Monday, June 22, 2009

A Passion for English

Tuesday, 23 June 2009 @ 3.07pm

We were in the car, talking about which schools are good and what sort of education our children should have (yes, it might be early. But it’s always good to start planning ahead).

I said that we should encourage them to learn Mandarin, and that we would learn and practice with them. He agreed. I said that they could go to him for BM and Agama, and myself for English. He agreed. Then I said, “who are they going to go to for Math?”

This question led to him asking me why I was (and still am) so bad at numbers. I told him that they’d done research that your teacher can be a very big influence in your liking a subject or not. I have never had a good Math teacher – or at least not one who was able to spark my interest.

From kindergarten, I’ve had Math teachers who were more interested in their own personal lives then they were of actually teaching Math. In my history of Math teachers, two stood out the most. One was an overweight Chinese lady called Mrs Beulah. And the only reason I remembered her was because of her name. She was actually kind of jolly too. Oh, and she spoke about her husband a lot.

The other was Ms Ting. I, along with eight other Math misfits were in Group 9 (the lowest possible group made possible specially for us lost causes) were put in her class for the last two years of our high school days. She I remembered because all she did was preach about Jesus Christ and what she did at Church. (You can now see why I don’t really fancy Math).

There were two more that I don’t so much remember their names or faces. Just situations that involved them. One was when I was in Grade 7 (Form 1). She was a depressing woman. Every time she walked in the classroom, it felt like she brought with it all the bad energy and dark forces with her. It didn’t help that the classroom was at the far corner of the school and already felt like a cave. The other one was an English man. I forgot his name. He just didn’t care. I remember once I copied the sums and answers from the text book and returned it to him. I was so sure that I was going to get into trouble. I didn’t really care at the time (what with puberty and all…) And what did he do? Marked it all correct, praised my good effort and gave me an A+. He was quite puzzled when I failed during the exams.

Eddie then asked me why I liked English so much. Ahh…another story all together. My first teacher was called Mrs Button. She told me that when you read a book, you could paint beautiful pictures in your mind and make it your own. She taught me how to use my imagination. I remember once in Standard Two, my teacher, Mrs Linda, gave the class two options – watch a video or write a story. I was the only one who chose to write a story. Mrs Linda tried to convince me to join my classmates and watch the video. But I was determined to write. So I sat alone at the corner of the classroom writing.

When I was in Grade 7 (I didn’t go to Grade 6, so a lot of significant moments happened when I transferred from Grade 5 to Grade 7 – really opened up my eyes), I had Mr Moss for English. He was the new teacher at school and had a new method of teaching. He wanted us to write. No text book references, no nothing. Each class, we were made to write about something that came from us.

In Grade 8, they introduced English Literature, which we were taught once a week. Mr Moss was my teacher again. This year, he opened me up to the world of Shakespeare. He made us play the parts and read the lines.

In Grade 9, we were allowed to choose what subjects we wanted to take besides the mandatory Math, English and one Science subject. I chose Art, Design & Technology, Development Studies and English Literature. The last three years of high school was probably the best time of my teenage life.

I did a Diploma of Mass Communications, and that opened me up to journalism – soft and hard news, as well as different sorts of styles of reporting. University was the breaking point in my life. I was doing my bachelors in Media and Communications, but majored in Cultural Studies and Philosophy. This opened me up to Albert Camus and James Joyce, among many other writers, philosophers and sociologists whom I couldn’t get enough of during my years in Melbourne.

I told Eddie all this, explaining to him everything in detail. I even gave him some examples of my favourite authors. I told him about Roald Dahl and his infamous twist in the tales. And as I spoke and spoke, I didn’t realise that I have allowed English Literature to become such a big part of my life. I think this was one of the reasons why I couldn’t accept being just an AE. I’ve been back at Trix for only a week, but feel more useful in the last week then I have in the last six months.

I may have honed my skills as an AE and have learnt to deal with all sorts of people, but my years spent learning, reading, living and breathing has made me become what I am today. I am an Editor.


anita r said...

Here's my two cents:

Learning Mandarin/Japanese/French/Arab has its advantages, especially upon entering the workforce. However, Chinese medium schools have very tight schedules and there is homework on a daily basis. There are also extra classes, on weekends and some which begin during the year-end school holidays. Students have to master three languages - their own mother tongue, and the other two languages taught in school. So if in future you decide to send yours and Eddie's children to Chinese medium school, you also have to make sure that you have ample time to be there for them, to learn with them. The advantage though is that they are well-disciplined in terms of doing homework, studying etc. The best way is to first and foremost, since you can speak both languages, is to bring them up to be bilingual so when they reach schoolgoing age, they only have one other language to worry about.

anna r said...

we were planning to send him/her to Smart Readers, cause I know they have Chinese lessons there. Then decide whether to continue Chinese from there on not. Depends on the child. We might not send him/her to a Chinese school, but encourage them to learn Chinese on the side. And have me or the both of us learn too. Then we can all practice together.

Cat said...

That is so bizarre! I totally remember Mr. Moss and Ms. Ting! hahahaha can you believe how long ago that was? We were babies!