Tag Archives: teachers

On Humans and Starfishes

“Those who failed the test must take the re-test on Wednesday afternoon.”

“I can’t. I have to finish my art coursework. I’m very stressed over it. I need to finish it.”

“You can go finish it after the re-test. This isn’t my rule. This is the H* Department’s rule. If you don’t turn up we’ll have to call your parents.”

“Call lor. I’ll tell my parents to write a letter. Ask them to complain.”

And that was the end of that, because I didn’t see why I should continue arguing with her. I walked away, feeling that my day had been somewhat ruined by that short exchange.


On Wednesday afternoon, she came. I greeted her with a smile and spoke to her in a welcoming tone. “I’m glad you came!”

“I just need to finish the questions I failed, then I can go?”

“Yes! Remember not to repeat your mistakes!”


And she did pass, this time.

And then we started talking.

“Why are you so stressed over your Art? Shouldn’t you have finished your coursework in June?”

“It’s because… the new art teacher this year… she wasn’t clear about the deadlines… so we started later. Now I’m stressed I cannot finish in time.”

“I see…”

“Yeah… I’m really scared I’ll do badly for my N Levels.”

“Why would you do badly? You’re not that bad, you’re actually one of my better students.”


“Yes. Just remember that Stalin was from Russia, Hitler from Germany. NOT the other way around.”

She replied with a sheepish grin.

“I don’t even know what course I want to go to after I graduate. I like Psychology, and Design, but I also want to do Early Childhood and become a pre-school teacher. I scared study Design, next time no future. Then I also wanted to go into Law, but that one super hard to get in.”

And on and on she rattled.

I found myself getting to know this girl whom had been nothing but just a face in the classroom, a name on paper. Papers which always produced somewhat decent grades, hiding among the many others as a blur of words and content. That was all I knew about her before she chose to open up.

After discussing with her the pros and cons of studying something which “might not have a future”, I ended by telling her: “Do what will make you happy.”

She seemed to think about that for awhile, and in that moment, we were not teacher and student, pitted against each other by the cruel system, but two humans, sighing and dreaming in the midst of this rat race of life and our search for happiness.

Also a timely reminder that even behind the seemingly worst students, there are fears, hopes, stories and dreams. We just need to take time and effort to reach out to them. And while every starfish you touch may seem insignificant to the world, you may mean the world to that starfish.

star-fishPicture Source

Pranky Teachers

The phone placed in between our tables started to ring.

“I bet its for you.” I said to the colleague who sits beside.

As I picked up the receiver, she turned to me. “It must be ___ ___. ” and she silently mouthed the name of a boy – A boy in one of our common classes, a frequent source of distraction, GREAT disturbance and HUGE irritation.

“Hello, cher?” Came a voice over a phone.

I met my colleague’s eyes and nodded, telling her she was right.

“Yes, which ‘cher’ are you looking for?” Even though I already knew the obvious.

“Er.. Ms Lim.”

I was about to hand the receiver to her, when she mouthed something else, this time with a cheeky grin on her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

“Scold him.”

I must admit I was feeling rather cheeky at that moment too.

So I took the receiver back.


There was a second of stunned silence before he replied with a meek “…ok.”

By this time we were both giggling (silently) like crazy. She was laughing so hard, she could not say anything for almost ten seconds after I handed her the receiver!

Turns out she had punished him after her class today and he wanted to ask if his punishment was over so he could go off.

Haha. So now you know.

Teachers play pranks on students too!

The Complaining Syndrome

This is something I was thinking about on the way home.


Lately, I’ve come to realise a certain trend with the people I interact with frequently. And by “frequently”, I mean on an almost-daily basis.

Perhaps, its the increasingly competitive nature of our society. The mentality that we have to out-do others to be considered “good”.

To the extent that even when we’re complaining, we have to compete.


A few times, while eating in the pantry, I heard conversations like this:

Teacher A: “I’m so tired, I have this-that-this-that. ”

Teacher B: “Me too! I also have this-that-this-that and THIS!!”

Sometimes, teacher A might retort with a “YA! But LAST YEAR, I had to do THIS and THAT too! A least you don’t have to do THAT!”

And Teacher B might either fall silent, agree, or go back to “Aiya. SIAN.” And everyone falls silent in the company of unspoken thoughts, at least for a while, until someone changes the subject or adds on to it.


Of course, there are people who are generally nice and understanding.

When A says “I’m so tired, I have this-that-this-that”, they might respond with a “Oh no, that’s terrible. No wonder you look so tired”, instead of coming up with their own to-do list in comparison.

OR, they might rephrase and say, “I totally understand, because last year I had to do that too and it was terrible! No wonder you look so tired!”

Thereby indirectly eliminating the element of competition and strengthening the element of comradeship.

Unfortunately, people like these seem to be dwindling in numbers.

I am going to watch myself and make sure I fall in the latter category.


And, on a related note, its that time of the year again.

It’s the last lap!