Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tribute to a terrrific teacher


The good old days: The writer A. Akmar (front row squatting, second from left) with Mr Lim in this class photo taken in 1960.
The good old days: The writer A. Akmar (front row squatting, second from left) with Mr Lim in this class photo taken in 1960.
The first three years in secondary schools are the formative years for any child, more so for a boy as he is transformed from childhood to adolescence. The values and lessons that children will take with them to their adult life are picked up during this period.
Mr Lim passed away some years back, but he was certainly most instrumental in shaping my student life and thereafter.
In Form One, he taught Mathematics which I picked up quickly and with great enthusiasm. I became the top scorer in that subject in Form Five.
He was also my Art teacher but that was a subject I was never good at.
Nevertheless I am able to appreciate art simply because he taught us about about the right brushes and strokes, play of colours, medium and techniques which were important for a desired effect — all of which I am able to understand now — which is why I rarely miss visiting an art exhibition.
However, more than anything else, I most appreciate him for introducing me to the “gift” of reading. I often borrowed books from him.
He allowed his students to take home old and new books after he had read them first. I read voraciously savouring book after book from Ian Fleming to Erle Stanley Gardner. I was able to complete (reading) a book within a day and return it to Mr Lim the following day.
If it weren’t for the books he lent me, I would not become the top scorer that I was in English throughout my secondary school years.
There was also another side to Mr Lim — he was an avid gardener. He loved his flowers and under his guidance, his students learnt and enjoyed fertilising, weeding and taking care of the plants until they fully bloomed.
I must say that it was Mr Lim’s flowers that decorated our school compound. I may not have green fingers, but I love nature and thanks to Mr Lim, I am able to able to recall the names of many flowers.
What made Mr Lim truly unique was what I would refer to as his “colour blindness”. The school I went to was in a rural locality surrounded by padi fields. Naturally the bulk of the students were Malays and children of poor farmers.
Being a non-Malay, Mr Lim spoke fluent colloquial Malay. Knowing that most of his students were poor and unable to have proper meals, he would round up a few Malay students in his car on a weekend and take them to his house where his charming wife would serve them home-cooked lunch and cookies. To the students such meals were a luxury.
I was one of the many beneficiaries of their hospitality.
The boys were even served bottled drinks which the boys consumed only on festive occasions. For dessert, he would get the star fruits from the tree in his garden and serve them.
I have only the greatest respect and admiration for Mr Lim for he was what a teacher should be. He was trained at the Specialist Teachers Training College and was by no means rich. Although he went a step further with his generosity, it was his dedication that shone through, something that teachers of that era had, but which is greatly lacking in many teachers today.
Is the materialism and the rat race of today, the reason why many in the profession fail to have such fine qualities?

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