VISHALACHE BALAKRISHNAN

WHAT do students remember after leaving school? I met some of my former students in New Zealand two years ago. They were actually my tuition class students. I felt a great feeling of accomplishment as they are grown-ups now with their own children and they still call me teacher. Their spouses also call me teacher, which is fine with me.
Being a curious person, I asked them what they remember learning in school. I had taught most of them from Standard One or Two right up to Form Three. After Form Three, I did not give extra coaching as the content is very specialised and you need expert teachers to guide students.

One student said she remembered that I took her swimming. I was amused because swimming was not part of my curriculum. But during the weekends, these students were invited to join me on my activities, such as swimming, hiking and mountain climbing. This particular student said she still could not swim but the trip to thepool was so memorable and fresh in her thoughts after two decades.

I have also asked myself what I remember learning in school as I reach the prime of my profession and think of all the transformations taking place in our education system. Do I remember the daily learning and teaching that took place? Maybe a little but I remember the hands-on activities that we did more. In primary school, I remember doing gardening in a small plot of land next to the school hall. We pulled weeds and planted vegetables like spinach and long beans. We took care of the plants, watered them daily, harvested the vegetables and took them home to be cooked by our proud mothers.

I remember going around the staff room, selling the extra vegetables we had harvested to the teachers and other school administrators. I remember using the extra cash to buy food for a home which catered to the needs of the special children in my home town. As for secondary school, I remember the prefectorial camps that I attended, where aspects of social justice and being fair to all students was cultivated in prefects. I remember all my teachers, especially one who shone during my Form Three year.

She made me see the person I would be in the future by making me write as essay titled “The Real Me”. She made me realise that we all had potential and we needed to tap into our capabilities and skills to ensure that we brought out the best in ourselves, regardless of family status or who our parents were. This whole journey of schooling and what students can learn from their schooling experience is very much influenced by the teachers who teach them and how they leave an impact on the growing years. My teachers were great inspirers; I thank each and every one wholeheartedly for making me the person that I am. I hope I can be like them and inspire my students who are and will become teachers, to understand this noble vocation.

[Source:-new Straits Time]