27th August. The night before the SS prelim. I was studying. Until - POOF! - the entire staff room of RGPS appeared before me. In my room.
I am not joking. But I am exaggerating.
Only some of the teachers who had taught me before, save for a few, materialized. That, by the way, is quite a mixed bag.
"Who are you?" I cried. Then I rephrased it. "What the freakin' heck are you doing in my house?"
"Appearing," answered Miss Sue Tan calmly. "Minus five points. Watch your language, Jennifer." I simply goggled at all of them. No doubt that was considered rude too.
"Jennifer!" yelped Madam Azizah. She picked up the (nine) empty Juiceful packs on the floor. "Why are you eating while you study?"
"To stay awake," I snapped, snatching a pack from her and popping one it into my mouth. "My parents don't let me take caffeine at night. And you're lucky they aren't home right now." I sucked furiously, then spat the plastic wrapper into the dustbin. It went in, thus I could not find an explanation for the mortified looks. I wasn't littering, after all.
"But Jennifer," wheedled Miss Janice Lim, "Why are you staying up at night? You need your rest! Like breakfast! How can you not take breakfast?" She glanced at her watch. "Oh my god! It's 11 p.m.! Why aren't you asleep?"
"Because I'm studying for her damn exam tomorrow!" I scowled at Madam Azizah.
"Minus five points!" trilled Miss Sue Tan.
Miss Ng Siok Leng retrieved a pile of worksheets and literally blew the dust off them. "Jennifer! Why aren't these filed?"
Miss Ivy Lee peeked over her shoulder and choked. "Jennifer! Use your ruler to draw tessellations!"
This was all happening at once.
"What is that noise?" demanded Miss Lim, marching over to my stereo set. That, I thought, was a bit too much. No one insults Gloria Estefan or Jennifer Lopez in from of me. "How do you turn this racket off?" Given Miss Lim's tech experience, the player forwarded, re-winded, got louder, got even louder, and switched the disc. Miss Lim was happy until she realized it'd switched to a certain Tomb Raider movie soundtrack. Several fascinating installments:
U2 blared. Nine Inch Nails blared. Missy Elliott and Nelly Furtado blared. Outkast blared. Moby blared. Basement Jaxx blared. Fatboy Slim featuring Bootsy Collins blared.
Heck, everything blared; all sixteen aggravating tracks, of which I have no objections to whatsoever. I could not say the same for the others. They seemed to be in considerable pain. Finally Miss Juanita yanked out the power. It stopped.
"OI!" I yelled. "You put my Latino back on!" They kindly ignored me.
"Air conditioning at 23(C?" howled Madam Azizah. "Think of how much energy you're wasting! A polar bear could freeze in here!"
My two-thirds Newater, patriotic Singaporean foot.
Mrs. Tong butted in. "That is a misconception. Pure water freezes at 0(C, and polar bears have thick layers of fur, which trap air." I used the distraction to plug my player back in. Before I could blast J. Lo. again, Miss Lim paraded over, wielding an old, old CD she'd dug up from the depths of my collection. I caught sight of the box. Disney?!
You think I'm an ignorant savage, And you've been so many places,
I guess it must be so.
"Pocahontas?" I wailed. "Come on!"
Meanwhile, Miss Lee, Miss Ng and Madam Azizah were arguing.
"The 'circle line' of MRT is not a circle! It has no diameter, and its radius-"
"It is a figure of speech!"
"Figure of speech!" bubbled Miss Lim with enthusiasm on her favorite subject. She and Miss Juanita joined the animated, lively conversation. Once again I swapped disks.
Let the love go on, on and on It's so cold out there; take my hand And you'll be strong, on and on With our love we can lay down the world
Let's lay down the world
"Minus five points! What kind of lyrics are those?!" Miss Tan, of course, did the honors. I changed back to J. Lo. She covered her ears, moaning.
Miss Ng got up, seemingly unshaken the something called the Lopez Trauma. "Come, your NAPFA is coming soon next year, follow the music and run five rounds around the track- I mean, room!"
"Then why is it called a circle line?" the anguished voice of Miss Lee rang out.
That was the last straw.
"Why are you in my house?" I shrieked at all of them. "I'm not in English remedial, or Science remedial, or SS remedial; we don't have Art or PE remedial, and I'm only in Chinese and Math, so why are you all here?"
Silence. For several fractions of a second.
"We are the Teachers of Studying Present," intoned Miss Juanita theatrically, widening her eyes, which contrasted sharply with her dark skin. My skin crawled. I supposed that was why she taught drama.
"You're the WHAT?!"
"Teachers of Studying Present," she repeated crisply. "We are here to teach you how to study."
"Bollocks," I muttered under my breath.
"So, here we go!" Next thing I knew Miss Ng had forced/crammed/stuffed me into my large leather chair with armrests and pushed it against the desk. It was as effective as a high chair. I was their prisoner.
"Number one." Miss Lim stood wickedly by the stereo. "No loud music." She pressed STOP (evidently she'd found it at last). Jennifer Lopez stopped mid-note. I swore loudly.
"Minus five points."
