Always, Always a Teacher

Everyone had apparently started talking about it the moment I arrived at the faculty.

I reached a week later than the scheduled academic calender, so I had no idea what the classes had been like, and most importantly, the lecturers assigned. So when my friends came up to me and in whisper they warned me to evade Mdm. Mahanita Mahathir's class, I was half-determined to abort her class, for I had already registered Sociolinguistics with her. But I decided to give it a go, at least once before I made up my mind with the other half of my wavering determination.

So the following week, I attended her lecture.

When I entered the class, she hadn't been in there yet. I looked around, and I wasn't surprised with the apparent lack of students compared to normal classes. I slumped into an empty seat and heard everybody was so immersed whispering unfounded accusations and concocting sad little theories about Mdm Mahanita. It was so noisy in the classroom, as if everybody was bargaining, weighting, which stories possibly held more truth than tales.

So when silence suddenly resided, I knew straight away that the much-talked about person had arrived.

The door was slowly pushed open, and I finally got to see her. Well, she did look like a 'Mak Datin', as she playfully amen-ed it later in class, but apart from that, I didn't see how such a gracious and well-spoken lady could be an intimidating force.

I had a good time with her that day. Sociolinguistics was just at the back of her hand, that was just how good she was at that subject, to put it in a nutshell. She could imitate almost every local vernacular and her English was just too good to be true, without any tendency to sound like an American or a Britisher. She loved being a Malaysian, and to sound like one. She even told us that no matter how educated we may be, we should never, ever forget our vernacular, for it is something that reflects our root and culture.

We talked about so many things that day, and it wasn't until somebody pointed out to me that I realized two-hour class had just come to a halt. I was already looking forward to her next class (though I signed in to another class for a moment for the schedule was overlapping) when the news reached me that she had sent the faculty a resignation letter with an immediate 24-hour effect.

I just felt sad that we didn't bid a proper goodbye.

People soon came up with theories on the possible reasons she left the faculty, with the most agreed upon rumor was that she had been crossed out by most students.

But I don't go along with that.

For me, Mahanita Mahathir was one of the few lecturers who educated beyond what was written on the course outline. The strongest memory that I have about her is that, she showed me that no other professions can make teaching sound less important or lack of credit. People talk as if an engineer is a better profession. People talk as if doctor is a more looked-up deal. People talk as if lawyer holds more significance that teaching ever does.

She was proud to be a teacher.
A teacher. Someone who goes out and educates.
Nothing can make teaching less. It has always been more.
And if you think it is a lesser profession, the lack of degree is in you. Not in the teaching profession.
And the best news? Education world does not need a person like you. You will just be a stain and pain in the you-know-where.

In my 21 years as a student, I have met so many teachers along the way. Some I have known for years and still in touch while some I barely remember now. And here, I have a teacher that I met only for a good of two hours, and her words of wisdom are still lingering, continuously inspire me to be more that I thought I could be. That's what great teachers are capable of doing, right?

As I'm writing this, I can't help but to admit that I miss her so very much.

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