How do we respond when a child comes home with a poor test grade?
It's definitely easy to quickly call out a child for being "lazy" or "stupid" when he or she didn't do well at school.
However, a little encouragement can go a long way, especially when there is a heavy emphasis on performance and achievement nowadays.
Realising this, a teacher reached out to a student who failed his exam recently with words of motivation.
Najihah Rahman took to Facebook to share what happened recently when she returned an exam paper to a Year 4 student, who was in the last class.
"Note that they are in the last class. Being in the last class doesn't indicate that each and every one of them is 'useless', 'stupid' or 'misbehaving'," she said.
"Well, there is quite a percentage of that category but let's not elaborate. Let's emphasise on how well they behave as compared to the ones in the first class."
She explained that this one particular boy was absent a day before when she returned the papers to the rest of the students in the class.
The boy walked towards Najihah to claim his paper and whispered softly, "Teacher, berapa saya dapat markah?" (Teacher, how many marks did I get?)
Najihah replied, "Oh, semalam tak datang kan. Ini kertas awak. Dapat 26." (Oh, you were absent yesterday. Here's your paper. You got 26.)
She immediately noticed that there was a smile on his face and his cheeks were "rosy red".
When he knew his results, the boy asked his teacher if his marks was the lowest in the class. He made sure he kept his voice down so that his friends in the classroom will not hear him.
"Surprisingly not! Bagus sebenarnya. Teacher puas hati sebab awak usaha sampai dapat banyak ni. Awak ni dalam kategori LINUS (Literacy and Numeracy Screening, is a programme for those who need extra help and guidance), tapi teacher bangga sebab awak dapat lagi tinggi daripada orang yang tak LINUS," Najihah told him. (Surprisingly not! It's good actually. I'm satisfied because you've worked hard to get this much. You're in the LINUS programme but I'm proud that you've achieved much higher than those who're not in this programme.)
The kid was happy when he heard those words from his teacher
"He was overjoyed. My words flattered him. He took the paper, covered his face, turned around for a few times while whispering, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'," Najihah said.
Then she asked the student, "Tahu tak kenapa awak boleh berjaya?" (Do you know why you can succeed?)
"Sebab teacher ajar...," the boy replied. (Because you taught me...)
"Bukan sebab tu semata-mata. Sebab awak ni tak pernah buat teacher sakit hati. Walaupun awak lambat sikit daripada orang lain, awak rajin. Kerja sekolah selalu buat. Dalam kelas kerja siap. Jumpa teacher muka selalu senyum. Selalu bagi salam, selalu tolong angkat barang," she told the boy. (That's not all. Because you've never made me brokenhearted. Even if you're a little slower than others, you're hardworking. You've always finished your homework and classwork. You smile when you meet your teacher. Always greeting teachers, and often offer to help to carry things.)
She went on to tell him that she was proud of him for his great attitude and character. Even if others think that he is a failure for only getting 26% for his exam, she is still proud of this good student of hers.
Instead of belittling or scolding the student, Najihah chose to reaffirm the boy's positive attributes and that made his day!
"Terima kasih, teacher. Tak pernah dapat banyak ni," he told Najihah. (Thank you, teacher. I've never gotten such high marks.)
"Ya ke? Kira banyak sangat ni peningkatan. Tahniah. Nanti teacher bagi hadiah okay?" she replied. (Really? You've shown such great improvements. Congratulations. I'll give you a present later, okay?)
"Boleh bawa balik tunjuk kat mak?" (Can I bring this home to show my mother?)
"Boleh." (Of course.)
Najihah said that the boy walked away, smiling.
She went on to say that teachers should focus on nurturing students and building their character
"Nowadays, we are lacking good akhlak (character) among our kids. Poor akhlak. Rude, boastful, lazy, and the list goes on."
"There is a large number of teachers who are depressed, losing interest to teach because of these bad behaviours. Trust me. Fix the akhlak. Everything will fall into its place," she said.
Today, teachers themselves are under tremendous pressure as they are expected to meet academic goals through their students, otherwise, they are deemed as failures too. But Najihah has urged her fellow colleagues not to give up and look at the positives.
"Teachers, even if the kids still could not reach the target, let's not hate them. Praise and celebrate their hard work. Learning a language requires years of practice. Not a month."