Making a difference in students’ lives


Reading the letter his former students wrote in tribute to him while serving in Chung Hua High School, Seremban, brought back nostalgic memories for this former teacher.

I REFER to the article, “Teacher makes an impact” (StarEdu, Feb 9).

I must, firstly, place on record my profound appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to the writers for their lavish views and sentiments they have expressed about me. For an ordinary teacher to be recognised and remembered with glowing expressions makes me feel like a celebrity of sorts.

But, in reality, it is most humbling and touching. Reading the letter overwhelmed me with untold emotions and warmed my ageing heart. It brought back nostalgic memories about my years serving in Chung Hua High School, Seremban, which had become my second home.

In a lighter vein, I only now realise that, as I went about doing my work as a teacher of English and other subjects, my students had scrutinised me under the microscope: watching, examining, analysing and recording my work performance. If I had known then, I would have been more mindful to score the maximum on their Key Performance Indicators scale.

The attributes ascribed to me have been inculcated in me during my formative years, first at home, then in school, and later in my working life as well as my participation in voluntary work.

If I may digress briefly at this point, I would like to pay tribute to some wonderful people who imparted to me values, ethics and life lessons that have always stood me in good stead.

My parents, paternal aunt and uncle, Rev Bro Casimir L’Angelier (St Paul’s Institution director, Seremban), teachers such as Rev Bro Anthony as well as Mr Ambrose Dairiam, Mr Tan Khai Tai (my first principal at Chung Hua High School), Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard, close friends and others like Mbah Mulyani (my housekeeper) have played a big role in shaping my character and moulding me into the person I am today.

Their exemplification of honesty, humility, sincerity, simplicity and selflessness through their words and deeds left a lasting impression on me. They never hesitated to make sacrifices for others even at the expense of their own needs, well-being and comfort. I am truly blessed that they have played a meaningful role in my life.

During my teaching career, I attempted to pass on such principles and traits to my students, hoping for them to pick up valuable lessons that they would need for life upon entering society.

For many students, a teacher is a role model - a fact which highlights the need for personal strength and resistance to vice, especially for those teaching impressionable children. The teacher, besides providing an academic education, should also be the provider of a good moral example for his students to follow, demonstrating the advantages of honest and conscientious living. I strongly hold to the view that teaching students to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.

It may surprise my students to know that most of my pleasant memories of the years that I taught in Chung Hua High School, Seremban are of the happy times I shared with them. My great pleasure is derived from having taught several thousand students, who have come from two successive generations, seeing them take their rightful place in society, and establishing themselves in their chosen careers. They have been my greatest source of motivation and inspiration and I fervently hope that I have made a small difference in their lives through my teaching and character-building efforts. I consider myself truly blessed to have had great students under my wing.

I may not have amassed material wealth or accolades in any form. But I believe I am rich - rich in satisfaction, pride and joy to have seen them being motivated to study with determination, jubilant in passing their public examinations with flying colours, blossoming to their full potential and seeing them bravely facing the world outside the four walls of the school and its inevitable challenges. And I can say, “Yes, I have taught in spite of living in a world before and after the advent of computers, IT as well as social media.”

It has been said that martial arts instructors do not teach their trainees every skill they possess. However, unlike them, I went beyond the scope of my students’ requirements and examination syllabi to raise their English Language proficiency level and to prepare them for greater challenges and demands. I now perhaps regret doing that as they have proved they can write as well as, or better than, I (written with tongue in cheek).

I would like to advise them that the world will never remember you for what you take from it, but only for what you give back to it, and also to reflect on this thought: “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”

Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” I hope Chung Hua High School alumni will contribute their best not only to their families and alma mater, but - more so - to their neighbourhood, community, country and the world at large.

I urge all my former students to maintain the fine camaraderie that exists among them.

VIPIN PATEL

Seremban

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