To sir and madam with love

She pulled me out of my shell by sharing her love of books.

– American computer programmer and entrepreneur, Bill Gates on his teacher, Blanche Caffiere

To all the teachers who have made a difference in my life and the lives of their students, I send  you my love in conjunction with Teachers’ Day tomorrow. May God continue to bless you in your lives and everything you do.

Many countries celebrate their TeachersDay on October 5 in conjunction with World Teachers‘ Day, which was established by UNESCO in 1994. But in Malaysia, we celebrate it on May 16.

Teachers’ Day is annually celebrated  to pay tribute to all teachers in the country. But however, not all teachers deserve the tribute. Certainly, not those who take up the teaching profession to please their parents and do not care at all about their students and the latter’s welfare.

In our lives, many of us have many teachers, starting from the nursery level to the college and university level. But since our education continues even after our academic pursuits, we continue to have teachers even when we work. But instead of calling the people who teach us in our working life teachers, we call them mentors.

Although we meet many teachers in our lives, only some remain in our hearts forever.

Why do we remember a teacher? I turned on Google search and found that people remember teachers who cared about them. They remember supportive or encouraging teachers or those who saw something in them no one else did. They also remember teachers who challenged them and made them think as well as those who were quirky.

Despite the same teaching training they may have undergone, not all teachers are created equal. Some teachers are memorable while others are, sad to say, easy to forget. That’s why in some classes, you tend to fall asleep and pay more attention to the colour of the teacher’s fingernails instead of the lessons while in other classes, you are all ears.

Yes, a good teacher must have skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. To be effective in teaching, teachers must also have engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.

When we were young, we spent most of our time in school. Because of that, I think I am what I am today because of some teachers as well as my parents.

I admire some young people who know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. When I was young, I did not know I would become a journalist one day.

However, one of my primary two teachers, a woman, must have seen something in me that no one else did.

One day, the whole class was asked to draw something and then write a line or two about what they drew. I drew a big cow because whenever I visited my grandmother’s village during the year end holidays, I would see some enormous cows.

I cannot remember what I wrote. So much water has flowed under the bridge. But I think the cow I drew had big soulful eyes. Yes, whenever I sat on the steps in my grandmother’s kitchen, one big cow would always approach me. It had big lovely and soulful eyes.

Anyway, the teacher pasted my drawing of that big cow on the blackboard in class. I should be walkiing around like a peacock that day. Except I was so innocent that I did not know that few students had their drawings pasted on the board. God bless the  teacher who saw the journalist in me even then.

When I was in Form Three, another  female teacher who had just returned from USA or Canada, also saw the journalist in me. She asked us to write  any topics for our weekly essays. That allowed me to exercise my creativity and wrote about almost everything factual under the sun. I even wrote about visiting my grandmother’s padi farm.

The teacher must have loved my essays because most of the time, I got 8 out of 10 points for my essays. Again at  that time, I was unaware I would become a journalist later in life.

I remember these two teachers because in retrospect, I realised they saw something in me that I was unaware of.

For this week’s column, I also asked my favourite niece, Chai Hong, to write a few words about the teachers she remembered.

“Miss Afida and Madam Chan,” she replied. “Madam Chan taught me English at SMK St Teresa. She was also my Leo Club advisor and guided me in  school. She also gave me very powerful words of advice and even fought for me to go for an English competition.

“Miss Afida taught me to be more outspoken and promised to change  me from a shy and  soft spoken person to a confident presenter and speaker by the time I graduated from my Mass Communication Course at  Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology in Kuching.

“By the time I graduated, I was good in presentations and even sang with my friends in front of the whole campus. I also became more outgoing and friendly.”

Like my teachers who saw something in me, Chai Hong’s teachers also saw the potential in her.

My friends, in conjunction with Teachers’ Day tomorrow, let us send our love to all the teachers who have cared for us before, saw the potential in us and made a big difference in our lives.

Happy Teachers’ Day. To sir and madam with love.

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