This blogpost is purely for me to record this precious moment. I can barely wrap my head around what happened this afternoon. My darling and I had some time to kill before going to pick up my order of cookies at Crunchy Teeth. And we stopped by an estate (I’m trying hard not to reveal my teacher’s whereabouts) to chill and perhaps get a drink or an ice cream. I spot this random tau huay shop and suggested that we have tau huay. The advertisement outside says they have a tangyuan and beancurd combo. So we step inside and I make a comment about the interesting seats.
And while my darling’s making small talk with the guy behind the counter, whom I barely take notice of, I count out the coins in my handbag ‘cos there are so many and I want to clear them all if possible. The kind gentleman says it’s not a problem to pay $7.40 using those coins. I look up at him and find him strangely familiar. But for the life of me, I could not instantly recall where I’ve seen him before.
Is he a retired Mediacorp actor, like Xie Shaoguang? ‘Cos this face looks very familiar, like one I probably see almost daily, such as on TV.
Then I suddenly switch from speaking in Mandarin to English and say “Excuse me, are you Mr ____ ____?” When he confirms that he is, OMG, I think I started gushing about what an awesome Econs tutor he is, blah blah blah.
And it’s true!
I went to SRJC for the ‘first 3 months’ and he was my Econs tutor. Fabulous teacher. During his lessons, it’s like lightbulbs just turn on in my head. I easily topped the entire cohort (yup, beating even those science and math geeks) in Econs. Somehow the school has regular updates on which students from which classes are getting the best grades in whichever subjects.
[Edit: Of the many things that Mr E taught me about Econs, I remember very little. But one phrase always remains in my mind: “The faintest ink is better than the best memory.” He was always happy, full of cheer (like my pal Jimmy Chua) and I don’t remember him screaming at us or getting upset. If he wanted you to write something down, he’ll tell you why: the faintest ink is better than the best memory. And somehow you cannot argue with that. That one phrase alone has been so very useful to me.]
Even the subject H.O.D looked for me one day after assembly and said she’s expecting me to take the ‘S’ paper for Economics at the ‘A’ Levels.
And even though I was an 8-pointer for the ‘O’ levels, and should have picked another JC (*ahem* sorry ah), I stayed on in SR.
Unfortunately, I got another teacher for Econs this time. And my grades were rather lacklustre from then on.
So whomever said “All schools are good schools” is actually right. What comes next should be “But not all teachers are good teachers”. Put simply, some teachers don’t have the aptitude nor the attitude for the job.
My other Econs tutor was a married female probably in her late 30s or early 40s. Teaching was purely a job for her, or more like a chore. There was barely any passion. And I remember till this day how she said to my classmate, who had probably missed out a key point or an important part of a question, “Your eyes so big, still can’t see ah?” Unnecessary personal attack right there.
But I was so young then. And did not know how to kick up a fuss or at least beg to be in a class taught by Mr E. If I had done so back then, I’d probably have done the ‘S’ paper for Econs, majored in Economics at NUS, and then worked at MAS, I think.
Talk about the road not taken.
And yes, I really do think that some teachers are truly unsuitable for the profession. Another real-life example: Back in GMSS, I was in a class known as Faith 4-4, which is basically the 4th ‘best’ class in the Express stream, or the 3rd ‘worst’ class, depending on how you look at things (glass half full or empty, ya?)
The teacher for Faith 4-1 (best class) taught us Geography. I remember the day she came into class and declared that she’s not teaching us that day. And we can jolly well do whatever we’d like till the time’s up. She had decided we were hopeless and did not want to waste her time on us. Perhaps she’d rather work on her lesson plans for her precious Faith 4-1 class. Again, I was too dumb to take this up with the teacher or better still, the principal of the school.
Another teacher taught us that if we want something badly enough, we’ll be able to get it. I believed her. And decided that even though some teachers may have given up on our class, I’d STILL like to be the top student of our school for the ‘O’ Levels.
And would you believe it? I did it.
I wish someone had taken a videocam and recorded the expression on my Geog teacher’s face when she found out the Top Student was not from her form class but from the despised Faith 4-4.
That would truly be priceless.
So I have such mixed feelings about meeting my wonderfully talented Economics teacher from JC. Gratitude for 3 months of amazing classes. Relief that the guy’s still alive (maybe he’s 60-ish now, ‘cos he said he retired a while ago). Curiosity about why he’s working in a tau huay shop instead of teaching as he’s such a gem of an Econs tutor (but somehow I can’t find the right questions to ask). And wonder, mostly, about why after all of 17 years I suddenly meet him on such a random day in January 2020, in a random tau huay shop I’ve never visited, in an estate I don’t usually go to.
And he doesn’t even work at this particular outlet usually. But as he’s a part-timer, he got allocated this outlet today for some reason.
My former teacher said that our meeting was a “blessing”. Indeed, it must be divine intervention. I don’t even know why and how this happened. But I’m thankful.