To my A-Math teacher who embarrassed me in front of the class: Thank you
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Back in primary school, I didn’t do as well as I expected for PSLE. I felt very bad about it at that time and didn’t know how to manage my own emotions. As a result, I entered secondary school with a very aimless mindset.
I just went through the motions for during my lower secondary years. Heading into secondary three, I met my Additional Mathematics (A-Math) teacher. I didn’t know it back then, but she was the one who would dawn the light upon me.
It all started with a fateful A-Math lesson. It was after the first semester’s exams in secondary three that my results came back with a fail. I remember it was a measly 30-something upon 100.
My A-Math teacher, being her usual self, mocked me in front of the class, saying words like “if you think you cannot manage just drop A-Math”. Everyone in class immediately grew quiet, and I had nowhere to hide my face.
To many students, this might upset them, or even lower their self-esteem to the point where they engage in harmful behaviour such as not wanting to come to school, for example. But her words ignited a spark in me.
I guess it was my own personal ego that made me want to prove to her that I shouldn’t drop A-Math. But this wasn’t due to my ego alone.
Another reason why I persevered was due to the realisation that she would never give up on us and helped us relentlessly through the academic year. It could be something small, like giving extra lessons after school and even on Saturday mornings just to brush up on a basic concept with the entire class.
The class stayed until 4 or 5 pm, which was fairly late for secondary school. Some students might dread it, like how I dreaded it initially. Everyone wanted to play, and many would ask “why must we have extra lessons?”
But I guess it’s just her silently helping us without us really knowing it at that time, and her selflessness for the class. It sparked that motivation in me. If I wasn’t going to do this for myself, at least I would do this for her.
Another reason which kept me motivated was the class spirit, which was quite positive. As far as I could observe, the people around me were quite supportive of each other. We would tend to be “competitive” and challenge each other to score better, yet I didn’t feel pressured or felt that anyone was showing off. We motivated each other quite well.
In the end, I got a distinction for both A-Math and E-Math for ‘O’ levels. Maybe because of what I went through in my upper secondary years, I could tell myself that ‘hey, I was able to achieve something’ and that played a role in my choice to pursue ‘A’ Levels as well.
My advice to students going through the same slump as I did in lower Secondary is that having a goal in mind or a source of motivation is very important. That would be the reason why you wake up in the morning and go to school. You should also know that success won't come so quickly. Once you set your mind to something, it is important to persevere and see the task through.
If there were anything I’d like to say to my A Math teacher, I would first thank her for constantly motivating the whole class through her silent dedication. But more than that, I also want to thank her for embarrassing me in front of the class. If it was her intention to spark something in me, then she did a great job.
Lester teaches Physics at Knowledge Bank and is now pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering at the National University of Singapore.