots of you have all the time in the world to look after me, the children, cook for me and do my you make quite good money so you can help me with the family's expenses..."

     What a complete ignorant. I left him a week later.

     Is our job stressful? I believe if I posed this question to all the teachers out there, I would definitely get a resounding, unequivocal, unanimous, thunderous, unbelievably convincing, unhesitating "YES!!!" for an answer. But why? Why should it be stressful? I have been blessed to have the opportunity to mingle and make friends with quite a number of teachers in Malaysia and some parts of the world and I can see that most, if not all of them, are truly passionate about their jobs. Some might come into this profession willingly, some by accident, some others by force, but at the end of the day, everyone agrees that no one, I repeat, no one could ever become a teacher if God has not allowed them to be. Teachers are a special group of people divinely assigned to carry out a mission that only they and they alone are capable of carrying out.

     Passion undoubtedly leads to commitment and joy, but it does not take away the stress, so it seems. So what are the causes of stress among teachers? Many studies and researches cite too much work, time pressures and deadlines, among others. Other popular causes are apparent lack of support and appreciations, responsibility for students' grades, dealing with uncooperative parents, lack of supportive working environment...the list goes on.

     Whatever the reasons for stress among teachers, those are not what I am really interested in. Today, lying on my couch with my laptop beside me, my mind wandered...I was.thinking about all the unfinished workloads before me, thinking of the future of my career, my financial (oops!) and personal obligations, my seemingly deteriorating energy and enthusiasm to carry on...and I remember thinking to myself: I should go to a retreat...

      I used to go to retreats back in college. They were religious retreats - I am not particularly religious, but I believe in God and I believe that if we continually try to seek God in our lives, we will be able to find the inner peace that is essential for us to carry on as human beings. I believe many Christians know what a retreat is. It is an event organized by a religious group where people can go to a quiet secluded place and have a quiet time with God, away from the hustle bustle of daily lives, away from all the worldly things that so occupy them all these whiles. I usually spent about two or three days, mostly on weekends for such retreats. I always returned to college refreshed, rejuvenated, motivated, ready to face the world again...

     I mention this because I think it would be lovely if teachers are to have a retreat especially for them. We do not have to call it a retreat, we can call it a 'Teachers Camp' or even 'Relaxing Seminar' or whatever name you want to call it. However, it would not be the same as any other camps or courses or seminars that we used to have where we still talk about workloads, responsibilities and things that occupy us in school. During a religious retreat, the participants would be concentrating on praying; but in this Teachers' Retreat, the teachers would be focusing on themselves, their inner well-being, their stress level. They would go to a quiet, secluded (and beautiful) place and try to relax. Oftentimes people think they are relaxing, but they do not feel relaxed at all! Why? Because, in my humble opinion, they are doing it the wrong way. By relaxing I do not mean a social gathering for people to gather and 'have a blast', if you know what I mean. And I do not exactly mean just lying down and sleeping.

     The best way to relax is to be quiet. It is as simple as that.

     Teachers would spend the time in quietness; not total silence, they can still talk; but what I mean by quiet is not the quietness in talking. Rather it is the quietness in the mind. Talks about workloads or deadlines are strictly prohibited. The teachers would only be focusing on trying to re-motivate themselves, try to dig deep down and uncover the buried passions within...try to reconnect with what it is that makes them so into the teaching profession in the first place.

     Suggestions of activities during the Teachers Retreat (or Teachers Camp or Relaxing Seminar):
  • Sharing of inspiring teaching experiences among participants
  • Motivational talks
  • Watching inspiring movies on teaching, like the Ron Clark Story for example
  • Singing songs
  • Playing games
  • Journal writing
  • Counselling
     Just my two-cents worth. What do you think?

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