My English Teacher


I still recollect that moment rather vividly.

Butterflies were all over my stomach that day. I couldn’t sit still. I was seated next to my classroom entrance door, so I had the first glimpse when my English teacher came carrying a pile of papers. Our test papers. I had been spending time thinking way too unnecessarily about my English paper. After all, it was my favourite subject, and the thing I loathed the most more than anything was to be forced to take the back seat when the subject was concerned. I loved to be the one earning the highest score in English. I didn’t give a deuce about other subjects; physics, chemistry, maths. I never fancied those subjects.  And I didn’t mind to be at the bottom of the list for those subjects any day.

But not English.

So you could imagine how hard it was for me to digest when the paper returned to me bore a huge B on the right top. A freaking B. And I knew from low whispers floating around me that a couple of my classmates obtained better grades than me. It was something that escaped my understanding entirely – that I had just been dethroned in English. I stared long and hard at the test paper before me. I felt numb. I felt humiliated. I felt strangely incompetent. I felt that my ego had just been tap danced on.

And before I knew it, I burst into tears.

Now that I try to recall the moment more clearly, the whole class must have been in great shock. After all, I was a newbie in that school, and honestly, I was no near of being likable. Everyone thought I was a big snob. The truth was, I was away from home for the first time after 16 years and making new friends was not something that I was a natural at. So for me, being witnessed weeping by the whole class was like a big chunk of my pride was yanked out of me and tossed into a filthy dustbin. The whole class must have been laughing their heads off silently.

Greatly puzzled,  my English teacher came over to my table and tried to find the reason behind my sudden, out-of-this-world tantrum. But I just wouldn’t say a single word. Tears kept streaming down my face. She tried to get back my test paper that I had severely crumpled and tossed under my table. When she finally managed to get it (I can’t remember how), she had a second inspection and noticed that she had miscalculated my mark, and after correction, my grade improved tremendously. But heck, the damage was done. Inarguably, it was one of the most degrading moments in my life.

Yet it was also the beginning of my fond bond with my English teacher, Madam Rohayati.

That day, I realized that she was one of a very few people who could keep up with my odd comportments – and that in itself made my affection towards English deeper and deeper with each passing day. I can recall her words she said on that humiliating day: that next time something goes wrong, confide in her first instead of weeping like a child (which was a massive discomfiture since I was a 16-year old bloke, and by a huge margin not a child).

Prior penning this entry, I wanted to say so many wonderful things about her, but then I realized that the single most wonderful thing that she did was simply by being herself. By God, she was one hell of a witty teacher. She could crack up stomach-hurting jokes while maintaining her poker face. Honestly, how many people in your life can make fun of you without really hurting your feelings? Well, she was one of these rare people. On so many occasions, she said that I sounded like a Filipino when I spoke English back then. But I wasn’t discouraged. The last time I spoke to her on the phone, the first thing she said was “How come your voice still sounds like that?” and I burst out laughing. Her wide sense of humour made my schooling days less draining.

And even when the going got tough, I could always count on her to be a shoulder to cry on.

I remember one occasion when I was in form five. For some reasons that I cannot quite recall now, I was so mentally disheveled. Being me, I would rather keep it to myself - but she saw me through.  I waited until my other classmates had left the classroom when I finally poured out everything that I had been keeping all inside to her. I tried to be cool and hold back the tears, but her soothing voice penetrated my defense, and next thing I knew, I was peeled right to the core of my emotions, defenseless. And one wisdom from her that will never die out in me is “You don’t need so many people around you. Enough with those who truly matter”.

Just so you know, she was one of the reasons I decided to take up TESL. In fact, hours before I attended my TESL interview absolutely five years back, she helped me arrange my documents and certificates properly.

Therefore, when I officially ended my degree in TESL with first class honours just yesterday, I could not help but think of this one very special person in my life.

For me, she was more of a mother than a teacher. You know, people say so many things about the secrets of being a good teacher. But with her, what you see is what you get. She said things and meant them, and even the words could be very sharp at times, you would appreciate the transparency and hold high her decision not to play pretense. I had used the thick Longman dictionary long before the dictionary was made compulsory for us during pre TESL, all because of her. The dictionary was rather pricy when I bought it, but she had inculcated the love towards English in me until saving up some money for that dictionary was something that I did not even think twice to do. And I am still using it up to this very moment.

Tell me, how many teachers in your life can move your little heart to do things like that?

Dear Madam Rohayati, I just want to let you know that you have been a big part of me, though I might have never really said it out loud to you all this while. You know what? I still have that attitude, that I hate to be the second best and that I will accept nothing but perfection. Remember when you said that I was your best student? Since the day you said that, I have worked so hard to live up to your expectation, to keep making you proud and most importantly, to prove to you that you were right.

I dedicate my first class degree in TESL to you.

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N3_XieRRa said...

you're so lucky to have such a supportive teacher...:) and congrats again for your success aziz!

Anonymous said...

Aziz, rasanya teringat lah masa tu. 5 years ago di kelas 5 Hanbali hehe ^^.. Saya x ingat banyak perkara tapi saya ingat kelas "TK" yg menjadi musuh utama. hehe..
Moga jadi guru yang terbaik memotivasikan anak bangsa...Say Alhamdhulillah, Thank You Allah (fiza ^^)

Aziz said...

Xierra Nadia: Thank you and same goes to you, too! You did so well! And didn't know you actually read my blog. Hehehe!

Fizah: How did you find out about my blog? Hahaha. It was embarrassing, wasn't it? Yup, Alhamdulillah! Hope you will complete your degree soon, too! :P

Anonymous said...

She's hilarious. Always bursts out laughing with her unthinkable jokes. Kak Roha is so special.

Anonymous said...

u know what, Mdm. Roha cried after reading this entry...