There are good teachers, there are inspirational teachers and there are great teachers. There are bad teachers too, teachers who kill your interests, teachers who demotivate and shred your self-esteem to pieces, and teachers who discriminate. The bad apples true to my nature are often forgiven although not forgotten.
There are teachers who mislead but this a subject on a different thread.
My early taste of discrimination happened during the competition for selection to go to boarding school. I could still remember I had the highest score 100, 100, 100 and 90 for Bahasa Melayu, Science, Mathematics and English. Yet I was left out of the selection and instead my classmate was chosen. He was not that smart and I suspected he was chosen because of his father who was a teacher in the school.
He did not succeed to go to a boarding school. He ended up as a laboratory assistant.
There was a tinge of frustration but I guess I was also not that ready to leave the kampung and God had better things in store for me.
Instead of STAR or SDAR, two boarding schools for kampung children, abah enrolled me for Remove Class at Sekolah Menengah Semerah. .
Sekolah Menengah Semerah was a real kampung school. Batu Pahat is 20 km away. But presto unlike now it had the Malay stream and the English stream. Abah had it all planned that I should go to an English stream.
Here in the kampung school, who would imagine that I would have the two greatest teachers I would ever had. Tahir Talib and Andrew Thor
Tahir was weird and a misfit by kampung standard. Words were around that he was an atheist, that he had no religion. His father was a district officer of Batu Pahat. An urbanite in a kampung setting he exuded this aloofness, class and style that many were not familiar with.
I managed to locate Tahir many years after that. We became fairly close having something in common. I call him a taliban. Not because his fathers name was TALIB, but because We have a common interests in studying the scriptures. Tahir became an expert of the Quran and his command of the language and his systematic approach made him a useful reference.
On a few occasions he tested me just like the school days and I passed.
Teaching English to a class of 12 year old whose only vocabulary were “yes, no, alright and good morning” must be daunting. To make it worse a majority had Javanese as the first language. But Tahir did it systematically and religiously complete with grammar and diction.
Repeat after me, A P P L E, aepel
A P P L E, eppal heavy in Javanese intonation, and Tahir would repeat aepel not eppal.
After 2 years of Tahir’s tutelage, I became so proficient in the language that I could easily beat Yong Yee YEN who went through 7 years of English primary. It must be frustrating for Yee Yen.
The Kampong boy found a new window to the world, the English language. I became so passionate about reading that the small school library became a favourite haunt.
Without realising, that interests in reading paid its dividends. It was easy for me to top the class.
Andrew Thor was my class teacher in Form 1. If there were to be an award for The SIFU with capital letters Andrew would win it hands down.
How would you categorize a trainer who told his prodigy ” son. this gymnasium, this place and me is not good enough for you, go find another trainer, another gymnasium and challenge yourself”
Andrew did that to me. One day after the final term result was out he called me up and said ” Esham, this school and this place is not good enough for you. I suggest you apply for a transfer to a town school”
I did. Well, I told abah and abah agreed.
For that I am eternally grateful to Andrew Thor.
And Tahir, I say, you are the greatest English teacher in the world.
And instead of SDAR and STAR God had it all planned for me to go to the Malay College.