This was sent to us by UV, as part of his Teaching in Ipoh series. In the above picture, seated in the centre, is Mr Teh Chin Seong (mentioned in the story below). This picture was taken in 1968 and published in The Argosy 1968 (the school magazine). The lovely lasses in the picture are members of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade from MGS Ipoh.
Teaching is a vocation where those taking it up must be prepared to sacrifice. However, it can also be a vocation where those who are not really dedicated can exploit. I would like to deal with the negative aspects of some teachers as many today can only see this dark side of the noble profession. I want to deal with it now and put it to rest and in the rest of my story, I would want readers to put aside the image of a bad teacher and concentrate on teachers who have dedicated their lives to teaching pupils.
The teaching profession was at the time I joined it, a vocation you work for half a day only. Most schools would end at the latest by 1.50 p.m. Some lower secondary classes ended even as early as 12.30 p.m. and of course Primary classes ended around that time most days. This enabled the teacher to have the rest of the day free. Many would take this opportunity to give extra tuition for a fee. Others would mend their homes or used it for social events (usually a game of mahjong at home or in a club. To the detriment of the students and the profession, such activities usually result in neglect of the much needed correction of assignments given or better preparations that should have been made before a teacher teaches the next day.
Teaching provides a teacher with long vacation. In those days there were three terms per year and normally at the end of the first and second terms, a two week vacation is given and at the end of the final term, a four to five weeks vacation is in the offering. Of course, self-centered teachers would spend such vacations for their own purposes whereas those who love their students may organize special educational outings or provide remedial classes for the weaker ones.
When I joined MGS Ipoh in 1968 I was most impressed by the caliber of students there. Classes were streamed according to academic excellence but they were also divided into Science, Arts and Domestic Science streams from Form Four onwards. There were very little differences in academic performances between the best of the Science classes and that of the Arts.
When I was in school in ACS Ipoh, one can see a mark difference between the Science Stream and the Arts Stream with a few individuals in the Arts Stream showing equal academic abilities to those in the Science Stream and these were usually those who chose to take up Arts subjects even though they qualify for the Science Stream.
I was given the best Arts class in Form Five. I thought Geography there. I was really taken up by the diligence of the girls not only in doing their assignments, following the lessons as you teach but also the amount of extra time they are willing to put in after school to create and produce charts and models with me to enable the teaching and learning of the subject to be easier. To these girls, a big handful of them, the learning process was not restricted to the classroom alone but in extra activities related to each subject they can garner outside the classroom. They were keen on outings, to visit Geographical features on actual ground. We climb up waterfalls in nearby Buntung. We walked along the Kinta River banks, we visited caves and limestone hills and we went to nearby factories to see how things were made and took trips outside the town to study production of rubber and palm oil as well as tin ore. Such then was Geography taught and learned that year and years to follow in MGS. It is not the teacher alone that can give rise to this form of teaching and learning. It takes interested students to want to follow the teacher around to see for themselves what is actually happening in real life.
I have the good fortune of meeting these students after 40 odd years recently in Kuala Lumpur and these were the same group that took special interest in my subject as well as those of other teachers. They did very well in their SPM and went on to do well in life. Many were top civil servants and some captains in the commercial sectors. Yes, they were girls turned top ladies. When we talked of school days, what do they remember most, the extra-curricular activities we had. I felt very happy and satisfied that what I did was not in vain.
MGS Ipoh in 1968 had a small collection of male teachers. They were usually involved in the teaching of Science and Mathematics. I was the only Arts male graduate. The other men teachers were the Bahasa Malaysia teachers. Men teachers are very popular with girls’ students. They tend to take advantage of the men teachers but some of us were rather stern and many students learned the hard way when they do not put in enough effort.
Men teachers of course could not lay hands on a girl pupil in anger nor in affection but there are various methods well established in MGS Ipoh for them to take to punish recalcitrant girls. There’s a lady discipline teacher to deal with such girls. MGS Ipoh is also famous for detention classes where girls are detained after school or had to come back on Saturdays to perform some duties. In this manner, girls are kept in line.
The men teachers are also useful in providing transport for girls when they fall ill or when they need to go somewhere for an activity. Of course some lady teachers do likewise. The men are expected to handle the heavier duties of physically shifting furniture (with the help of men manual workers) and are responsible for many games. The Sports Secretary when I was there was a man teacher and he did a wonderful job all those years.
Mr. Teh Chin Seong was a male icon that no MGS student can forget. He was there before I joined MGS Ipoh and he remained there until he retired many years after I left MGS Ipoh. Not only was he a very efficient Sports Secretary who ran the Annual Athletics Meet every year without a hitch, but he was also good in coaching volleyball, basketball, and many other games MGS was involved in. In addition he was also the Band Teacher.
Is that all? No, Mr. Teh was also an officer in the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and was in-charge of the MGS Ipoh Company. Many girls became nurses after joining this movement. Some of them went to England to take up nursing and continued working there. I had the good fortune of meeting one Operation Theatre Sister from my batch of 1968 Form Five during the last reunion of this class.
Mr. Teh Chin Seong passed away last year (2010) leaving much fond memories in the hearts of many who had served with him and who were his students. He was an excellent Mathematics teacher too despite all the extra-curricular activities he had to handle and any girl having gone through the LCE or SPM Mathematics papers would have him to thank.
To round up the appreciation of a well rounded teacher, I would like to add that Mr. Teh was a wonderful ballroom dancer and on many occasions he demonstrated his skill to the school in our Prize Giving Day Concert and Teachers Day Celebrations. He really added colour to MGS Ipoh.