Many of you will have seen this photograph. It was the signature photo fronting Zhang Zhi Rong’s story of how he went from 105 for his PSLE to graduating with a Masters in Architecture.
Today, more than a decade after his PSLE results were collected and he was posted to the Normal (Technical) Stream, Zhi Rong fondly recalls his Primary School teacher Madam Jocelyn Lim.
Madam Lim, my primary school teacher was one of the first teachers who gave me personalized attention and believed that I could achieve more. She was very caring. I still have the birthday card she gave me all those years back.
And then when I was in Mayflower Secondary School, my teachers encouraged me by saying that “every flower will bloom in the end”. That was one of the things that spurred me on.
I really have to thank the many teachers, and lecturers in ITE and Poly, and also my friends who did not give up on me.
Zhi Rong reconnected with Madam Jocelyn Lim a couple of years ago through Facebook. This earnest young man is still working on improving his English and, one day, he approached Madam Lim to ask if she could tutor him. Madam Lim agreed to help, but declined to accept any payment for her time. They have been meeting every Saturday for 2 hours each time to work on Zhi Rong’s English.
Here’s what Zhi Rong would like Madam Lim to know:
Dear Madam Lim, thanks for supporting and enlightening me all the way. The way you teach, the knowledge you shared, the care you take, the love you shower makes you the world’s best teacher!
Thank you for that card you gave me on my birthday all those years back. It was the first time I received a card from a teacher and it made all the difference.
I’m so glad that we got back in touch and that you are still guiding me along. Knowing that you are behind me in all I do spurs me on, and I am inspired to keep working hard and succeeding in life. Thank you, Madam Lim!
—- From the other side —-
Flying Cape first spoke with Madam Lim when writing up the article on Zhi Rong earlier this year. The retired teacher generously shared her journey as a teacher with us. She came into the teaching profession “because teachers and clerks were the 2 main occupations for women then”. She grew to love her job and particularly enjoy interacting with her students. She remembered Zhi Rong as a determined and cheerful boy who could get along with all his classmates. She now spends her days taking care of her parents and in-laws, having coffee with friends and engaging in charity work.
Recently, we met up with Madam Lim again, as friends, for a no-agenda coffee chat. It had taken us all these months to meet up as we were all busy. We spoke on a wide range of topics. Madam Lim marvelled at some of the anecdotes I shared about the corporate world, and of the start-up I was working on. She said she never had the opportunity to do anything except teach.
At one point I shared about how my own Primary School teacher Ms Leong Lai Kum. In all Ms Leong’s strictness then, she had been instrumental in helping me ace my PSLE Maths. And that Maths “model method” helped me so much later in life, especially when I was taking various aptitude tests for work and graduate studies.
I also recounted how another Maths teacher in JC shaped my outlook in life. By then, I was struggling with Maths and had scored a grand total of 29 marks out of a 100 for my Year 1 exams. Too embarrassed for words, and formal classes having ended that year, I tried to avoid my Maths teacher Ms Maureen Ng. One day while literally turning a corner, I found myself face to face with Ms Ng. The first thing she said to me was “Congratulations! You did well for your exams!” That took a while to sink in. I was expecting reproach for the one subject I did badly in, but what I received was affirmation in all the others I did well for. That blew my young kiasu Singaporean mind – I could define my own path to success as long as I excelled in something, anything of my own choosing! I dropped Maths shortly after, spent the rest of my JC days delving deeper into the subjects I actually liked, played more and made it to university just fine.
I mused that, seen from an official or statistical perspective, my dropping Maths probably counted as a “failure” on the Maths teacher or school’s part. Whereas Ms Ng’s simple one liner which saw beyond my failure in one area actually influenced how I made my career decisions a decade on.
It was at this point that Madam Lim remarked that there were many unsung heroes in the teaching profession. I agreed and wanted to interview her for this piece. Which she declined. She offered to link me up with the many other teachers she knew. Then we said, hey, maybe many other people have similar stories of how their teachers shaped their lives. Maybe like Madam Lim, Ms Leong and Ms Ng, they didn’t even know they did something that their students remained grateful for all these years on.
So today, on the day that PSLE students of 2016 collect their PSLE posting results, we would like to invite you to share your stories of teachers who have made a difference.
Teachers who have inspired you.
Teachers you may have lost contact with, but who will definitely be happy to know that all those years they spent in noisy classrooms, tediously marking, handling all sorts of admin tasks – those were all worth it.
Let’s hear from you.
Magdalene Loh, Co-founder, Flying Cape
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