WE represent alumni of Chung Hua High School in Seremban, Malaysia from the 1960s to the 1990s and also those who attended home tuition between 1997 and 2013 under a teacher extraordinaire of English Language, English Literature and the General Paper.
His outstanding qualities both as a teacher and a human being endeared us to him in no small way. We refer to Mr Vipin Patel.
At the start of each new school year, he would insist that each of us had our own English dictionary; sharing was forbidden. He taught us how to use it and later introduced us to an English thesaurus.
For example, when some students from less privileged families could not afford a dictionary, Mr Patel bought them each a copy which he gave to them separately in the staff room to avoid any embarrassment to them.
He initiated a variety of games to build our vocabulary, used poems and songs, and brought wall charts, flash cards and a tape recorder into the classroom. Over time, he used reports, articles, letters and cartoons from an English daily, and created comprehension, vocabulary, error correction and summary writing exercises for us to do. This was at a time when such teaching materials would have been deemed a waste of time by the principal and school authorities. He must have staked his career and reputation to get approval. This effective technique, however, not only changed our attitude towards the study of English but also made it fun to learn the language and widen our horizons.
During an era when Google and other search engines were unheard of, he took his Form Six classes to the school library and showed them how to do research from the encyclopedias and reference books, make notes and come out with their own report or composition.
We came to realise later in our lives that good communication is a very important skill for long-term success to get ahead in the world today.
Mr Patel has an enviable command and knowledge of the main subjects he taught, namely, English Language, English Literature and General Knowledge. We would refer to him as the ‘Walking Encyclopedia on English’.
His passion for teaching has been infectious. His love of his subject matter inspired us to learn more, dig deeper, and think harder about it. He did not need a cane, like most teachers did. A long look with his eyes was enough to put us in our place.
Mr Patel created a conducive learning environment and built caring relationships with all his students, irrespective of their backgrounds or gender. It was this caring teacher-student relationship that facilitated the English teaching-learning process.
When some students could not hand in their homework assignments on the stipulated days, he went the extra mile to find out why. On finding that they had to help their parents every night at their noodle or fruit stalls, he met them to explain the need for time for their children to complete their homework.
Mr Patel willingly provided testimonials and recommendation letters to those who needed them. He even stood as a guarantor for needy students applying for loans to further their studies. Such a caring nature is something that cannot be taught, not even in the best school, college or university.
His high expectations for all his students had a huge impact on our achievements. He understood what each student was capable of individually and strove to help each one attain their personal best.
He conducted free tuition lessons for English 1119 in school in the afternoons for weak students in his classes sitting for public examinations, but whole classes would turn up. Mr Patel would type out his teaching materials on stencils and have them printed on the school Gestetner cyclostyling machine for use in class.
To help us in conversational and written English, he also authored a handbook for students of our school, which helped us greatly. It became a ‘bible of sorts’ to which we frequently referred even when we went overseas.
He started classroom libraries stocked with books. Proverbs inscribed on rectangular pieces of wood were hung along the corridors for us to learn. Three days a week were allocated for students to speak only in English and weekly ‘learn a word, idiom or proverb a day’ announcements were made from the principal’s office over the school public address system before the start of the first period.
When those of us who lived in Seremban or had children staying in the school hostel came to know Mr Patel had started English tuition classes at home, we were determined to send our children to him. Having been taught by him in school, we knew his calibre and had complete trust he would be able to help our children do well.
Many of us have gone on to become PhD holders, graduates and professionals in many fields, graduating from local and prestigious universities overseas.
Despite all his sacrifices and dedication, he has remained mostly unsung. In the hearts of all his students, he has always been a ‘hero’, respected and cherished.
Dearest Mr Vipin Patel, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a belated 81st birthday, a joyous 2020, and many more years of good health and happiness!
TO SIR WITH UTMOST LOVE AND GRATITUDE
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