Friday, April 22, 2005

An Eulogy

An ex-colleague came back to visit us after almost three years. I was not really close to her, since she left after half a year I was posted to the school. The only time when I get to speak to her was when she was handing over the Track and Field CCA miscellaneous stuff to me. After which she left Singapore with her husband. Back for a short trip, she came to the school premises to visit us. She looked differently. She also brought her little girl to school. But this was not really the point I am making but rather what strike me most was that the 5N girls still remember her after almost (gasp!) 4 years of absence. So based on the maths, they have probably been taught by her in Secondary One. What is interesting is that this teacher must have done something of value to them that they will remember her after so many years of absence.

A nice get together with my ex secondary school classmates a couple of weeks back perhaps got me thinking even before this incident. Our topics during gathering would usually be our work, our lives, who-met-who?, who-getting-married? And inevitably the ever-good old days of our secondary school lives. Of course more than ever, the topics would usually veered towards our teachers who had taught us. We would talked about our Chinese teacher who is a bit “psychotic” – namely he liked to ask one of my classmates to squat at one corner of the classroom and also tell students offender to write Chinese words in pages. Thos repeated offender will had their punishment increased by 2 times – for example if a student was supposed to write 5 pages worth of words like “I will not say mean things about the teacher again” and he failed to hand it in on the stipulated date, he will have to write 10 pages with a new deadline, and if he failed to do so again, the punishment will become 20 pages and so on and so forth. He was also a egoistic man who loves to show off his Japanese in class, and when we are having Chinese lessons, we have to rushed down to the staffroom and collect his AV equipment and make sure the OHP and the AV equipment is switched on and ready to be use.* If he reached the classroom earlier than you, congrats! You will find yourself squatting outside the classroom. I have even seen books flying out of the classroom and you see students frantically running downstairs to collect them.** (As a side track, many of you will probably be saying that the educational system and society have changed and therefore we should not be using these methods to educate our children; you have to treat them well in order to pacify their egos and most importantly their egos are extremely fragile and these can have serious repercussions on their future development. What the heck! I was brought up in this fashion and I am fine, well I guess having a decent job with a decent family life qualify for an “okay”) In fact in his lessons, it is so quiet that you can hear a pin drop, his breathing ( a la Darth Vader) and the sound of the second rated fans.

Our conversation will also be on that horrible Additional Maths teacher who was always telling us about “trigo-nor-matrix le-sioh” and the “you add this wan and this wan to get that wan”. Shockingly I can only remember this from my Add Maths lessons. Another interesting character was my Literature teacher who looks like a female Snowball from the novel “Animal Farm”, I never had a good impression of her especially when I found her judgemental and critical, particularly to the more Chinese-speaking members in the class. She obviously also did not have a good opinion of the AEP students in the class and I remember that time when my AEP friend and me handed in a 3D model of the revolution, with complete characters, and barns and all. She merely took a glance of our months of effort and said, “take that away, it is eye sore” Sadly to say, after months of creation, it took us just minutes to dismantle every single thing and dumped it in the dustbin near the corridor, with teary eyes. However as the month passed by, I started to appreciate her as a good and dedicated teacher and I quoted and unquoted “decided to forgive her because it is too tiring to hate someone”. She became a mentor and a friend, but sad to say, I never do well for my English, but I guess well enough to get into the college of my choice.

Enough of the reminiscences, what came across my mind was “If I were to leave the profession or if after a long time say 10 years,a nd student started to talk about me, what would they say about me? What kind of teacher would I be, what funny things or even what happy or even hurting things will they associate with me?” Would all this idiosyncrasies be discussed over cups of teas and slices of cake, or imitated amidst roars of laughter and giggles. Anyway no matter what it is, it still boiled down to the fact that he or she had made an impact in the lives of the kids whether it is positive or negative. Ultimately it is important and nice to know that when we leave the classroom , we can lift our heads high and consciences clear, that we have in some way made an impact on the kids' lives.

* Nowadays we teachers have to set up our own OHP and Av equipment, there aren’t any student who will run down to collect it for you. SIGH!!
** Try doing that now, and you will most probably be getting a complaint from the parent

Calling all students old and present, feel free to leave any comment after reading this. It would be interesting to know what is it that you remember about the teachers, including me.. I promise not to be judgemental.

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