“மாதா பிதா குரு தெய்வம்“, is an old phrase in Tamil, which means “Mother, Father, Guru and God”, when translated to English. This saying gives a glimpse as to the importance placed on a Guru or teacher, in the lives of ancient Tamils and to an extent, ancient India as the same saying exists in Sanskrit. That is how highly a teacher is looked upon, in ancient societies. This is still true even today in, at least in most parts of the world.
I started my life as a student, in a tiny school known as La Salle Sentul, located in a quaint part of Sentul. Then again, most parts of Sentul was quaint back then. La Salle Sentul was a place that I spent eleven years of my life, under the watchful eyes of colourful and wonderful teachers. My alma mater, is a little school, when measured by the standards of schools in Kuala Lumpur. It housed both the primary and secondary schools within the same compound. Yes, in case you were wondering, the shrill of the whistle as mentioned in one of my earlier posts, from the nearby Sentul railways workshop was very much audible at school.
As I recall it, on my first day at school, there was this gentle motherly looking lady, who greeted me and almost fourty others. She encouraged us to leave the comfort of our parents and to remain in class during school hours. She spoke gently and softly, gaining our trust, until we became comfortable with her. I can’t really remember now, what subjects she taught us. However, between her and the other two friendly and motherly ladies who also taught my class, we were under very good eyes and hands in our first year at school. They were strict and punished us when necessary but kept it to a minimum. As far as I can remember, they did their very best to build the foundation that was necessary for us to continue learning and achieve our true potential. They pretty much set the tone for the rest of my school life.
Throughout my years in school, I realised and understood that teachers did not just teach. A number of them went beyond that. As a young child and all the way through part of my teens, I went through bouts of asthma attacks. As a result of this, my parents did their very best to keep me away from games and sports, worried that an elevated breathing level would lead me to another asthma attack. It was one of my teachers who spoke to my parents, convincing them that I would be just fine being active. She encouraged me to participate in sports and games. Thanks to her, I enjoyed running and represented my “house” during sports days all through my school life.
When I had to stay away from school due to my asthma attacks, some of my teachers offered to help me catch-up with lessons once I returned to school. They came to see me at hospital when I had to undergo a minor sinus operation. Upon returning to school, they ensured that I obtained copies of notes and lessons that I had missed and completed all the exercises that were given out to the rest of class, during my absence.
One fine day, when I injured myself after an incident with a glass door, it was one of my teachers who came to help me up and calm me down. I had panicked and was howling by then, having seen blood gushing out and the insides of my knee and shin. She wrapped a bandage temporarily around the wound while another teacher rushed me off to the hospital, in his white Nissan. While I was at the hospital, he stayed by my side until my father arrived. Later on, another teacher dropped by to see if I was doing fine. Again, my teachers impressed upon me to get copies of notes and to complete all the exercises that I had missed out on, upon returning to school after a lengthy medical leave.
There were the teachers who gave me the opportunity and then continued to encourage me to participate in dramas and to be part of the school choir. I would have never known it at that time but being part of the choir remained an important feature of my academic year from school through my time at the university. Being part of these activities, helped me build up my confidence and gave me an opportunity to just have fun, other than studying.
Then there were the teachers who felt that making me a school prefect, when the time came, would mould me into being a more disciplined person and perhaps learn other skills along the way. I was a very talkative person, much to the chagrin of my teachers. Again, that move helped and I learned slowly to be a slightly more disciplined person. I believe this also helped me to become a matured person and planted seeds of basic of leadership skills in me. Being a school prefect, made me explore and figure out what values I would hold dear for the rest of my life. Having said that, my wife would most likely disagree that the move helped with the talkative aspect of my character.
Some of the teachers took it upon themselves to play the part of a counsellor, even when it wasn’t their task to be one. Besides teaching, they would encourage us to speak with them or any other teacher that we were comfortable to speak with. They kept a close eye out for signals of us being upset or distressed about something. Each of them would have their own methods of getting us to relax, especially during the exam years. Although they may not have been able to help all of us, their efforts definitely helped some of us stay strong as we navigated through our adolescence.
There are a lot more tales from my days in school, where one or more teachers have made a significant impact in my life. One single post will be too long to cover them all. Suffice to say, the passionate, brilliant, hardworking, dedicated and wonderful teachers that I was lucky enough to have studied under, have strongly influenced how I matured and eventually turned out in life. I owe part of my success to their presence in my life.
I may have lost touch with most of my teachers today, seeing some of them occasionally at functions or at the restaurants. However, I have not forgotten and will not forget what I have learned from my them, from those at school and those at the tuition centres that I attended. Part of what I am today, is pretty much due to their effort in teaching me and going over and beyond their usual call of duty when needed. After all, what is a student, if not for the teacher that the student studied from?
P.S.: The featured image is sourced from Pixabay.