ALBERT Einstein once said: “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it’s only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it’s two hours.”
That’s the law of relativity. In the blink of an eye, it’s been four years since my mandatory retirement from the government service. How time flies!
Our children always ask my wife and me – both happily retired personnel – two questions when we bug them every now and then, or if we were to do something out of the norm: You have so much free time? Don’t you all have anything better to do?
After much soul-searching and digging deep into the recesses of my memory, it occurred to me to pen a few lines of gratitude to a few former teachers of mine.
To be precise, it is a flashback to 1970/71, the era of the bell-bottoms. Some bells in my mind, must have rung, so as to come up with this idea of saying a big thank you to some of the teachers of my time. I guess it is never too late to say something nice and pleasant to anyone.
These teachers must be in the Seven Series now (70s), as I myself retired from the teaching profession in November 2014.
I was a Science student at Sultan Abu Bakar Secondary School in Kuantan; Class of 1970/71, that is, Form Four/Five.
My form teacher was the suave Mr Cheah Chew Meng, who taught me Biology and Physics. He was a non-graduate, but his command of the two subjects was second to none.
Mr Cheah was a supremely confident teacher who taught two Pure Science subjects (which is unheard of nowadays), even though he was only a Higher School Certificate (HSC) holder.
It simply shows that a person with a lower academic qualification can be just as good a teacher as a highly qualified one.
Mr Cheah simply exuded confidence and class when imparting knowledge to us, as the quality of the HSC-qualified teachers at that time was of the very best.
Many, like Mr Cheah, never got to further their studies due to financial constraints, or limited enrolment places for students into universities at that time.
As Mr Cheah was teaching us two subjects, there were times when we were seeing him twice on the same day. It was not an issue, as his charismatic personality and down-to-earth demeanour made it a joyful passage of teaching and learning.
I, for one, was a rather average student of his. Nevertheless, I was hardworking and stayed out of trouble.
My classmates, the likes of Wong Teck Sing (class monitor), Sally Chan and Thavamani, would probably ring a bell to him.
Probably the only way Mr Cheah could possibly remember me was my enthusiasm for cricket, which made him flipping mad.
Mr Cheah didn’t like the idea of his students spending countless hours under the blazing hot sun “leather hunting” (chasing the cricket ball).
He must have meant well, as a sound education was the epitome of a successful career in life.
Another great teacher whom I vividly remember is Mr Quah Hock Chew, the Geography teacher with the mellifluous voice, who went about with his teaching in a light-and-easy, storytelling manner. He was the nicest of persons who could hardly get angry. Geography was fun and enjoyable, and was always looked forward to during the week.
Mr Yap Kok Keong, the English Language teacher, too, is etched in my memory. His passion for teaching clearly showed in his carefree and methodical approach. He made learning English look rather easy.
Not to mention, Encik Zainal Abidin, my Bahasa Melayu teacher. As I was in the first batch of the Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE) candidates, he put in double the effort with us, to ensure that we perform credibly in the examinations.
A note of appreciation, too, to my Physical Education teacher Encik Shaharudin Abdullah, who taught me cricket, as he himself was an established state cricketer.
Going further down memory lane, when I was in Standard Five at Mahmud Primary School in Raub, Mr N Krishnasamy, my class teacher, was a big influence on me.
Mr Samy was brilliant in the English Language and Geography. I was his favourite pupil, which understandably didn’t go down too well with my classmates!
Mr Lionel Thomas, my English Literature teacher in Form Three, in Saint Thomas Lower Secondary School, Kuantan, was small in build for a Eurasian, but big in calibre as a teacher. He used to narrate the story of Great Expectations to us, to the point that I felt as if he was Charles Dickens, the author.
The principal of Bukit Bintang Boys’ School, Petaling Jaya, Mr David Boler, deserves a special mention, too. I am thankful to him for taking me in as a temporary teacher in 1978 (probably because of my cricket background).
Under my watch as the cricket master, the school became champions in Selangor and lifted the Vanderholt Trophy for the first time. It was the best parting gift that I could give Mr Boler (who himself was a cricket enthusiast), as he was retiring at the end of 1978.
I am glad that I went through the English medium of education, which gave me the platform to comb all the avenues available in pursuit of a wealth of knowledge.
Of course, my command of Bahasa Malaysia was below par at that time. But through perseverance, I mastered it and, was able to converse fluently with my students in due course, when the medium of instruction was changed to Bahasa Malaysia.
Happy Teachers Day!
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