Monday, August 31, 2015

The superpower of teachers

I've always believed that few people impact on others as much as teachers. Good or bad, they can leave a deep impression that influences attitudes and behaviour, even years later.

Lesley-Anne and I have dedicated quite a few Danger Dan books to teachers - it's our way of publicly showing our gratitude. Since it's Teachers' Day this Friday, I thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to teachers in this post, specifically, two of Lesley-Anne's teachers who have been inspiring mentors in her writing journey.

The first is Ms Heng, Lesley-Anne's JC1 Lit teacher. This teacher basically grew Lesley-Anne's appreciation of Lit ten-fold with her intellectually stimulating lectures and tutorials. Apart from that, she intuitively understood Lesley-Anne's reflective temperament and encouraged her to express herself. When I first met her at the parent-teacher conference last year, I was struck by how she seemed to "get" Lesley-Anne, despite having taught her only for a few months.

Titbit: we dedicated Secrets of Singapore to her!

Here she is at her own book launch which she invited us to. She's a poet and writer herself and had published a book co-authored with three other writers.

The second teacher is Lesley-Anne's p6 English teacher, Ms Lee. There's a heart-warming backstory to this one. Before p6, Lesley-Anne actually found writing dreary, thanks no less to all those "model compositions" and the "good phrases" she was told to emulate. Bleaaah. Instant formula for killing the love of writing.

Thankfully in p6, Ms Lee advised her to put aside the model compositions and to find her own voice. Even though Lesley-Anne's language use was much simpler than the generally preferred bombastic language at p6, Ms Lee recognised her potential and continued to encourage her efforts. From there, Lesley-Anne's love of writing bloomed and she developed her personal writing style, which till today, leans towards simplicity and clarity.

Lesley-Anne credits Ms Lee in her school talk when she speaks about her writing journey. However, we had long lost touch with Ms Lee as she had left Lesley-Anne's primary school and we didn't know where she had gone.

Then in July, we conducted a talk at North Vista Primary School. After the talk, a teacher excitedly bounded onto the stage. It was Ms Lee! What serendipity! It was a very special moment for both of them.

These are just two teachers who made a difference in Lesley-Anne's life. We have the opportunity to thank them publicly through our books and our talks, but there are many, many more students whom I'm sure are privately thanking teachers for their own lives and successes. The teachers who disregarded their own safety to protect their students during the Sabah earthquake earlier this year come to mind.

For this, I would like to wish all teachers a very heartfelt and happy Teachers' Day. May your work continue to inspire and bless those who cross your path.

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