Today, I went to see them…

 …when I went back to train the St. John juniors. These are people my heart leaps out to greet. 🙂

In the pic is Pn Shirley Ong, who likes to call people Ah Ba and Ah Nia, Mr Lim Beng Hin, who caught me with purple contact lenses in Form 3 when he taught me Geog and recently supplied me with so many sweet pictures of a younger, prettier me haha, Mr Lim Kean Aun, the Sports teacher, and Mr Ching, my Bio teacher whom I absolutely respect and adore.

School seems so much more vibrant, so much happier than I last remembered it 2 years ago, and even 5 years ago when I was just so eager to leave Alor Setar. Familiar faces of seasoned teachers smiling at me ear to ear, my Chinese teacher asking me to wish him 放学快乐 instead of 新年快乐, House Captains gathered around Mr Lim eagerly awaiting the mark tally…seeing all this again made me so happy.

Even my St. John juniors running with bricks under the hot sun (Mr Lim likes to carry his camera around and steal pics of students) made me feel like they had such a good life. A life I can only relive in my memories. 记忆中追寻。

And I found a letter written to me by Mr Ching (on the far right), my Bio teacher in Form 5. As I read it again, I cried. Read it to see how much love was packed into those four pages of writing paper. He was one of the rare teachers at that time who noticed I was in trouble and reached out to me when I needed comfort and support.

If you’re reading this, I want you to know that you made a difference to this starfish on 12th July 2005 when you wrote that letter. Please don’t ever stop being that kind of teacher wherever you go, even if you have to be all strict and fierce now that you’re the Discipline Teacher.

There are too many teachers who were kind to me at one point or another in my life. I am very much an independent learner, so it’s not really so much of what they taught me, but their little gestures of love that are forever imprinted in my memory.

I remember the late 曾文衡老师,who believed in my ability to speak when I was still so small and shy at 9. All the great opportunities given to me in school all came about because this teacher noticed me and was willing to do what no one else would have done: pitch a shy nine year old against eleven and twelve year olds.

施老师,for instilling in me the love for Chinese language and culture, for training us at your house and feeding us with mangoes 😀 until I finally won 2nd place at the National Chinese Written Test (No, it’s not about the winning, but it just shows how  much she taught me, how much she got me to improve myself). 苏老师, for spending half an hour every day before school started to teach me the proper pronunciation of Chinese words. And when Suat Peng and I made it to nationals in 2000, both of you slept on the floor while you let us take the beds. Where else to find this kind of teacher?

Pn. Teoh Hai Cheu, despite your obsession with students completing their homework in proper fashion, for letting me off three weeks of Mat. Tam. homework when I was away for some competition. For keeping quiet even though you were shocked I skipped your lesson and lepaked at the basketball court with the 5A3 gang. HAHAHAHA. For never pushing me to compete in the OMK when I told you I was too tired. I don’t know, it just simply shows you care about me more than about what I do.

Pn. Chua Seok Been, who ferried me to school for a month when I stepped in as a relief teacher (and discovered that teaching is tough work emotionally, physically, and mentally…imagine doing it for a lifetime), and gave me an Ang Pow before I left.

Pn. Chan Guat Sim, for all the good times the dancers spent with you when we went around performing. I remember you coming in to my house and serving you oranges. 😀 I know you’ve always sayang-ed me.

Sigh there are too many, too many little gestures that I remember because a teacher did what I believe is really the most wonderful thing he/she can do for a student: care.  

To all the Keat Hwa teachers who’ve not just dedicated their lives to bullying students like me 😀 into child labour (I helped the sports teachers draw lines for the running heats on the field using stinky black oil) but have broken their backs whipping us into shape….I am so proud of you. No, really, I am so proud to run back to school and call you my teacher. I wish you would never retire.

I am crying, but please don’t think I wrote this out of an emotional outburst. I wrote this to tell you that you were so important at that specific time in my life. You like to tell me I have a great destiny and all that, well–please remember it is you who helped nurture me. And I hope more young people become teachers like you…more relevant to the ever changing times, perhaps, but same at the very core. Please don’t discourage us from entering the teaching profession. Never ever discourage young people from doing hard things–it makes us bored. Prepare us, instead–convince us that it is bloody tough, that often you don’t reap what you sow, but please also say that it gives you the opportunity to mean the world to people like me.