The students stood and walked up, one by one. Their names were called out by the MC of the event, with each and every one of them receiving a generic scroll that signifies their entrance into the bigger world as a graduate of Universiti Teknologi MARA.
Signifies. How appropriate, for it is indeed, a significant day.
I watched and observed on stage, with varying levels of concentration; it turned out to be a long session, with literally thousands of students going through the process. It was not dissimilar to last year, but all the same, I find myself struggling to truly remember each and every single face and name.
Looking through the graduation book, I remember almost all of the names almost instantaneously. A swift stroke of the pen, a simple cross along a certain point, was enough to cause consternation amongst many of them, for the deduction of marks appears to have sounded the death knell for some of them.
Being a lecturer now, I have a better understanding of how the game, how the system, works. In my student days, my concern is primarily with marks, but over time, I realised that it was not necessarily the marks with which I could make my own mark in this life.
The marks, if anything, is merely a means to an end, an end that could be loosely defined as “whatever the hell you want it to be”.
I see now that the thing that stood me in greater stead through my respective careers is not necessarily the mark I get from my own lecturers, but the knowledge garnered. This, allied with a sense of practical experience, would help to lead me to the next stage, and it is this that I hope that many students would consider.
For the teacher, the lecturer, is almost nothing.
We sit there, reading the scripts or assessing the exam answer sheets, and we give what we think is the appropriate number of marks. The key thing, however, is that what we think varies. Though standards can be set, different people seek different things to be favourable towards. For my part, for example, a slight misstep in a grammatical or spelling context is enough to dim the mood for me. This is especially when I can see the difference between an honest mistake and a work that reflects the lack of care and attention given.
We are nothing, however, because the marks we give don’t really matter. Of course, within certain contexts, such measurable standards are desirable, but ultimately, our respective lives is so much more dependant upon the kinds of attitudes and mentality that we have. Your A+ won’t help you if you can’t muster the courage to speak to people in a confident manner. That high CGPA? Throw it out if you can’t learn to adapt on the streets of this concrete jungle.
What I’m trying to say, though, is that ultimately we are all proud of what you have achieved, but we hope that the biggest thing you have learned in the course of our tutelage is the ability to stand on your own two feet and represent not only the university and us, but far more importantly, yourself with great courage.
The world out there is not necessarily one particularly pliable towards us, but it is in how we deal with it that reflects the true us. And I hope that the us reflected, the knowledge you have received, is enough to set you up so that you yourself can get to the next stage.
Though I can't claim to speak for all the teachers and lecturers in the world, I hope you know that we are ultimately nothing, that we don’t really matter within the bigger schemes, for it is now all about you. I hope that I have provided for you all enough, both inside and outside of the classroom, to go forth and conquer.
I guess what I wish to say on today, this Teacher’s Day, is thank you. There are no teachers if there are no students, so thank you for making the nothing that is us proud of who you have become. I now truly understand the saying that teachers are truly proud when the student have surpassed them.