Photo credits: 14A12’s instagram page.
This is Mr Teo Gene En, known to me and many of his other students as Mr Teo or Sir. Known to his colleagues and friends as Gene. And probably known to his family as something more affectionate. I have been taught by Mr Teo for more than a year now and in that time, I have come to appreciate his quirks, sense of humour and teaching style. However, I never really got to talk him on a personal basis as the opportunity never presented itself. Thankfully, this article gave me a brilliant opportunity to have a chat with him.
“LIFE? I have no life – I’m a teacher!”
Upon introducing the topic of my article, “The Real Life of a Teacher” I was met with Mr Teo’s characteristic laughter and an exasperated exclamation: “LIFE? I have no life – I’m a teacher!” Of course I’m not quoting Mr Teo ad verbatim as my memory isn’t the best but I still think the sentiment he expressed is one that many teachers can empathise with. In fact, it’s probably something many students think too. After 12 years of formal education, something I’ve observed amongst my peers is that we have a tendency to forget that our teachers are people too. They may spend a lot of their (personal) time on their work, but they too have personal interests and matters to attend to.
The first thing Mr Teo shared with me about his personal life is his involvement in social service. He has been involved in a bursary project for schools for 5 years now. 5 years! I think his commitment and dedication to such a good cause was very inspiring and admirable. He helps to link businesses to schools with students that need financial assistance, essentially functioning as a means of communication between the two parties. When asked why he cares for this cause and contributes to it, Mr Teo said it is because he believes strongly that people deserve a second chance. Furthermore, not everyone is born into the best circumstances and they deserve help. I think its very admirable that Mr Teo does what he can in his own way to contribute to something he believes in.
Besides being involved in social service, Mr Teo is also active in badminton. He is an avid player and has actually been supporting the VJC Badminton team for 5 years now, even though he has never been their official teacher-in-charge. He says he does so because he learns a lot from the experience and enjoys helping out, for example by offering to help when the coach is not available. I think Mr Teo’s initiative and willingness to extend a helping hand is really commendable. It made me reflect on all the moments I could have just taken a step forward to help others in my own way but let the opportunity slip past me because I was lazy. It also made me realise that teachers always seem willing to help, regardless of whether it is with students and their schoolwork or colleagues with extracurricular activities. In fact, Mr Teo actually sacrificed going to help out with badminton in order to help me with this article by letting me have a chat with him.
In addition to teaching literature on a daily basis, Mr Teo is also personally invested in literature and has read widely all his life. He currently enjoys reading contemporary literature that is mostly concerned with what it is like being human. One of his favourite authors, who manages to do this beautifully, is Raymond Carver. Mr Teo feels that Raymond Carver manages to capture the ordinary person’s struggles in a manner that is not too abstract yet not too dumbed down. Another writer that Mr Teo really enjoys is Shakespeare. Personally, having studied Othello by Shakespeare for the past 4 months, I’ve become more appreciative of the playwright’s brilliance. Talking to Mr Teo and hearing him articulate just exactly why Shakespeare is such a genius was very enriching and gave me more insights. To Mr Teo, Shakespeare is brilliant because he managed to capture so much truth about mankind despite never having travelled much in his lifetime. His statement made me acutely aware of the sheer power of literature and its ability to speak so much truth and transcend time and space. In every tutorial with Mr Teo, I always managed to feel his infectious and inspiring passion for literature, adding a lot more vibrancy and energy to the class. It motivated me to decide to start reading more and so i borrowed a book by Raymond Carver from Mr Teo. It is extremely heartening that teachers such as Mr Teo share such a deep passion for the subjects they teach and they are always exploring beyond the syllabus they teach. Not only does it make lessons more interesting, but I personally think that it also inspires students to do the same and explore beyond the set boundaries too.
(for anyone who feels inspired to start reading more widely now, here are some of Mr Teo’s favourite texts by Shakespeare.)
Mr Teo’s reading list:
- Explores the theme of power: King Lear
- Is the most entertaining: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Features the best choreography: The Tempest
Thank you, Mr Teo!
All in all, I have taken away much from this encounter with Mr Teo, as with all the other times I’ve had the chance to chat with a teacher. Honestly, teachers are far more interesting than most people expect. If you find yourself falling asleep during a tutorial or lecture all the time, perhaps find the time to get to know your teacher a little better outside of the classroom – your renewed perspective of him/her might just make you realise that your teacher is actually a lot more exciting than you thought (and you might stop sleeping in class.)
I would like to thank Mr Teo very, very much for taking time out to talk to me about his life and share his interests and hobbies with me. I have learnt a lot from the chat and I hope you (the reader) have learnt something new about Mr Teo now too. Most importantly, I hope this article inspires you to get to know your teachers better in the future.