PRIORITY AND REALITY AMONG ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHERS
Most English teachers are busy individuals and at certain periods of time, they become highly occupied. The issue here concerns the hectic life of certain English teachers who have to juggle a number of duties and responsibilities at the same time. Like these days, some English teachers are also Sports House Masters, who as the Head, have to manage, oversee and take care of many issues such as house practice, selection of athletes, welfare of athletes, heat and final events, task delegation among fellow teachers, participants of the House parade and sports house decoration. At some other time, there are other events such as Speech Day, Language Month and Canteen Day which require them to shoulder certain responsibilities. On top of that, there are ongoing training sessions for co-academic competitions and extra classes that English teachers, by hook or by crook, have to handle. To add to the commitments and challenges they already have, some English teachers also have to give their time, efforts and support at district, state and national levels. They could be master trainers, module writers, external assessors or/and committee members of programmes organised by PPD/JPN/KPM.
No doubt, whatever school events or programmes organised by the district education office or state education department, the busy English teachers are not alone. They are normally assisted by other teachers. Even though this is the case, still, sometimes English teachers are breathless, stressful and chaotic due to this not so pleasing reality. In some cases, those teachers suffocate and collapse. Please do not get me wrong. I am neither complaining nor condemning anybody. I am merely highlighting a stark reality that is the "tensed periods" some English teachers have to face from time to time in their teaching career.
No doubt, their priority is actually to prepare well for their English lessons and teach effectively! Nevertheless, due to all these non-teaching commitments, teachers have to sacrifice their time for lesson preparation and sometimes, the quality of their teaching. How can English teachers handle such a situation? Here is my humble recommendation: try to apply the principle of "First Things First". This principle is one of the seven habits of highly effective people by Steven Covey. I am a staunch believer of this principle of life but I was not inspired by Steven Covey. First Things First is the motto of my first school, SMK Convent St. Cecilia, Sandakan, Sabah. As a young English teacher (posted there on 3.5.1993), I examined this principle and began to embrace it in my efforts to juggle all the responsibilities given to me.
I have been practising what is said in the above quotation. It helps. As an English teacher who is always occupied almost throughout the year, I always have a long list of priorities. During those "tensed periods", what I normally do is not only to have a list of priorities but to schedule them as best as I could. What must be done first is put as Number 1. The next urgent task to be accomplished is labelled as Number 2 and so on.
I do not deny that in reality, it is not easy to schedule my priorities especially when all are urgent matters which have to be delivered more or less on the same deadline. The three quotations below are also true. However, when and how can we make or find time? Some English teachers sacrifice their weekends. Some others use every single minute of their free periods in school. Personally, I have to spend time after school and mostly, at night at home. Work assigned by school/ PPD/ JPN continues at night for as long as my eyes, brain, emotion and back can bear. I am not trying to be boastful here but again, I am merely highlighting my reality in attempting to fulfill all the priorities of my responsibilities. I am confident I am not alone; there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of English teachers out there who are in my shoes too. Definitely, there are also English teachers, on certain demanding nights, only sleep for 2-4 hours just to deliver what are assigned to them!
To conclude, we have to remember, we are the government servants - "Yang Menurut Perintah". I know, using this reminder to fulfill our responsibilities, sometimes, may not be the best - as if we have no choice but have to do it anyway. To me, we should always fulfill our responsibilities and priorities simply because they are important to our learners, school, district, state and nation as well as for our personal and professional growth. Always be positive. Anyway, to many of us, those "tensed moments" are actually seasonal. Whatever it is, we must admit that nothing is easy in this life. Being an English teacher has its own challenges too. Therefore, to the young English teachers, when your reality is full of responsibilities and priorities, you should know what to do. Please do not be like a handful of young as well senior teachers (obviously, I am NOT saying ALL!) who have some urgent tasks to be done but they seem to be puzzled; they do not know how to prioritise. Some of them also show no sense of urgency. Perhaps, in future, they need to learn to prioritise their priorities no matter how hard their reality is.