Friday, May 12, 2006

Happy Teachers' Day

In Malaysia, Teachers' Day is celebrated on 16th May, which falls on Tuesday, next week. Normally on this day, we will pay tribute to all our teachers, many of whom have toiled tirelessly to provide us with a good education, so that we can all grow up as useful citizens and adults. We have certainly heard stories of many exemplarary teachers who have dedicated themselves to their profession, and I've certainly had my share of them.

However, I thought my Teachers' Day post cum tribute today shall be a little different. Teachers have certainly shaped my life immensely as an individual. Exceptional teachers have definitely played a positive part in bringing out the "best" in me. However, lest we forget, there are certainly less than joyous experiences with certain other teachers. These "not-so-nice" experiences have probably made a big impact to me to. And I'd add that while these experiences with certain teachers weren't particularly pleasant, I'd like to think that I've been made a better person because of them.

So here are the 3 teachers with whom I've had some not-so-pleasant memories, but whom I'm somehow thankful for.

1. Mrs Yong, Standard 5 English and form teacher, SRK Montfort, Batu Pahat

Mrs Yong was a tough disciplinarian. Yours truly "suffered" a fair bit in her hands :). I had the privilege of having my father being called in for a "chat" twice by her in that year. I can't remember the exact offences, but I believe they've got to do with not bringing textbooks to class and "forgetting" to complete homework once too often. :)

But my not-so-pleasant experience has nothing to do with that fact (not that I'm particularly proud of it). It was the day which I actually received my Standard Five Assessment Examination (Penilaian Darjah Lima). My classmates and myself were surrounding Mrs Yong excitedly after receving our results. I managed my only straight As achievement for my entire academic career :). As Mrs Yong ran down the list of students, she reached my name, looked up at me, and said the words which shot deep into the heart - "You're very lucky, huh?"

I was a 11-year old kid then. Despite having received my 5As result, I think I had little mood to celebrate that day.

2. Mrs Toh, Secondary 2 Geography teacher, Raffles Institution, Singapore

Mrs Toh has a reputation of being a very dedicated and demanding Geography teacher. Some of my friends who had her as their form teacher the previous year gave her an excellent review, hence I was pleased that she was teaching us for that year, especially since it was my favourite and probably best performing subject.

For our term project that year, we were asked to form groups of 5-6 students on our own. Now, a few of us Asean scholars decided to band together to form a group because of the convenience of staying at the same hostel. You would hence understand that there are some top performing students in our team.

Having broken the class into the respective teams for discussions, Mrs Toh walked round the class listening and giving pointers. When she got to our group, stood listening for a while, then looked down at me and said "You're very smart huh, chose to join this team?" She then walked off to visit another team.

I was stunned.

3. Ms Choo, Additional Mathematics and Form Teacher, Secondary 3 & 4, Raffles Institution, Singapore

This is probably the toughest student-teacher relationship which I had, partly because I had her as a teacher for 2 years for my 'O' levels. Note that the "tough" bit had nothing to do with my grades in Add Maths. I dare say that I breezed through the subject for 'O' Levels.

It probably has more to do with the fact that I was hyper-active in school sports and activities. In my final year, I was the captain of my house and committee members of at least 3-4 active associations, plus taking part in various intra and inter-school debates, quiz competitions and other activities. And being born with a little talent in art, I became an easy target for many teachers for assistance in school events. As a result, I obviously had to skip quite a few classes and because of the activities, I probably didn't achieve as many A1s as I should or could have for my 'O' Levels.

Nevertheless, Ms Choo didn't think much of me as a person, and I suspect she thinks that I like going round sucking up to teachers. Her opinions of me, can be summarised in a sentence in my school leaving testimonial.
"... his exuberant enthusiasm often borders on exhibitionism"
I can say that no one else (that I'm aware of anyway) in the class has the distinction of receiving a testimonial like mine, which was peppered with alliterative bombastic words (I had to look up "exhibitionism" in the dictionary to confirm what it meant) which bordered on sarcasm.

Thankfully, I had the rare honour that the principal, Mr Eugene Wijeysingha had earlier promised me a personal testimonial. When I received my testimonial from Ms Choo, I picked up the courage to take up Mr Wijeysingha on his offer. He gave me a glowing testimonial, albeit with the necessary exception to take into consideration Ms Choo's comments that I'm "inclined to draw attention to [my]self", which he attributed to "youthful exuberance". :)

To say that there wasn't a exuberant side to me, especially in my teenager days, would be a blatant untruth. However, to have that attribute engraved in such a way into my testimonial for use in my future school and scholarship applications was certainly damning.

So, how did the above 3 experiences made me a better person?

For one, each of them played extremely key parts in making me especially determined to prove their judgement wrong. I wanted to prove that my achievements were not due to "luck" and I wanted to prove to myself that I'm not a slouch in my studies and intelligence as well, even when placed in comparison with the best there are. Ms Choo's veiled criticism was certainly the worst I've received up to when I was 16. But it certainly help me take criticism, valid or otherwise, in the right spirit and not get overly affected by them. They have undeniably played a significant role in helping me achieve what I have and making me a much better person I am today. Some may call it a "character building" process. :)

So, for those of you out there, particularly students still in school, don't get upset with teachers, good or bad. You will and you can learn from these experiences. Take them in the right spirit and you will gain plenty from them.

And so, in an ironic sort of way, thank you teachers. Happy Teachers' Day.


Anonymous said...

I would like to say thanks to my teacher Mrs Sockalingam of Sultan Abdul Samad.

She taught us the various values about life and treated us with respect and as adults

Anonymous said...

Hopefully teachers and lecturers will be appreciated more than what they are experiencing at the present moment. Overworked and underpaid in the private sector and not really rewarded adequately. Imagine what my mother earned when she was a teacher is what I am earning now as lecturer in international business from bachelor to doctoral level. How frustrating.

Anonymous said...

..yep I agree..Teachers are the kind folks we meet in our lives..
Happy Teachers Day... ( Belated )

SM Sultan Abdul Samad PJ..they dun
produce good ole "graduates" like us any more do they?..

my schooling memories..

primary school: Alam Shah, Sect.11, PJ
sec. school: Abdul Samad,
Sect.12, PJ
tertiary: University Malaya, PJ

..all located within walking distance .. few par 4 radius from the house..but still so much fun..

Anonymous said...

I tot SAS was the original gangster school of malaysia before? just a bit lower than Henry Gurney

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