Rote Series: This is the Day that I Cried

Kristia Davina Sianipar 12 Oktober 2012


During training, a friend bluntly asked me, “Have you ever cried?” Of course I have. I cried when I first got out of my mom’s womb! But I guess I have that façade of certain coldness. True enough, I would hate it to cry in front of people.

Yet I cried in front of a bunch of ten to twelve year old kids, my fifth grade students.

 It was a normal day like any other. My kids would scream, jump around, and make each other cry. I would hear them reporting their friends for hitting them. And as often had been done, most of them would not turn in their homework.

Perhaps it was not such a normal day, either. I had been pressurized by the people at home, fellow teachers, even my predecessor, that you can’t face the kids without harsh punishments. These kids are used to beatings and hard methods. “You can’t be soft,” they told me. I can’t hit kids. I avoid giving punishments.

But there I was, facing a class of a rowdy bunch, who had not turned in their homework for two weeks now. It seemed what people had been telling me was right. I should be harsh. So I told my class, “I have prepared for you gifts, lots of gifts, from Kupang. I thought of you when I bought them. But it had been two weeks since I’ve been back from Kupang, and I had not been able to give you any of these gifts because most of you haven’t turned in your homework or behaving well in class.”

Then I asked them my ultimate question, “Do you want me to give you punishments?”

Out my expectation, the whole class chorused, “Yes!”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Pukul, Ibu! Tempeleng, Ibu! Tugas menyalin!”

That was the moment my heart broke. In my bag I had brought lots of snacks I bought in Kupang during the Lebaran holiday. I had bought for them little erasers shaped in flowers, cakes, football shoes, football shirts, and balls. Things I knew they would like. And here they were, asking for punishments when I had prepared for them goodies to share.

“Fine,” I said. “Fine. I’ll give you punishments” I think that was the moment when my voice cracked and tears, out of my control, started rolling down my cheeks. You can imagine how my shocked my kids were. But I was even more shocked at how I reacted to the whole thing. I ran to the classroom next door (that was, thank goodness, empty), trying to pull myself together, went back to my classroom and dismissed the class.

I was alone at school. I did work for an hour, then sat down on the porch for half an hour, looking at the coconut trees swaying, just swaying, the vast blue sky, the yellowish green savannah. And I picked up my phone and called my predecessor. “I heard you had cried before too. How was it?” I asked him.

At that time, I understood a little how God must have felt. It so happened that at that time I was reading the book of Deuteronomy, just a bunch of laws and statutes God gave to the Israelites. None of the statues seemed to be unreasonable or harsh. With a list of laws and statutes, God also gave a promise of good things if they were to follow them, and curses if they were to break those laws and statutes. The Lord said that He had for them all the good plans. Yet, the Israelites would time and time again break those laws and asking for punishments. Like how the Jews cried out, “Let His blood be upon us and our children” as they demanded the crucifixion of Christ.

Today I saw my children behaving the same way. How hard is it to ask them to submit their homework on time, or even after I gave them a one-week leeway? How unreasonable is it to ask them to pay attention to the knowledge that they themselves need? How difficult is it to behave well to their friends? And I have in store for them all the snacks and little gifts, and they were asking for punishments?

Now I knew a little how God must have felt.

Btw, do you know what I brought to the class the next day? Two posters: “Mata Tuhan Melihat” (“God sees”) and “Apakah Tuhan Allah ingin aku seperti ini?” (Does God want me to be like this?). And I started lecturing them on infinity, the universe, heaven, earth, and those philosopical things that I only started thinking about in my teens -- I don't know if my students got what I was trying to impart to them, but I hope a little of what I've shared would remain deep in their memories.

The task of the teacher, now I realize, is not only in filling up their heads with knowledge, but also their hearts with morals and characters. 

My, teaching is a job that requires humongous heart.


Rote Ndao,

Friday, 12 October 2012


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