Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Every year around this time, as a teacher, I looked forward to a new academic year. During the end of school year holidays I had about selected the school under15 team and was waiting for the inter-school football season to begin. But most of all I looked forward to a new set of students that will spend most of their waking hours with me more than with their parents! BTW that was what my late Pa told me when I chose to be a teacher. Daunting? Of course, it is. As a teacher, how your kids progress depends on YOU and not the parents! But I encountered little problem in this area as I tried my utmost during my 19 years as an educator to emulate the great teachers I had during my schooldays. It was also by choice that I chose Karen as my life partner, because she was a teacher, and a great one she turned out to be. We were strict? Of course, more than strict. But today our closest buddies are still our former students.

Doctors want their child to become a doctor. The engineer wants his child to become an engineer. Businessmen want their wards to become CEOs. BUT a teacher wants his child to become one ot the above! Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE. Very sad but that’s the truth! So amongst us teachers, we have the good, the bad and the ugly, which is also the truth.

As a teacher over the years, I have come to see the work of a teacher inside and out. And I know that it takes a lot of heart and mind to do the stuff we teachers do. We have to be okay inside because who WE are is what we GIVE.

Earlier I said I had great teachers. Mr Tan Teik Hooi used to throw books at me to read. I need not have to go to the library. The books came in quick succession always accompanied with a reprimand that I was taking too long to finish the last book. When I told him that I want to be a teacher like him, he wrote on my autograph book:

"If a seed of a lettuce will not grow, we do not blame the lettuce. Instead, the fault lies with us for not having nourished the seed properly." - Buddhist proverb

Chegu, that is how special you have to be!

Do follow me thru this episode:

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued:
"What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point he said to another guest;
"You're a teacher, Boon. Be honest. What do you make?"

Teacher Boon, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
"You want to know what I make?
(She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like he was a Medal of Honor winner.Then I give a reassuring pat on the shoulder of another because he showed improvement. He had only two red marks over the last monthly test in which he had three red marks!

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod or a Game Cube.

You want to know what I make?
(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write.
Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.
They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my Malay, Chinese and Indian students learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life

( Boon paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?


What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped; he went silent.


Now GO make 2012 the most special year for you and your charges.


Anonymous said...

It was recess time , I caught a boy writing on the B/B : ' I fcuk your mather.'
I told the shivering boy : " mather is salah , it should be mother , ok !" ( but I din tell him 'fcuk' is salah too.)

zorro said...

Chegu Anon1106....YOU are SPECIAL!

Anonymous said...

O ! I forgot to write dat I DID tell him NOT to do it again !

zorro said...

Chegu, I expected you did that. Can you print this for your colleagues just to motivate some of them?

Anonymous said...

Chegu Anon1106... looks like you had never had your car scratched just because you all you did was trying to advise your monkeys in your school. Or had stones thrown into your house just because you reprimanded some of those monkeys who disregarded all the rules in school.....

Zaidi said...

Uncle Z,
Thanks for the inspiring article. In the midst of your fiery criticism, you had the time to praise those from our society that contribute. Truly awesome Malaysian!

Anonymous said...

I was one of Master Bernard Khoo's students. We first crossed paths 34 years ago when I was 15. I remember vividly the track bottom with the pack of lucky strikes sticking out the back pocket.
Master Khoo was the football coach and we were made to run 20-30 laps of our huge field every single training session before playing piggy back football. Most of us hated him then, for not letting us just play football. However, we won the district championships 3 years in a row and even made it to the finals of the state championships twice. By the time we were in Form 5, 6 of our players were in the Selangor U-18 side. We were the cream of the crop in Selangor soccer despite being the baddest school in PJ back then. Being in the football team, made us popular and respected bunch as Master Khoo was always there for us.
Those were the days when academics alone were not the main criteria, unlike today. Master Khoo made it known that principles, discipline and respect were the order of the day. Today, despite many of us not getting 8 A's in our exams, most of us have made a good life for ourselves. The same values of principles, discipline and respect which Master Khoo embedded in us has remained, at least for me.
Thank you Master Bernard Khoo, for being my teacher, coach, my friend. God bless you...

Anonymous said...

But alas! Nowadays the govt is churning out teachers who are just to cari makan and not real educators.Quality of teachers is also another concern. I have come across parent coming to school to confront teacher who do not know how to teach(especially science subjects).

Andrew Gopal said...

Wonderful piece Cikgu.

zorro said...

Received thru email from Terrence Netto:


This piece has got the feel of a good poem: the idea behind it rides from start to finish on its own melting. Now and then you unleash what in baseball they call a home run and in cricket, a solid six.

I don't suppose this can happen too often but when it does, as when last I read one -- about the late Adele Koh's attire -- I feel like one poet did when he read a fine piece of work by another: "I wanted to go to the man that wrote it and say something."

I reserve more of my say when next we raise a flagon of the good stuff together soon.

Terence Netto

Anonymous said...


You blew me away with the story.

Thanks, Zorro!

If it's okay with you, I'd like to share that story with people I know or cross path with in times to come.

zorro said...

Go ahead. What ever is posted here is for universal consumption without reservation.

Tiger said...

As a child of 2 teachers, I have personally seen the sacrifices and efforts my father and mother made for their students.
As a Senior Assistant for Darul Ridzuan, my father stayed back in the school even after school hours.
In Hua Lian, my mom was always fondly remembered by her students even after she passed away in 1986.

Anonymous said...


I know you meant well, but in all honesty, there is no hope for this country. The only solution to to pack and leave. We are going to be a bankrupt nation soon (or maybe we already are).

zorro said...

Bobby Tiger....would have loved to have met your teacher-parents.

Anon954am...it is ok to follow your heart. Me, I am stubborn to stay and contribute to change. May you find the happiness in the country you left this country for.

Anonymous said...


I've got 2 kids of schooling age. Where can I send them to in Malaysia that can teach them these values.

zorro said...

Anon107pm....very sorry I can't help out here. Best is for you to xchanghe notes with your friends with schoolgoing kids.

However, such values if learnt at home will certainly help in the child's development.

new fart said...

Salute to all teachers of this world! Without you, we wouldn't have been able to learn from A-Z, the right value and moral in life, among many many other things. As they said, teachers are the God-send angels for everyone and we thank the good Lord for that.
And I fully concurred with you that "What you are is What you give". So true! To be a good teacher, the first prerequisite is dedication and moral responsibility. And this can only come form within, from the heart. If anybody thinks that to be a teacher is a mean to a permanent rice bowl, don't do it. And if someone is purely after monetary reward, don't do it. Do something else. Sell insurance, you will earn much more. No, it's a job for angels and if you think you are not the chosen ones, do something else and leave this saintly job to those who are dedicated and truly love the job!

chris leong said...
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chris leong said...
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chris leong said...





zorro said...

Chris....done....my email is

zorro said...

Chris, I am informed that Finian passed away last year in East Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this little gem of wisdom. It's a profound piece of writing amidst the fog of cynicism, uncertainty and acrimony that envelops our nation. and yes, the commonplace worship of large bank accounts as the marker of the superior person.

May there be more such teachers out there, though i'm not hopeful.

qasehati said...

I want to copy this and paste it at my fb. This is a very great motivation for me. Thank you.

zorro said...

qasehati, you are free to post it on your facebook and spread it amongst your teacher colleagues....teachers are very special people....it is a vocation, a special calling and not just a job like any ordinary jobs. Teachers are change agents, something they forget to even mention during your teacher-training.