Its time to celebrate our third parent.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

A great teacher has the power to transform the trajectory of your life. I slugged through school thinking I was never going to make it in life, constantly failing my maths subjects.

If my English teacher in primary 3 didn’t catch that I was a good speaker and made me enroll in story telling competitions, I don’t think I would have knew that I was comfortable speaking in public. I thought I was just a naughty girl in school that could’t stop chatting.

If my teacher in Form 2 (Ms Victoria) didn’t bring me to a debating competition, I would have not known that speaking well was a skill. (I didn’t join debating though, it wasn’t a thing in SMK St Columba). Ms Vic, you gave me the confidence and the determination to accept that I didn’t have to score straight A’s to be a good person.

If my English teacher in senior year, Ms Libby didn’t introduce me to literature and poetry, I don’t think I would have the courage to take up World Literature as a minor for my undergraduate.

If my lecturers in Sunway Uni, (Dr Malissa and Ms Yati) never told me to go and grab my dreams, I would never have changed my major from Psychology and I would never have fallen in love with what I decided to go into, Communications. (Its not just Mass Comm ok)

Mainly, the 2 most important women in my life are teachers. The work and the impact that I see  my grandmother has made in the lives of her students is astounding. To the point where she now has 8 grandchildren and STILL people refer to her as Cikgu.

The lives that my mother has changed over the years, making strides in the education for special needs children in Malaysia is humbling. Seeing my mother fight for her the rights of her students with the corrupted officials who give 1001 reasons and delaying what should be the rights of students. The Malaysians that we don’t want to think about, teachers who willingly go into schools to educate and be advocates for our children with special needs are truly heroes.

I truly don’t think that I would have an interest in social justice, specifically education without the influence of teachers in my life. When Li Ying interviewed me about my motivations to be a part of Teach For Malaysia even just as a teacher, everything that I researched into “How to speak in an interview” went out the window. I just talked about my mother. I talked about how I realize education is the key to success and while we sit in mamaks and lament about society is apathetic and how we are losing faith in humanity (I roll my eyes so hard when I hear a dudebro says that) I realize that there ARE avenues for us to give back. Its only either we want to grab the tools that are provided or not.

There are a lot of powerful women that has impacted my life, and the path that I’m going down now. It saddens me that society doesn’t see teachers that way, it’s insulting to see people see teaching as last resort for a job.

So today,

today is for the teachers who don’t give up,

today is for the teachers who go into places that nobody wants to go,

today is for the teachers who left their cushy jobs to go into teaching,

today is for the teachers that never gave up on their students,

today is for the teachers that open their home to their students,

today is for the teachers who become co-parents to hundreds of students every school year,

today is for the teachers who opened their hearts and don’t receive enough recognition on how much emotional labor they’ve put in to raise the next generation of Malaysia’s leaders.

So today is for my mother,

for my grandmother,

and the teachers that transforms our lives.

Selamat Hari Guru, semua.

Malaysia needs our collective effort to improve. Shameless plug but Teach For Malaysia IS working towards it but we can’t do it without you. Apply or donate at http://teachformalaysia.org/
 
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What actually is GWS 

Some people have approached me to explain in detail about what I study. So here goes. Hope it’s sufficient. 😊
Gender and Women Studies is an interdisplicinary program offered in many universities. Interdisplicinary means my coursework and professors comprises from multiple departments such as history/philosophy/economics/English/sociology/psychology/law/political science/biology. 
Even though there is the name of women’s studies, we study everyone. But of course the discourse of women is the main subject since in general, we already have sufficient knowledge of men. There is a joke among us, “men’s studies….you mean history?” 🙂 
Part of the requirements for me to complete my degree is to do an internship. So I chose to intern at my university’s sexual assault awareness center. My job is to give talks, create campus violence awareness events and when required, help students who are victims of sexual assault or violence. Part of the projects that we have done are Theatre For Community, where we put on theatre fundraising shows to the city’s community. 
Now with a GWS degree, nak kerja apa sebernanya? In Malaysia, takde kot. Alhamdulillah my parents were understanding when I told I wanted to add GWS as my second major. My primary major when I started my degree is communications. So GWS is more for me to be aware, as in the future I’m interested to work with empowering women and children 😊 and I can’t do that without proper background knowledge now, can I? 

Why I am a GWS major.

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I often get asked why do I study what I study.

I’m a double major in Communications, which is pretty common; and Gender and Women’s Studies, which when I tell people about it, the common response I get would be something like “What… There’s a course for that?” Yes, yes there is. #GWSMajorandproud

Now what exactly do I study? GWS is an interdisciplinary course whereby the courses that I’m required to partake would have to be from multiple departments such as Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, English, History, Political Science and yes, even Science. Being an arts major in Malaysia already grants you a “fail” in some parents’ eyes, can you imagine their reaction if you were a GWS major?

Often times I reevaluate my choice of adding GWS as a major. Why do I need to study Women’s Studies? Why do I need to study women’s history? Women’s lit? or science from the perspective of a woman? Aren’t women already featured in normal history classes? See the problem is, the discourses of history books have been told exclusively by the privileged gender: men. Gender studies is not an alternative, but an expansion of traditional historical study in which women are given a voice.

There was a point in my life where I thought I wanted to major in English, literature especially. Then one day I realised that there is a huge disparity in the spectrum of authors that are normally taught to students. Everyone knows Shakespeare and J.D. Salinger but not enough knows Jane Austen or Maya Angelou.

The first chapter of my LGBT Studies class talked about WHY there was a need to examine LGBT history, and we talked about how there is actually, NO history to be studied if this course wasn’t created because you just cannot find representation anywhere.

Representation.

Representation is why I’m a GWS major.

Representation is why I want to fight this fight.

Representation is why I will continue to push for more people to take up Gender Studies courses (even as a general education subject) to create more awareness of social issues.