Stories > Taught by Kindness

2013 • Issue 3

Taught by Kindness

“I had female class teachers from Primary One to Three. From Primary Four and Five, we had tough, macho male teachers who disciplined us with tight slaps, a long ruler, cane, or displays of pugilistic prowess. I adopted a defiant attitude: ‘I can take as much as you can dish out.’ Boys who were not intimidated became naughty and rebellious. We took pride in outsmarting the system.

Then in Primary Six, Mrs Ernest Lau literally ‘killed’ us with kindness and love. She was easy going, but tough when she had to be. And she never resorted to corporal punishment. She upped the game by encouraging the whole class and me, in particular. I distinctively remember her comment on my composition: ’Mature Thoughts’, and she got me to read it out in class. She had no children and when asked how many children she had, she always candidly replied “44” — our class size.

Mrs Lau’s approach was refreshingly different. An enlightened individual, she cleverly brought out the best in us. She was an inspiration to generations of Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) boys, motivating us to take our studies seriously. I came second in class and did well enough to get into ACS Secondary School.

She helped me realise my full academic potential. In secondary school, we would regularly visit her, update her on our studies and seek her counsel on the challenges of being a teenager.

Mrs Lau succumbed to cancer in her 40s. It was a very sad day for all of us.

My father, a former Inspector of Schools in the Ministry of Education, distinguished between the different modes of imparting knowledge. Someone at a basic level simply teaches, versus an educator who educates. At the highest levels are those who impart knowledge with wisdom. To me, Mrs Lau embodied the enlightened educationist who imparted wisdom enriched by strong moral and spiritual dimensions. Teachers like her are life’s inspirations.”

P. Jeyaratnam
Chairman and CEO

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