Sunday, January 4, 2015

At the End of Everything #25

“Teacher, what’s the Lord of the Class?” A few students asked, when the they saw the words written in capital letters. It was the beginning of a new term, and after outlining my plans to the principal, I got the permission to implement it. I was lucky as he did not decide to go through my head of department first, probably because he thought that I had already told her. The ease of his approval caught me off guard too.

Back in the class, I looked at my students, who faces were curiously waiting for my answer. I smiled proudly to them. “Well class, you’re in luck. Because this term, we are going to try something new to make class more fun.”

“Not again,” I could hear some of them groan. Their faces looked bored, uninterested. It was not something that I blame them though, because this was definitely not the first time they were hearing something like this. Adults have been trying for a long time to get children to be interested in education, but one of the major problems was that the programmes were made from an adult perspective, not the students. And that was exactly what I was hoping to change. To see the world from a child’s view again.

Motioning to the board, I told my students that the new term was going to be different. This term, the whole class would be embarking on a quest. A quest to become the Lord of the Class.  

“But teacher, you still haven’t tell us what is the Lord of the Class,” a small voice chimed from behind. 

“Aha,” I pointed to Tim, the boy who asked the question. “I was just about to begin.” I took a few steps into the center of the class, and turned around to look at the students. Making sure that all of the students’ eyes were on me, I imitated the best narrator voice that I could, and began.

“Greetings fellow students, and welcome to the world of 2NA4. I’m afraid that you have come at a very bad time, because right now, our world is facing very grave threat.” Some students sniggered at my expressions and voice, while others gave a confused look. It was during times like this that I was glad that I took up acting classes before.

I jumped to the front of the class to give it a dramatic effect, without breaking eye contact with them. “A threat so huge that it requires all of your power to fight it. But the path would not be easy, because to fight this threat, you would need to prepare yourselves. You would need weapons, armor, items, and most importantly, knowledge.” I ended my sentence in a whisper, and let the sentence linger. I could see that I got my students attention by now, as they were all listening closely, their eyes wide with curiosity. This was the first time that they looked so immersed in class.

I continued my narration. “However, all of you would start as Level 1 freshmen, and you all would need to train your character, and to level it up. Before you could finish your quest. To do that, you will need to do different quests from me and the other teachers to gain experience points, and you will use the experience points to level up. Each level gain gives you bonus stats and powers, which will be revealed later.”

I drew up a big arrow that pointed from 1 to 10 on the board. “And when you reach level 10, you can each choose four different classes that is available,” I circled the number 10, then drew four smaller arrows coming down from it. “The different classes will enable you to have different perks in class. Teacher’s Pet class, for example, has a skill that will allow you to know one exam question that will be coming out next week, while the Socialite class allows you to form study groups with other Socialites under the supervision of the teacher, which is me in this case.”

Only the sound of the fan spinning filled the room right now, and in my years of teaching, I have never gotten a class to such quietness before. “But of course, more details will be revealed soon. Today is only the the teaser trailer. And by the end of this term, you all will need the knowledge that you have gathered to defeat this evil, called the Earworm of Xeonolith Alien Moon, also known as EXAM.”  

Some students bursted of laughing when they heard the name. “Do not laugh!” I quickly interjected, waving my hands at them, “Because this is of a grave matter indeed. And by the end of all this, the person who scored the highest points in the EXAM fight, shall claim the prize that monster has been guarding.” I let my sentence hang midair to increase the suspense, before taking out a box from below of my desk. A newly packaged Xbox One. Gasps echoed around the class.

“Sorry, I know some of you might be PS4 fans, but my budget was only limited to one,” I tried to apologize, but it seemed that there was no need for it. The spell had been cast. I could see the look of excitement in my students’ eyes. They were estatic. 

For the next few weeks, I saw a change in most of the students. They would come and ask me questions, were more eager to turn in their work and seemed more engaged in class. And as the system goes, I would award them experience points every time they accomplished a task. Be it a homework, answering a question in class or helping the janitor auntie with her work. Their eyes glowed every time their experience bar went up.

It was amazing to see how a simple reward system and a story could affect them that much. These students needed a reason to study, and they needed recognition for their efforts. Give them all that and the change in their attitude was instantaneous. It would seem that we were too caught up in the traditional and conventional exams thinking to make an improvement to the system. The world has changed so much since then ancient Chinese exams, but still the core remained the same. Grilling and repetition. 

Granted, some may question my methods, but I thought that if parents rewarded their children for doing well in school, why shouldn’t the educators do so too? Of course, there may be a need to study the implementation of the entire project, but at least for that moment in time, my little experiment seemed to be working. But amidst all that, I commited a single biggest mistake. I forgot about Miss Tan.

Back in her office, I tried my best to explain to MIss Tan, and asked for a chance to prove myself. It was for the good of the students and the future of education, I pleaded. She would have none of it. She went on to a long lecture about it not being able to work and how even if it did, parents would probably not agree to it. “Parents would be outraged when they find out we’re playing some sort of game in class.”

“But it is not a game,” I protested, but was immediately shown a hand to my face.

“I want this to stop, immediately.” She waved her hands at me, and motioned me to the door. The argument was over.

I did not want to give up though. Thinking of how the past few weeks have been, I wanted to fight for the project. “But Miss Tan, the students love it, I’ve never seen them so happy in class before, we could at least...” 

“Enough of this nonsense!” She raised her head and glared at me. Her eyes were cold, dark and emotionless. And then she shouted at me. “I have worked here longer than you, I have been a teacher longer than you, and I know what is best for the students! And I am your head of department and you should listen to whatever I have to say! How dare you went behind my back and directly to the principal. I want the class to stay the way it is and that is final!.” She was standing on her feet now, breathing heavily. Her cheeks were  flushed red with anger. Only the air-conditioner continued to hum monotonously in the room.

I looked at her, unsure of what to say, or how to reply. I felt lost, dejected. This was not an argument that I could win. I thought of all my students, of what I should tell them when Monday comes. That something they loved so much had to be put to a stop just because a lady in her office did not like it. 

Defeated, I walked slowly out of her room, with all my energy gone. My mood was definitely spoiled for the day. The thought of suddenly returning to home alone on a Friday night seemed terribly miserable. And the last thing I wanted to do on a weekend night was to mope. 

Sharry’s earlier message came into my mind. I took out my phone, and typed out a reply. “Yes, I would love to come over,” and slid my phone back into my pocket.

And she sent back a reply with an okay in it, followed by a smiley. At least I was going to get laid with an English woman tonight, I thought to myself.

*****

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