Ms See Choon Sang began her teaching career in 1965 at Mattar Primary School from 1968 to 1971. She had left Mattar Primary School to take up a part-time study in NUS. After her studies, she has taught in various secondary schools for 35 years and has since retired ten years ago. She is now 68 years old.
In her records as a teacher, Ms See took an active approach by taking her students out to watch exciting movies such as “Ben-Hur”. She choreographed four dance performances for her students who were filmed performing at the National Theatre in 1971.
Unlike teachers today, teachers in the 1960s and 1970s had to teach all the subjects, including Physical Education (PE). Miss See went beyond her teaching duties as she checked the students’ nails and ears to ensure they had bathed after their PE lessons. The parents then were also different. They never held the teachers accountable for their child’s misdemeanours and were also thankful when the teachers play their part in disciplining their child. One parent even rewarded Miss See with a basket of rambutans for helping to manage her child. There was no doubt that the children were naughty, but at the same time, were easy to handle. In one instance, Miss See recalled students standing outside the classroom without her telling them to do so when they did not complete their homework.
Today, her former students would still greet her when they meet her on the road, even though she has not seen them for years and hence, could not recognize them. Once, an Indian man she met on the street told her that he was her ex-student from Mattar Primary School, in which their short reunion led to a friendly hug. Another student took the initiative to contact his peers and gathered them together. Since then, they have had three gatherings where they shared memories, accompanied with thunderous laughers about their past. Despite coming from different racial backgrounds, the ex-Mattar students (also known as Mattarians) are at ease with each other, much like when they were in the classroom back then.
At a recent gathering, one of her previous students shared an unforgettable memory of Miss See throwing a chalk at his forehead. Since then, he quipped that he had learnt to be smart at dodging the chalk. Miss See, who had forgotten about this incident, apologized to him. Instead, he laughed it off and told her that this is part of growing up.
Miss See also recalled another incident when she was so upset with a boy from her class who had stolen money from a taxi driver that she cried while scolding him. He was touched and felt ashamed of his actions. Later, while she was tending the school garden, he came quietly behind her to help out. To that, Miss See said, “I suppose that was his way of being thankful to me”. Since then, he has not stolen again.
Forty-three years have passed, and some of her students even became grandparents while others became very successful and held important jobs. Even then, they still express their thanks and gratitude towards her, for being their teacher.
Since retirement, Miss See had taken up Peking Opera and regularly performed in shows and concerts. She made an appearance on television in 2012 and even went overseas to perform. She also travelled at least once a year to keep herself active at her age.
As she concluded the interview, Miss See stated that she is triumphal of her fruitful career as a teacher and that she will continue to keep in touch with her ex-students, the Mattarians.
All text and pictures are by Memory Corps volunteer Joyce Shum Sook Karn. Got your own memories to share? Tell us all about it at our Singapore Memory Project website or iremembersg Facebook and Twitter page.
Singapore Memory Project