Jumaat, 6 Jun 2008

Of good and bad teachers

ALTHOUGH Teachers Day was celebrated more than two weeks ago, I would like to talk about some of the teachers who have had a positive impact on my life, and the many others who should not have joined the noble profession in the first place.

To name a few, there was Ms Ida Talalla, my secondary school teachers, Mrs Gill and Che Zawiah Laidin, who developed my interest in the English language.

And there was Ms Law who taught me to read knitting instructions and to knit. And my favourite teacher – my late mother – who made me read scores of story books to make me improve my English.

During my primary school years, my father served in the Royal Malay Regiment. So, my family was always on the move. I spent my primary school years in seven schools.

For me, there was not only the problem of making new friends, but also of getting used to different teachers.

My nightmare with teachers began in 1957, when I was in Standard One in a school in Kluang, Johor. I was completely unaware of the dos and don’ts in class and was eating my kacang putih when my class teacher threw it away.

She then took my green plastic ruler and broke it into two, saying that only wooden rulers were allowed. I was too scared to ask what my “offence” was, or even cry.

Mercifully, I had no more encounters with that teacher as I followed my father who had a posting in England. I studied in two schools and had a great time there.

I continued my Std Three in a school in KL and had Ms Ida Talalla as my class teacher. She was kind, understanding and very different from my Std One teacher.

My good luck, however, did not last long. At the beginning of Std Four, we moved to Batu Gajah, Perak. Because of my impressive Std Three results, I was placed in Std Five and not Std 4.

My nightmare started again. I was ridiculed repeatedly in class for my bad cursive handwriting.

I also had problems with my needlework teacher. The needlework project was sewing blanket stitches as edging for a pillow case.

Every time I showed her my effort, the needlework teacher said it was not neat and kept cutting away my pillow case until it became a cushion cover!

My father was transferred again, this time to Alor Star, Kedah. On my second day, the Bahasa Melayu teacher told us to buat persediaan, which I understood as writing the answers next to the questions in the text book, but that was not what she wanted.

My teachers scolded me and used a blackboard duster to knock my head. That was the first of many knocks on the head and I grew to dislike BM classes.

There were more transfers to follow and I kept changing schools. I took my MSSEE (Malayan Secondary School Entrance Examination) and started my secondary education in a residential school. My wandering days were over, but not my nightmares.

By this time, I had all my permanent teeth and they were badly formed. My mother forced me to use braces. Unlike today, braces then were even more ugly, painful and uncomfortable.

I had to visit the dentist every fortnight. It was a 90-minute drive and the fact that I was given permission to leave my boarding school every fortnight gave rise to tauntings of “HM’s pet”. I was also referred to as “wire netting”. Living and attending classes with your taunters was no bed of roses for a 13-year-old.

It was worse when the tauntings were made by a teacher. One day my BM teacher called me to the front of the class and said “senyum” (smile), I gave a weak smile, making sure my “wire netting” was not exposed.

The teacher then said “senyum sampai nampak besi tu” (smile till your wires are showing), and then told the class “awak semua, ketawa” (you can all laugh).

To this day, I have not forgiven her for that and I did not complete my braces treatment.

I was a good student and not troublesome but somehow, I stirred the wrong emotions in some of my teachers. I felt I was singled out.

Had it not been for my mother and the better teachers, these few bad apples would have broken my spirit, and I would not be what I am today.

I grew to dislike BM classes and performed badly in the exams because of a few nasty teachers.

To teachers out there, remember you have chosen to be part of a noble profession.

Do not take up teaching as a last resort or you will end up being angry and frustrated.

To all those who have taught me from preschool to university, I say “thank you”.

Although I was in a different profession, I decided to opt for early retirement and later took up teaching.

I must confess that I loved the job because I made every effort not to repeat the “nightmares'' that I had experienced in my schooling years.


The Star Online: 1 Jun 2008

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