The Teacher Who Taught Me How To Teach

This is my Pri 3 Chinese teacher Mdm Lim. If you were, or are, my student and have enjoyed my class or learned from me, you have this wonderful lady to thank. 

   
I met her at Henry Park Pri Sch and was in her class for several years. 

Yesterday, I had the honour of visiting Mdm Lim with 2 other classmates, and it was amazing. We talked for 6 hours.

  
That’s me, Mdm Lim, my friends Guang Wei and Yingda, who used to sit next to me in class. He said he always remembered me as kindly and motherly hahaha!

I have not seen Mdm since I graduated 28 years ago, save for a couple of visits back to school. 

  

In this photo, my friend Guang Wei and I (and 2 other boys) accidentally photobombed Mdm Lim hahahaha.

We lost touch after she was transferred to another school not long after we I graduated. 

Yesterday, I finally got to tell Mdm Lim, face to face, how much she has inspired me.

She is fabulous. Motherly, kindly, but strict, she somehow manages to straddle that thin line between being ‘teacherly’ and being a friend. 

Of all the teachers who have taught me, Mdm Lim is my absolute favourite. From observing her, I learned how to put my students’ learning first by helping them make sense of the bewildering world of education. 

She explains clearly, marks firmly and corrects gently. She comes from a position of wanting to help the student ‘get it’, and stay interested, instead of trying to just get through her work. (Believe me, students CAN tell the difference between a sincere teacher and one who just wants to get the day’s work done.) 

If you ask me to give you specific examples of why and how she is awesome, I can’t. (Because I old now, can’t remember.) But I will tell you this: My Chinese was decent, not great, and obviously, I am much more comfortable speaking and writing in English. But because I liked and respected Mdm Lim, I was motivated to work hard in her class. And yes, I scored my A in Chinese in my PSLE.  

My son Ayden (who has a… tumultuous relationship with the Chinese language) even told me wistfully that he wished his teacher is as nice as Mdm Lim. That’s the ultimate compliment from Ayden.

Because of Mdm Lim, I now strive to be the lecturer my students will also WANT to work hard for. I know, and am grateful, that some of my ‘naughty students’ who gave me a hard time when they first enter my classroom, then try reaaaallly hard for me after we get to know each other. Because they are motivated to do well, I am happy enough. I don’t need to see As from them. I am just proud that they see personal improvements, and have leapfrogged from Ds to Bs. 

Because of Mdm Lim, I now really love my job and my students as a poly lecturer at Ngee Ann Poly. Spending the rest of my life teaching (sometimes ungrateful, ha!) students is how I want to retire. 

Yes, my previous life as an entertainment magazine editor is glam. Jetsetting to meet the likes of Justin Timberlake, REM and Britney Spears was a great way to earn a living. 

Yes, it is fun to visit a restaurant and get to play God for a while as I critique their food and get paid for it. 

And yes, teaching and facing stacks of marking can make me want to tear my hair out sometimes and question my life choices. 
But I have an amazing inspiration to learn from in Mdm Lim.

So yes, if you were, or are, my student and have enjoyed my class or learned from me, you have this wonderful lady to thank.

When I am her age — she’s 77! HOW does she still look the same?! — I hope I will be in the same privileged position too. Where I have students who like me so much, that they track me down 28 years after they graduated from my class, (and probably shout in my ear) to tell me how awesome I was. 

Or at the very least, I hope my ex students will ‘Like’ me on Instagram or Facebook (or whatever social media is available then) and drop me a comment just to say ‘hi’. It will make an eccentric old lady very happy. But please remember to state your full name, year and the class you attended. In large font. Because I old.

Yours teacherly, 

Stella

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