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Thursday, September 01, 2005

With eagle's eyes

1st of September marks Teachers' Day in Singapore, the celebration of which (oddly enough) involves the teacher's themselves putting up items and sketches for the entertainment of the school. I thought I would take this opportunity to write about the very first teacher who made an impact on me.

Mrs T was my form teacher during my 1st year at Primary school - which meant that she taught us English, Maths and 'Moral Education' (more on this in another post).

I remember she was very slim and had reading glasses that hung round her neck attached to a gold chain when she wasn't using them. I was particularly impressed by this gold chain because I'd never seen anyone using it before and it struck me as a very good idea. Additionally, it reminded me of one of Sherlock Holmes's tales in which the hero found a pince-nez - and for a very long time, until I discovered what a pince-nez truly was, I would think of Mrs T and her reading glasses.

She had a calm, steady voice that had a roughness around the edges that made me think of crumpling paper, or the trees bending in the wind. She always spoke quietly, so that we would have to be quiet in order to listen, and she never raised her voice because she never had to.

She was always quick to praise any of her students for any number of good things but always careful not to praise one student above another one. "Naomi got 100% in the test and Minghui has made the most improvement" or "Melanie, your uniform is so nice and neat today" or "I see that Xiaomin has a book where she jots down her homework - what a good idea!" or "I saw Noelle sharing her snacks at recess; that was very kind".

This is how I began to learn through observation. Mrs T did not just look at her students. She noticed them, the little things. As young girls of six and seven, we weren't little angels, but our characters were still soft, and she knew that everything she said would make an impression. Perhaps this is why she was so careful not to be harsh with us, perhaps this was why she chose to show us how to see good in other people, so that we would learn from each other what is good, worthy and admirable.

Once she said, 'Look around you, with bright eyes, with eagle's eyes'.

I looked at my classmates and I would see...this girl was tall and she always looked after the ones who were smaller than her...that girl was rich and she was always sharing her colour pencils...this girl was hardworking even though she wasn't very clever...that girl had a hand-me-down uniform but she was always the neatest...

When I got older, I realised that taking notice of people helped me to understand them more. At secondary school, it was seen as a particular gift of mine to understand the people around me, see their strengths and their weaknesses. Because of this, I found it easy to get along with all my classmates, in a classroom divided into factions by teenage angst and PMS, something that my teachers noticed. I was particularly good at motivating people - which was great fun, because I occasionally goaded my class into all sorts of mischief (which, I would like to add, we never got into trouble for, because I would know what each teacher could tolerate).

As a doctor, the power to understand people and to learn from them through observation is absolutely necessary. I am good at establishing a rapport with my patients - it is one of my strengths. My patients often find it very difficult to explain to me what is happening to them, or they try to hide what really happened (especially if they've been abused) instead the body displays subtle clues that I must not miss.

Thanks to Mrs T, I look at the world with eagle's eyes.

Happy Teachers' Day.


Anonymous Lynn said...

Hey there, stumbled across your blog. I understand that you are a Doctor in London. I was wondering if you could help: I am trying to trace a Doctor friend of mine, from the GMC register I only know that she is working in London other then that I don't have anything else as her e-mail is now defunct. Just wondering whether you could point me to the right direction :). Thanks..and happy working in the A&E..notoriously busy place.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Tym said...

What a beautiful dedication, and what an amazing teacher Mrs T was! I am humbled and in awe.

2:13 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

lynn: I'd love to help, but I think a public blog isn't the place to put up somebody else's details. You will have to email me.

tym: Mrs T was pretty amazing - I'm sure you too have influenced your students.

3:18 pm  

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