Do You Hate Me?

Sara_a06 - ‘Miss M. I have a question to ask you.' The screen of my smartphone lit up and this pair of exhausted eyes of mine found their way to escape from all the 26 alphabets on the laptop keyboard. I bit my bottom lip, hesitating whether I should take a two-minute break or just call it a day. Goodness, 9 PM! It had been more than ten hours, perhaps the latter decision would be better for my eyes… and health. It was another message on my Instagram, from her. Sarah, one of my pupils who loved asking questions. Most of her questions were about online tasks. However, some questions left me to ponder and reflect about holding responsibilities as a teacher. They left me thinking about life and choices. Although the schools were close due to the movement control order (MCO), her mind kept running freely that it reached the other part of the world. People in GMT+8 were asleep, yet she was exploring unique species in Amazon Rainforest. MissM – ‘Yes, dear. Go on.' My response was read in less than a minute. While Sarah was typing her words, I continued reading my pupils' essays. A few days ago, I assigned them to write their personal experiences of supernatural encounters. Although my initial plan was to provide a platform for my pupils to write their daily activities during this MCO, I received quite a negative feedback on my Instagram poll. They refused to write anything connected to the pandemic as most online tasks they had were about ‘life during the pandemic.' Some of them boldly voiced out by sending messages like: - ‘We don't do anything amusing during this lockdown, Miss. Why are the teachers so obsessed with our life at home?' - ‘Not for English, Miss. Your activities are so far the less cliché ones. Pleasee~' - ‘Miss M, do you mind if I just copy-paste what I did yesterday? It's the same routine. But I will translate them into English.' Reading their responses, they amused me! This was one of the factors why the pupils' voices should be heard. I mean, would they do my online tasks if their enthusiasm were taken away by Mr. Repetition? Repetition is meaningless if we don't acknowledge the use of that repetitive action. Sara_a06 - ‘Do you hate me? Perhaps, not hate. Do you dislike me, teacher?' I was taken aback. My heart began to pound and it blew away all my comfort. I held my phone, thumbs were ready to defend but I wondered, what should I defend? I took in a deep breath and started to type again. MissM – ‘I never hate you, Sarah. I am happy and grateful to have a student like you. You always ask questions. You even shared your short stories with me! I think there is no reason to hate you.' She read it but the conversation was silent. There was no quick ‘typing…' and eager responses from her. It felt as if she was staring at my words, doubting me. MissM – ‘My dear, are you okay?' Silent. I waited for her. From five minutes to five hours. Then, it reached five days. My days were always hectic although I was working from home. However, I noticed that I have lost track of time. The days were accompanied by the moon while the nights were greeted by the sun. Just like how she suddenly replied a week later. Sara_a06 – ‘Miss M. Thank you for telling me that you don't hate me. I have misunderstood you. Sara_a06 – ‘You see. My mom worked very hard and when she reached home, I would bombard her with unsettled questions of my homework. She would smile and try to answer. Sometimes, she just cannot answer but she would try her best to.' My lips curled into a smile. I was ready to shower her with compliments but Sarah had more than just an appreciation for her mother to inform me. Sara_a06 – ‘But today, my mom left us. She left my father and me. She said she was tired to take care of me. She hates me.' At that moment, I could not imagine how the sky of a young girl looked like. The word separation is as haunted as abandonment. MissM – ‘Sarah, I'm sorry to hear that. If there is anything that I could do for you, please tell me.' Sarah began typing and every second I waited for her reply, my heart shattered into pieces. I truly love my pupils and I would like to see them grow, ensuring that their hunger for knowledge was fed adequately. Sara_a06 – ‘You have told me that you don't hate me, teacher. That's enough. You always smile in the class while teaching us. I saw how tired you were after climbing the stairs but when I greeted you, you would still smile. My mom did the same thing. Always smile but she hates me. I wonder if people smile a lot to hide their hatred towards others. That's why I asked you whether if you also hate me.' I have always known that hatred is as strong as love but at that moment, I was not confident about how I should comfort her. Wrong words could burn bridges between people. Therefore, all I could say was… MissM – ‘I love you, Sarah. I can't wait to meet you when school reopens!'

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates