It's been years since I've gone on one of those highly opinionated endless rants, raving at the injustice of the world. Or the education system.
But today, on Facebook no less, there was a prompt to share a memorable one-liner from our teachers.
Someone answered it, and in the comments were an endless stream of similar stories.
Belittling, horrible mean things that were PERSONAL ATTACKS to these individuals when they were kids.
Including someone who was referred to as an "Ang Moh Pai" (White person wannabe) who would never excel at the Chinese language.
(ps, said person now regularly works with suppliers and manufacturers across the China border)
All of which are basically things I've had firsthand experience of, growing up in the education system in Singapore.
My shared post became a rant that I thought deserved to be published alongside all my other rants and rails against the world.
This, but also the stories in the comments is what gets me. Being raised in the eduction system here - we all have those stories.
From being yelled at across the rooftop gym
"CHARIS NG DO YOU WANT TO BE FAT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE"
"Your parents must be so disappointed in you" /
"Girls you don't want to go to EM3 that's where are the kids from broken families go." /
"(snide scoff) and who, might I ask, has faith in - you -?"
Even, get this:
"But you must know, I am right because I am your teacher and I am older than you."
If you ask me why I deliberately went back and spent 9 years teaching in the Singapore system, it's because in a world of
" No" and
"You'll never be good enough" and
"Class, just leave him alone - he's autistic, he is always going to crawl around the classroom like an animal. Just ignore him."
I wanted every kid I ever taught to know that they're worth it, and that there's something they can be good at.
During introductions, at the start of every single one of my programs, when kids mumble their names and say they don't have a hobby and that they "have nothing to say",
The first few things I tell every single one of them is:
1) they deserve to be heard; I want to hear what they have to say
2) there's no right or wrong answer in my class.
If they wanna make Roméo & Juliette a tale about intercultural romance, or a gay love story where their parents come together to persecute them - go ahead.
And every single piece I've ever seen in all my classes over 9 years, has been successful and amazing and something they can be proud of.
My youngest sister at 8 years old, came home from school one day to tell me about à classmate who
"Isn't very blessed".
"What?!" I asked, "I'm sure she's 'blessed' in ways that are different from what you can see."
"hmm. No" she told me definitively.
"My teacher told my class that's she's just not very blessed. She comes to school and her uniform isn't ironed and her shoes are kinda dirty."
"Well maybe she's blessed with talents like art or math or..."
"No, she's not good at maths or Chinese. I mean Chinese she's okay. But my teacher (WTF RIGHT?!?!) says she's just not very blessed. She only lives with her father at home, she doesn't have a mother."
To which i had to say,
"Well, when I was your age in primary school, (our) daddy didn't live with jiejie either. I only had my mummy. Do you think I'm not blessed?"
If this is what I'll get, putting my kids into local schools, and local methodist schools at that,
Fuck you because I'd rather my kids get arrested starting protests for something they believe in, than graduate with top grades and zero humanity.
When we were in school, my best friends and I were the subject of lots of blog trolling by the disciplinary committee.
One, because lots of us were gay and if we were doomed to eternal damnation the school thought we deserved to have a taste of that damnation in our youth, whether we did well in school or not.
But also, presumably, because we wrote and had mouths on us and teenage life is the best time to teach kids the meaning of defamation and the charges they can bring.
So imagine that, whether online or offline, everything we wrote or said or even hinted at came under scrutiny. Our opinions could, and would get us into trouble.
And guys, I'm not even being dramatic here okay, because we've been hauled into discipline offices, had our parents called in, been made to take down posts - you name it.
So, now here we are.
Close to two decades after that period of time with pseudonyms and delicately phrasing what we wanted to say, or not saying it at all.
And this time,
I hope my old teachers find it. I hope it makes for a lovely weekend read for them.
Because this isn't me, being a sullen vindictive teenager trying to flame the system. This is me, the same individual, still heavily scarred by all the things that system was.
This is me saying, openly,
That every day that I woke up and went to school (on the days I fought it off lone enough to get to school) I wished desperately that a car would hit me. I crossed the road slower, I stepped off the curb too early all the time, and I cut myself up in the toilet in between classes since I was 13.
I wished so fervently that I would be either dead or stuck in a hospital, because that would be better than bring caught in their endless cycle of bullshit.
Now I have kids, until I stopped teaching, I had kids, who sit with me, trying to find the words for the intense migraine and the suicidal thoughts that play on loop in their heads -
And they ask me why.
Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it?
Perhaps that is one question they will be able to teach us all in class.
But always the same shadows that hold you back and weigh you down
At some point, after nine years of teaching and creating drama-based learning programs, after 20 years of theatre being all the things I knew myself to be,
after always finding my way back home to the stage - the most honest and real space there is-
I decided to leave.
Well, no, not leave entirely. I think about it more like a time-out.
What I did want to do was leave the teaching behind.
There are so many beautiful moments I have collected along the way, and hours of stories that I have with the most talented teenagers I know; But you can't just stay in a happy bubble all the time.
Politics aside (which was a huge push factor), I also believe that you can't stay stagnant for very long. If you're not moving forwards, you're moving backwards. I still love a lot of all the things I used to do; But I also knew that I wasn't opening myself up to different challenges that would grow me in different ways.
So I left.
And it has been a year now.
2017's SYF was my wrap up project, and here I am. Almost miles away from that life and all the things it meant.
And boy, I don't know if I knew what I was signing up for.
I mean, of course I knew. But I don't know if I really knew, d'you know what I mean?
There are all these very new and nice moments that I like, but also a lot of truth in the world of headhunting that I am coming to terms with.
Like how a desk is never really warm. It's a brilliant company, where all the desks are supposed to be warm and where you're supposed to be able to get a decent start.
I don't know if anyone knows how much that applies to the Digital Space.
If you're a digital native, reading this, you very likely get it.
If there's been a trending topic on Twitter all day, and then you check in at 6.10pm and try and hop on to that, it's already pretty cold news.
Things move incredibly quickly. But also growing up in that age has birthed startups and young companies who also function like that.
Like fluid and agile, all the time. Openly admitting that there's no point planning for anything beyond three months because those plans could and probably will change. Learning (sometimes the hard way), how to develop slightly more structured lines of communication.
How every non-micro-manager is actually a little bit of a micro-manager in their own way. Whether that works or doesn't work again depends on the environment and the team dynamic and the culture and the...
Throw in a headhunter into the mix; you're going to need someone who is patient and who wants to grow with you and the company. Who's not in it for a quick buck; because if they were they would be sorely disappointed.
I want to be that person.
And I have managed to be, for some people I'm working together with.
Things like these can move incredibly fast, but it could also... not.
Poor visibility, lack of funding...
It's going to make a lot more sense to target the massive conglomerates. The ones who you already know leverage off the help and expertise of recruitment agencies. But getting your foot in there, educating those who are behind on the digital landscape, knowing the fine line of difference there sometimes is but then having to explain that to people who don't.
Or who's online marketing plan is to set up a LinkedIn account and share posts.
I'm not tired yet. Not yet.
I'm a little bit emotional drained, only because of the realistic, number-driven, KPI-expectation side of this job.
But I believe in sowing seeds, and talking to them everyday as they take root beneath the soil and grow in place we cannot even see yet.
Surely, there will be a time and a season for harvest.