My school days were wonderful and I had many fantastic and dedicated teachers; both in the primary and secondary.
In std 1, Ms Wong was the class teacher while in Std 2, Mr. Perumal took charge of us. Mr. Hong was the class teacher in Std 4 while Mr. Chan oversaw us in Std 6.
Mr. Hong was a wonderful and remarkable teacher. He was very innovative and his teaching was interesting and effective. He was also not the conservative type. As the class teacher, he taught most of the subjects so he made them lively and especially English.
In those days, we had poetry, poems, singing, play or acting in addition to the usual reading, grammar and writing. Learning was an exciting affair.
It all started with one play, ‘The three blind men and the elephant’. I was one of those chosen to act in front of the class. Mr. Hong had drawn a picture of an elephant on the blackboard. I was to act as the blind men holding the trunk of the elephant. One held the tail and another, the ear. One had to touch the belly and another, the leg.
He explained to us and told us what to do and say. There were just a few lines so it was not difficult acting and reciting the dialogue.
Other groups were called up to perform the act and everyone had a good time and enjoyed the session.
The lines included, ‘This must be the trunk of a tree. It is round and long. The bark is rough and tough.’ ‘Oh, this is like a fan. It can move and I feel the breeze.’ ‘Hey, this is the rope to tie things. It can be bent and can be used to tie things.
Of course we were referring to the different parts of the elephant’s body.
Later, we were asked to improvise the dialogue by adding our own interpretation. We made jokes and laughed when it was really ridiculous. I was one of them. I added nonsense words and phrases and I think that impressed the teacher.
So from that day onwards, I was always called or asked to create plays or sketches during the English classes. I enjoyed those lessons tremendously and I most definitely learnt a lot of useful tips from Mr. Hong. If my lines were wrong and not structured properly, Mr. Hong would point them out and corrected the. Then he would changed some of them to suit the class. Then we would have to reenact the whole play.
There were plays involving the police catching thieves and other silly plays. Some plays involved running and climbing through the windows. It was fun compared to the boring grammar lessons. It was also a break to stay focus on hot afternoons.
Mr. Hong was also innovative because he used nature or natural phenomenon in his stories. I really mean stories because he had a truck load of them.
Whenever it was dark especially on rainy days or whenever we were bored, we would know that Mr. Hong would start a new story or continue with the unfinished tale. We would wait eagerly to listen to his tales. He was a wonderful story teller. In such weather conditions, paying attention to lessons was out of the question.
Very often during thunderstorms or rainy days, there would be blackouts and disruption of power supply. Furthermore rain would splash and find its way into the classrooms through the open windows. You must knpw that the windows were just covered with iron mesh and technically we were exposed to the elements of weather. On such days we had to move all the desks and chairs to the centre of the classroom to avoid the rain.
In all his stories he would add the elements of nature to make them thrilling and frightening. He would would wait for the sign of lightning and then jus as thunder struck he would clap his hands or hit the desk. The sudden sound and the clap of thunder nearby made all of us jump from our seats. We would be screaming and shouting as we were really frightened but we enjoyed ourselves and wanted more.
After the special effect, we would whisper, talk and make a lot of noise. He would wait patiently for us to calm down and let the excitement subside. Only then would he continue his story.
So you can see how creative and innovative Mr. Hong was in those days. I wish there are more of such teachers.
For your information, I met Mr. Hong in 1996 in Sitiawan where we were attending a wedding of a close friend. At that time he was at the point of retirement. It was really nice to meet him. I introduced myself and told him of the mischievous little actor back in 1996 when he was my class teacher. He remembered the good times and the class he held.
Thank you , Mr. Hong for being such a wonderful teacher who had inspired all of us. I sincerely hope that he will have a healthy and wonderful life after retirement.