One Moment Please...

Before You Were A Tree – A Teacher’s Day Special


With Teacher’s Day right around the corner, we celebrate the importance and the impact each and every one of our teacher (tutors included of course) has had on us. Many of us “rebels” out there start pondering this: Everything I have is self-made. Who and why should I thank any of my Teachers? No surprise, many students out there do not depend on any sort of tuition nor help from our Teachers. However, did we all forget that our dear Teachers didn’t just help us strive academically, but as a person as well? Did we forget how our Teachers hugged us on the first few days of school when we were crying and missing home? Did we also forget the countless sleepless nights they had worrying for us, marking our homework, and preparing materials for the next class?


Before we start off, here’s a disclaimer. This is unlike any other articles. It’s a reflection of my journey in Singapore’s education system and how my Teachers helped me along the path of my life. That said, enjoy the story..


My teacher once told the class this: “Before you were a tree, you were just a little seed underneath the soil.” As a young kid, it took me quite awhile to decipher the meaning behind that statement. As he asked what we thought of it, most students answered proudly stated an answer along the lines of “Before we grow up, we are just a kid”. He smiled, and nodded his head.  “You all got it half correct. What it means is that before we grow up, we were all just a seed. How we grow up, strong or not, is dependent on the nutrients we get – from our parents. We need to be well-fed in order to develop strong roots, so that we grow up strong and healthy.” Many of us gave a confused look and put it aside. Afterall, as young little primary 3 kids, what did we know about nutrients?


Fast-forward 9 years later; It was 6 in the morning. The sound of my alarm went off and I immediately put it to snooze. Moments later, my mother came in to wake me up. Annoyed, I whined and got up to shower. It was just like any other day in school. I went on to attend my CCA training in the afternoon. I was part of the school’s soccer team. During my time, soccer was our school’s niche. Needless to say, I was completely drained and lethargic after training. This was the toughest year in my life yet. A-levels was coming up at the end of the year and I still had my A Division competition coming up. I had no way to cope with my studies. Not to mention, many distractions too. I completely gave up, I thought to myself: Coming to a JC was the worst choice of my life. I regretted coming to a JC. I resented my parents and teachers who encouraged in to DSA into a JC. I felt like I was suffocating. I knew I could go nowhere with a lousy A-level result but I could not be bothered. Ever since I came into my JC, I have never passed a single paper. Teachers gave up on me for my poor attitude. I skipped school when I felt like, and was so close to retaining in year 1. (Thank God I managed to pass my retest) Anyway, I still had no intentions of studying. I literally gave up.


Days after days when by, I was done with my A Division competition. It was time for Mid-Year examinations. While others were mugging so hard in school, there I was, sitting and hanging around, doing absolutely everything but studying. I had no motivation at all. Inevitably, came my Mid-Year examinations results. SSU/US. For those who don’t know, this result basically means I have failed every single subject I sat for. On my report card, all of my results were in the bottom 5%. It seemed like all hope was lost. I mean, I didn’t have any hope to begin with in the first place. Still, I didn’t wake up. I didn’t bother…

Then came my Prelims. It wasn’t any better. I scored DUS/US. It sure was encouraging to see a “D” to me – until it was announced that 75% of the students scored As and 90% scored As and Bs. Once again, I was in the bottom 5%. However, this time round, I had a strange sense of…great great failure. Everyone around me, my best friends, my close friends, all seemed to have their futures all set out. They were achieving great results. I thought to myself “Why can’t I be like them?”. The answer was clear to me. All those times they advised me to study, all those times my teachers, friends,and parents told me to study, I ignored them. I wanted to have a future too, I wanted to do well and be proud too. I wanted to be everything I wasn’t. I woke up. I was determined to do well. But…how? I felt like nobody cared, I felt like everyone gave up on me just like I gave up on myself. Nonetheless, I began picking up bits and pieces of notes and books that were on my shelf. I started attempting homework and 10 year series assessment books. I am not exaggerating when I say this, I was completely lost when I started it. It was as if I was an adult who did not know how to speak any language at all. Lucky for me, people around me – my friends and teachers, could see that I was beginning to put in some effort. They offered to help me out whenever I had any questions and prioritized me for consultations. My Mathematics and Economics teacher even took the initiative and sacrificed their rest time to teach me from the very first topic of each subject respectively. I struggled and struggled each day, pulling hair off my head every single day while I was studying because I could not complete anything at all. There were countless of times I was so close to giving up. However, I knew I couldn’t let everyone around me down. The amount of effort everyone put in to me was so overwhelming that I could not bring myself to give up on myself if others didn’t. My teachers who taught me everything from the beginning, my friends who replied my messages almost instantly whenever i had questions, I knew I couldn’t give up. I forced myself to study each and every single day.


6 months later, it was time to collect my A-level results. I remember vividly how anxious my family members were, each crossing their fingers with the slightest hope that I did well enough to go to any university. With a heavy-heart, not expecting much, I went forth to collect my results when the teacher announced my name. She looked at me, looked down at the results slip, and looked over again. I was so overwrought that I almost broke down. However, she smiled at me. I have never felt a smile as comforting as the one I felt at that moment. “Congratulations” She said. I took a look at my results in disbelief. I scored AAB/AB. (Yes, it isn’t that fantastic. But trust me, coming from a straight fail to that, I was more than satisfied.) I immediately teared up and hugged my teacher. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Never did I imagine that I would get such results, never did I imagine that I could have a choice for university courses.


So, after so much blabbering about my past, this is the main point that made me recollect 20 over years’ worth of memory. Back when I was a 9 year old, when my teacher said “we were all just a seed. How we grow up, strong or not, is dependent on the nutrients we get – from our parents. We need to be well-fed in order to develop strong roots, so that we grow up strong and healthy.”, I finally understood what it meant. After all that I have accomplished in my life, I knew that it wasn’t self-made. It wasn’t just my effort alone. It was everybody’s effort. Without my fellow friends’, family members’ and most importantly, my dearest teachers’ support and help, I would be nothing. I owe everything to them. That said, I would like to take this chance to thank each and everyone out there who has supported and helped me in one way or another. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.


To my readers, if you are a student, don’t ever resent your teacher for nagging at you. They truly care for you. As much as you spend hours each night finishing the insane amount of homework that your teachers pile on you, they spend even more time finishing the insane amount of marking they have to complete for you. Furthermore, they need to prepare lesson materials to ensure your time is maximised in class. Don’t sleep and let your teacher’s effort go to waste. And to everyone, always be thankful for the teachers whom have helped you along the journey of your life. With Teacher’s Day right around the corner, take this opportunity to show some appreciation to them, because they deserve it.


And lastly, to all the teachers and tutors out there, we wish you a Happy Teacher’s Day. Thank you for everything you have done.


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