All her students call her Teacher Julia, but her full name is Julia Susan Paul (36 y.o). She has been teaching in NTA*-supported refugee school for seven years. According to Teacher Julia before teaching here, she was a teacher for two Malaysian kindergartens in Alor Star, Kedah. She was introduced and invited to work for NTA by Teacher Marianne, the NTA headmaster.
Teacher Julia, who is also a mother of three children, teaches pre-school classes (age 4 – 6 students). The subjects that she currently teaches are English and Bahasa Malaysian. Speaking about her experience teaching refugee children, the most difficult task is ensuring the children understand and follow instructions. “Maintaining a quiet class is a struggle in my teaching experience as students love to play around,” she added.
However, teaching children at pre-school also gives her the greatest joy by only watching the students having fun during class activities. “Their cute facial expressions and the amount of joy they get during activities are indeed heart-catching. For me, these children are like the lost sheep that the Lord looked out for in the Bible. They need guidance, care, love, and most importantly education for them to survive in this world” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Malaysia in March 2020, it has made a tremendous impact on Julia’s daily life when her school has been shut until now. She was also pregnant and had to spend more time at home. Julia said, “it was stressful for me and my family as there were very tight restrictions during the MCO (Movement Control Order).” But she has adapted to the new norms and with generosity of The NTA’s school board, she still received the monthly salary to meet all the daily expenses during this difficult time. At the second week of December 2020, when all restrictions have been released in Alor Star, NTA, and JRS Malaysia with the support of the education specialist of JRS Asia Pacific managed to have 4 days of online teacher training to prepare for school reopening in 2021. Julia attended all four days trainings comprising three main topics; education in emergency, social emotional learning (SEL), and behaviour management and child protection. On the last day of the training, she reflected “the training is really useful for her to know and understand the mind and emotion of students.”
As the refugee school will resume in 2021, Julia intends to implement new approaches from the training in her teaching. “Making a real and good conversation, taking my time to observe and know about the condition of every kid, that’s would be my new goal from now on,” Julia said. She believes that every child should be free to speak up about their problems as the problems vary among them. At the end of this conversation, Julia said “My only goal as a teacher is to see all my students succeed in the future and become a role model for the younger ones. Eventually, among the students I taught, I would love to see one of them becoming a teacher and teach the next generation.”
* New Thessalonian Apostolate (NTA)