i owe alot of my interests to my primary 4 class teacher, mr thomas. he got me hooked onto roald dahl, trivia (we were freakin’ 8 years old and we knew that paul keating was the prime minister of australia at the time) and music from an era far removed from mine.
once in awhile he’d bring us to the school hall, sit us down near the piano and teach us to sing songs like “ticket to ride“, “scarborough fair” and “love me tender“. he told us stories of how his parents used to throw his records out, calling rock ‘n’ roll the devil’s music, and how he’d quietly buy more 45s anyway with money that he had meticulously saved.
although i had a music teacher in school here in malaysia who taught us to sing “morning has broken“, the feelings i have attached to music by elvis, the beatles, simon and garfunkel are very different from the ones evoked every time i hear the-artist-currently-known-as-yusuf-islam’s song on the radio. till this day i find it hard to stomach the latter, while the fab four never fail to bring a smile to my face.
it’s because of that that i remember mr thomas very well. there must have been something special in the way he imparted knowledge to us and inspired us to learn. he must have had a talent in teaching that made my primary 4 experience so memorable.
recently, my father asked me just what i learnt during my time in quarry bay school. we didn’t have fixed subject periods and we didn’t have formal assessments. at the end of the school year, my parents received a letter detailing my progress in several fields – math, language, social skills, behaviour, etc. – but there were no grades, no clear indication of how much i have learnt.
come to think of it, it was a rather strange form of education. well, strange to us A-crazy malaysians anyway.
but when i look back at the time i spent singing those songs with mr thomas and the rest of my class, i realise that what i picked up was how to love every aspect of life that is available for me to love. that’s probably one of the best lessons i have ever learnt.