For the umpteenth time, I really shouldn’t be blogging because I know that every second spent working on this post can be otherwise used in trying to cram economics terminologies and concepts in my head but I feel compelled to do so…so yes.
With teachers’ day coming up, or at least in Singapore, kids have been trying to buy gifts or make cards for their teachers but more often than not, this just seems more like a politically-correct, standard, outward display of gratitude. Or maybe I’m wrong and maybe kids are truly thankful for their teachers and I’m just being rather cynical in my over-generalisation, but I do remember not really buying into the whole teachers’ day thing when I was in primary school. Perhaps because I didn’t feel like the teachers in primary school taught me very much since I breezed through most of primary school, so the teachers didn’t pay as much attention to me because they were assured that I was guaranteed As for my exams (and I was, but that was in primary school when everything seemed much easier and I was so sure of everything.)
Things happened yesterday, though, to make me really really appreciate my teachers. Well my friends and I have been going rather off tangent when discussing teachers’ day plans lately, getting emotional about our secondary school teachers because they have been more than kind to us, but what happened yesterday made me truly grateful for having been lucky enough to have had such amazing teachers in the past.
Basically, I had a mini meltdown yesterday because my exams start on Monday and I was (and still am) so nervous about everything because the exams are ultimately going to determine the next few years of my life. I’m not sure if it was the nerves or the anxiety but I could barely focus on anything and my usual remedy (listening to “I am the doctor” on repeat) didn’t really help, and I couldn’t talk to my friends about it because they were all so stressed out as well (which was probably triggered the slight panic attack) so I ended up texting my english tutor who taught me six years ago in primary six to talk to her. (She was honestly one of the best teachers I’ve ever had – she was funny and really kind.) Anyway, I didn’t really expect her to reply with anything significant because I haven’t seen her in about four years and I haven’t texted her for more than a year but we ended up having a really long conversation about handling exams and university applications and it sort of turned into the pep talk I needed to keep myself in check and to get everything back in order. Well she mostly repeated the stuff I knew I had to do but I needed someone to tell me to do all that (patiently, instead of guilt-tripping or pressurising me to do these stuff like my mom does) because my friends and I mostly (rather unhealthily) just mope around together and that doesn’t help very much. This might not seem like very much to other people but that push and validation she gave me was exactly what I needed.
Afterwards, I mustered up some (not really courage but) shamelessness to approach my literature teacher who taught me in year two on facebook for help with literature because I’ve been pretty confused about the analysis skills and essay structure required for my literature essays for the past few years. Thing is, I approached her because I remembered that she taught us really effective close reading and analysis skills in year two and I did stupendously well for literature that year…and because she was one of the most approachable teachers I’ve had. But I have been apprehensive in asking her for help for the past year or so because one of my friends from secondary school has one of her books (Maya Angelou’s “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings) and she messaged me on facebook last year to ask if any of us has the book and I promised I’d help her retrieve it and return it to her……and I haven’t done so. Also, she left my secondary school a year after she stopped teaching my class and I wasn’t sure if she’s still teaching now so it would be pretty troublesome if she was no longer teaching and has to try to recall all she knows about the literature syllabus. As before, I didn’t expect her to reply especially since she didn’t seem very active on facebook but she responded in barely an hour and talked a little about school and she asked about what I had to clarify. The nicest thing was that because she wasn’t too sure about our current syllabus, she actually dug out her JC 2 notes from about a decade ago so she could answer my questions. She didn’t have to do any of that and she could simply have ignored my facebook message (as people sometimes do especially when it’s requests for them to do things) but she didn’t and even dug out her old notes at about 1am in the morning so she could help me out. I can’t even begin to express how grateful and touched (and emotional – it was 1am in the morning and I was delirious and I’m especially prone to getting emotional when I’m delirious) I was then. Of course, as far as technology and messages formed by pixels on a screen can go, all I could do was to thank her about three times and apologise a couple more times for inconveniencing her.
I’m awfully lucky to have had such wonderful teachers throughout secondary school – my year one teacher allowed me to interview her for a project I had to do in year two (and in the midst of that taught me interviewing/journalism skills she learnt in university), my year two literature teacher (yes that one I wrote about above) would lend us her books and she was really really patient with us even though =things= happened that year in class, my year three and four social studies teacher made me much more politically aware (and got a whole bunch of us swooning over benedict cumberbatch in sherlock and chris evan’s butt but that’s another story), my year three literature teacher made me very much more socially aware and is responsible for making me realise the necessity of feminism (aaand after which I became a proud feminist). There are the teachers whom you look to as friends (or acquaintances) after they’ve taught you because they’re so approachable and that’s good because you’ll always have someone wiser and more knowledgable to turn to for advice when you can’t talk to your parents, to rant when all your other friends are stuck in the same plight as you, and of course, to bug for advice on schoolwork when you can’t figure things out on your own. Then there are the motherly teachers who’d always remind you to take care of yourselves amidst the stressful exam periods that many often overlook but they’re really important too in keeping your priorities in check and to make sure that you don’t burn out.
Even now, in junior college where the teachers are much more exam oriented (so much so that they don’t often have time to be patient or be encouraging) I’ve still had some pretty inspiring teachers. My Southeast Asian history teacher is truly one of the best teachers I’ve had (in terms of teaching) because she knows so much about the subject (she went to LSE to do her masters in political science after all) and she is amazingly good at transferring all that knowledge to us – and there’s just something about the way she teaches that makes you genuinely interested in the subject and question and want to learn more. But there’s another thing as well – I haven’t told my friends about this but anyway, I did horribly for my Southeast Asian history paper at the start of the year because of poor time management during the paper (I flunked terribly) and my mom had to go to school to meet her, but rather than point out the flaws of my paper or anything like that she suggested ways that I could study to be better at time management. Subsequently, for the end of year paper last year, I did improve drastically (because you can’t really go any lower than getting a 7 out of 25 in an essay paper) and on top of the script she scribbled some nice comments on the improvement that motivated me to work harder. And need I mention that she’s so dedicated to her job (even though she’s the dean of academic studies and she doesn’t actually have to teach now – she still does anyway because she enjoys it) that despite being horribly stressed out (from marking all our extra essays and giving us additional revision lectures) as we are especially in this period when everyone’s preparing for the prelims and A Levels, she continues to allow for extra essay submissions from us so that we’re can get the practice and feedback we need.
Good teachers are probably the best thing a student can ask for in school – I’m not sure why, this seems hypothetical but this might be because when a kid’s got a good teacher who puts in effort in teaching the student, the kid’s more likely to work harder so that he wouldn’t let his teacher down because he feels more accountable to the teacher. More than that, teachers that inspire, like my southeast asian history teacher and my social studies teacher as well as my feminist literature teacher, really do spark a genuine interest in the whatever they teach amongst their students, which would then translate to students seeking out even more information for themselves – this curiosity to learn and know more is really important especially since the exam-oriented education system nowadays seems to stomp out the child-like curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
A blog post isn’t all that sufficient enough to describe all the gratitude I have for the teachers (most of the teachers) I’ve had. Chocolates and cards might seem more substantial but it still doesn’t make up for all the help they’ve given me in the past six years or so. Either way, as insignificant as words go, Happy Teachers Day to all the teachers I’ve had in the past and to the other similarly kind and wonderful teachers out there.