"Number two," boomed Madam Azizah, "No eating while you work." She tossed my Juicefuls, Mentos, Gummi Bears, Skittles, Ricolas, M&Ms, chocolates, Sour Powers, lollipops, Gobstoppers and assorted-little- gummies-you-bag-up-for-three-overpriced-bucks-at-the-gas-station into the bin. I swore again. Jennifer, sugar junkie, was not going to survive much longer in an endangered environment.
"Minus ten points. How many times must I tell you, Jennifer?"
"You want me to spit the one in my mouth out too?" I growled.
"Unhygienic," Madam Azizah replied sweetly.
"Number three," interrupted Miss Lee, "Use rulers." She thrust a plastic Momo Bear "Let's be friends" ruler into my hand. I glared daggers, no, Uzis at all of them.
"You are evil, evil women," I snarled. Then again, I declare anyone who doesn't like Latino to a certain degree evil.
Miss J came very close to me. Then she leaned over and whispered into my ear.
"Your air-con's too cold."
"You should get some fresh air. Open a window, Jennifer."
"Rest your eyes, look at something green."
"You should go change. How can you study in those indecent shorts and spaghetti straps?"
"Tie up your hair, it'll get in your way."
"Pay attention, Jennifer! Always dreaming."
"Drink some water. All living things need water to survive."
And so on and so forth. I was getting so exhausted I couldn't even make out the numbers on my watch. It looked suspiciously like a two. a two something something. TWO A.M.?!
"And finally, Jennifer." My head snapped up. Were they finally going to leave? I braced myself for someone to tell me to eat a complete, balanced diet. With celery, beetroot and carrots. And worst of all, no Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
"Lovely," I mumbled sleepily. "Charmed."
Wait a minute.
"WHAT?" I gaped, suddenly wide awake again. "What'd you say?" Wasn't this dear student's house that they just felt like taking a stroll into? Wasn't I the dear student that they'd tortured all night? Correction: morning?
They didn't even look miffed at my inattention. "Good luck, Jennifer." She nodded to me. "You all have so much potential in you, don't waste it."
"We have plenty of faith in you, and we can count on you to show us that we're not wasting our time and energy standing up there teaching." I was pretty much stunned.
"We know students who read under the tables. Who don't pay attention, no matter what we say to them. Who don't do their homework or copy others' answers." My stomach knotted up rather guiltily. I had done all these things, at some point or other.
"You don't know how hard it is with these people. But somewhere, in between, we find a few, good students - some who might truly be our call to teaching. The ones who are evidence that's we aren't just doing it for the money.
"Prove your potential tomorrow, Jennifer. We know that you can do it." They all smiled warmly at me (well, most of them). I almost felt myself choking up a little. Well, I cried at E.T. And then - POOF! - they all vanished.
I know you'll laugh at me if I tell you studying is a supernatural experience for me. But it is. Now, as I turn every page, I can feel the care and concern of these people, real people; a core of strength and hope as when they had penned these notes. These teachers who spend their lives just trying to give us a better, brighter future.
Why on earth do we call them teachers, anyway? How can these people be teachers? The Internet, books - those are teachers. They teach, thus they are teachers. Makes sense? We have real flesh and blood humans educating us here! Why should they simply be titled another word form of their occupations? For they do not just teach. Clearly, every gesture, every example, every course of action they take is a little lesson in life for each of us. There is so much to learn from them, and 'teacher' makes them sound as flexible as School Teacher Barbie. I even recall one teacher who whipped out a marker in the middle of the lesson, drew a grid on the whiteboard, and taught us how to win at Tic-Tac-Toe every time.
Somehow, we call these people evil.
And I know you'll laugh at me if I tell you that, well, that was one of the most touching experiences of my life. But it was. Having teachers burst into your study without warning takes a bit of adjusting, certainly, but I certainly learned plenty more than the political structures of 1955 that night.
Thank God for teachers. And thank you, teachers, for being what you are, doing what you do. You've only wanted to give us the best all along.
Most of the time. I'd lost 25 points, after all.
Happy Teachers' Day. ~*~ You ~*~ In the sky You gave up And even I know not The swallows fly Everything for me How my own life will end And as I watch them Even your life But I do know someday I start to cry Just to set me free I will once again join my friend And I remember From the chains of misery The friend who paid my price You, my friend I was blind The friend who did just good Our friendship And you helped me see The friend who did more It will never end Than fair-weathers would
Though you are not here I remember too well And now I know you want to know I shall not pretend That fateful day "Who was that special one?" This tragedy The day that you The one I know I'll always miss I cannot amend Were called away Gone at time's untimely gun Has not occurred Forevermore Rain is no longer wet and cool Though what's passed is past For many years And harsh and bitter is the sun Our friendship From shore to shore Since, dear teacher, the day you left Will forever last Will flow our tears You - the truly special one.
The time has come And now towards the heavens To say goodbye I turn my mournful eyes A teardrop forms I can almost hear Within my eye The whispers of our sighs Fate cannot be changed But we know you're watching Time cannot turn back From your palace high above My life is now Your greatest gift has still lived on On a different track Your greatest gift of love