Coming into the role as a Community Centre Manager for 1Petaling Centre in Kuala Lumpur (KL) I was very very ambitious. I remember during the interview, the Head of the Education department asked me, “what are the challenges that you think you will face in this position?”. My immediate response was, “this is KL! Of course people speak English here, right??”. Now that I think about it, I was really “too young, too dumb to realize” (Bruno Mars, 2012).
I totally underestimated the role, my position, and what the work it entails. Not only do my students not speak English but there were other challenges I faced too. I had to wear so many hats sometimes! My students come from a variety of backgrounds; different races, different faiths, different socio-economic background, you name it. I had to learn so much about my community; understand them better in order to serve them justly, and most importantly build a trusting relationship in order for us to equally benefit from each other.
To say that I was clueless is an understatement. It was embarrassing! I struggled so much. I was a mess, all over the place, confused, unorganized, overwhelmed, and was even doubting my English degree! What was I doing during my undergraduate years??
However, after one year of teaching and serving this community and much help, motivation, and support from the HQ team, I am so proud of myself for sticking through the entire program! (I admit, there were times where I really wanted to quit!). I figured that I would do myself such great injustice as well as my students. What message would I be sending if I would just drop everything and leave when I was not doing well? Isn’t that the point of teachers? To be community leader, to set a good example, to be role models! As they say, no pressure no diamonds. And I was definitely set to be one precious gem!
Not only did I polish my skills, found even greater potentials that I never even thought I would have (speaking and training 70 students in a single workshop, anyone?), and manage to give my students knowledge that they will definitely benefit from for future use, but I also have built this community that enjoys learning, enjoys coming to class, and is always excited to learn new things that I have to give and share.
It wasn’t easy, it came with literally a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it was surely worth it! My student call me every other day to ask me about my day, tell me their hopes and plans for the future, and still even ask me to help check their resumes and proposals for the next venture in their lives (I had a student ask me to help him strike a conversation with a girl!). And I am so glad for being given the chance to be a part of that! Like my former volunteer, Yassin, told me, “you will be their Teacher Almaz forever”, and I think that that is a pretty cool title to live by.
Written by former CCM of Berjaya Land Berhad 1Petaling Community Centre, Nur Almaz.