Saturday, May 06, 2006

Hello, Do you remember me?

The words every teacher fears to hear. Why? Because each year, we teach about 100 students personally and are in some form of contact or other with another 200-300 others. That's a whole lot of names and faces to remember.

So last night, at the new Cathay where we had gone to watch the 2 hour plus long extended version of Alias by JJ Abrams, this kid comes up to me. He's slightly taller than I am, has more curls than I do in my hair and a wide somewhat familiar smile. And he asks, "Excuse me, do you remember me?"

I'm stunned. Is this an ex students? Someone I danced with in some production a long time ago? I'm not sure. Click click click. Then he tells me his name. Click click. Then he says that I taught him when he was 14. Click! Jackpot! I got it.

He was from my very very first batch of students. In a class that was a great challenge to handle, especially for a newbie teacher. In a school that had such a cross section of society that made you feel very little because you'd grown up for most of your life thinking the rest did not exist. Anyway, his class. I taught them English. They didn't speak much of it. I taught them to distinguish between "three" and "tree". I taught them to say "please" and "thank you". And then, I taught them history. I taught them that during the war, my grandfather laid crab traps in the storm drains, and come high tide, my mother and her siblings would get crab for dinner and that's how they survived the war. I taught that to them so well, that during the exam, they replicated that, as an example of how people in Singapore survived the hardships of war. Verbatim.

This was also the class that taught me to come up with the most ingenous of punishments. This boy and some others defied all my efforts to keep lines from forming on my face. Their joint efforts were enough to drive any trained experienced teacher out of class. Let alone a newbie. Force didn't work. Cajoling didn't work. Meeting them on their level did. When he refused to tuck in his shirt, I would put on my most whimsical of smiles and approach him, offering then to tuck it in for him. Of course, that freaked him out, sent him retreating and hastily tucking in more of his shirt than he naturally would have. When another refused to shut up, his partner was given masking tape and was given full permission to use the tape on him. That led to the boy having tape over his mouth and words in bright red screaming "SHUT UP!" across where his mouth would be.

I never understood why teachers punished students by making them stand at the front of the class. It never worked because they never quite stood still. Early on, I attempted doing that and the result of that was, the boy was leaning flat on the board, spreadeagled, lying down flat, standing up against the board. That meant, I couldn't write anything on the board. And he wouldn't budge. What was I to do? I could have cried and fled the class, that works sometimes. But that wasn't me. I was more, if you want to play this game, two can play at it. So I whipped out a marker, and drew a crime scene body outline of him on the board and told him, he was evidence in a very important murder case and he couldn't move. Everytime he moved, the outline shifted and his white shirt truly became evidence of his crime.

It sent the class into stitches, it took all of my will power not to crack up and give up and I made the class write a detective narrative about a crime being committed and this was the evidence that was found at the scene.

It was a good lesson. He never fidgeted as much anymore. I wonder what became of that boy.

And yesterday, it was a different boy standing in front of me. He was a little bit older, a little bit more aware of what he was like as a student. And he had a brother, who was a carbon copy of him as I remembered him.

Great kid. Not in the he scored 9 As type of way, but the, he had grown up a little wiser, a little smarter, a little closer to his family and bit more at peace with the world sort of way. I gave him my card because we were already late for a movie. I hope he writes to me. It would be really great to find out what everyone of those other kids were up to now.

Time indeed, does fly. When I taught them, I had just moved back from Melbourne and now, we're planning to move back there already.

Age is indeed upon all of us.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 07:58

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