Sadist Teachers

I was talking to Tucky a few days ago about how different it is for school children in Singapore. Back in our days, teachers were a force to be reckon with. Can you imagine even our parents fear our teachers a little? It is true. I confirmed that with my mum over a phone call. She told me that they (as parents) feared a phone call from school because that would mean their children had done something wrong. The yearly meet-the-parents session (collecting report book) was also a dreaded affair. Parents would be sitting in looking like guilty children as they received verdicts of their naughty children's conducts from their teachers. Some senior teachers (older than the parents) would even lecture the parents a little.

No one feared these more than, of course, the school children themselves. Receiving an unfavourable remark from the teacher was worse than a death sentence for some. Our parents, for some reason, would never forget. Never. Even when I am well in my 30s and a father of two today, I am still often reminded of how my dad went to my school to hand over a document and found me standing in front of the class as punishment for bad behavior on my first day of Primary School. Through the years, my legendary feat was spread far and wide, sometimes right in front of me like I was invisible, to relatives, friends and foes alike. My wife also lamented that her teacher's remark of her "daydreaming" in class ended up like a cursed mark that my mother-in-law never failed to remind her of even well into her adulthood. You get the idea. Back in our days, teachers were not someone to be trifled around with simply because of a simple fact - our parents were allies with them.

However we were a tough bunch back then. Maybe not kampong-tough but at least, tree-climbing, spider-catching, longkang exploring tough. That must be at least ten times tougher than the strawberry mobile phone flashing generation of today. We had tough teachers but we have no proof. I can assure you though, these are not urban legend and stuff like these happened.

The duster knocker

I cannot remember his name but he certainly made a name for himself by dishing out punishments to students using the wooden duster. Back then, we used chalk boards not white boards and this was how one of those chalk board dusters (left) looked. The punishment was simple, the student would be summoned to the teacher's table at the front left of the class. Then he or she (rare) would form a "hill" by doing a cupping position of the hand on the table. Using the wooden back of the duster and a swift hit on the knuckles, it produced an audible, "Kok," sound even some of us walking past the classroom would look at each other and wince. Another fallen bro.

9 yin white bone claw

Mrs Loke (Queenstown Primary School) was the legendary exponent of this technique. For some reason, she always had bright red finger nails, as if it represented the blood of her victims. With a hard pinch from her strong the index and thumb nails to a ear lobe, it left a stingy pain. Very often, it left us bleeding a little from her nail wound. I could not forget the bespectacled Mrs Loke and her red finger nails. I wonder how many of my class mates still remember that legend. I hope Mrs Loke is alive to read this.

The ruler breaker

Unfortunately I cannot remember who was the one using this one. I am pretty sure it was a female teacher. It could be Mrs Loke again. We should never doubt her multi-dimensional talent for that kind of thing. However, lest my memory is failing me, I will not let her take full credit for this one.

The ruler breaker was one of the worst punishment for kids like me back then. The offender would stand in the front of the class (like any other punishments) and the teacher would grab a wooden ruler of the girl sitting in the front row to give the boy a hard wack with her ruler. Sometimes (about 1 in 2 ratio) the ruler would break into two with the impact and that was when the double punishment came to play. "Buy another ruler for her!" the teacher would shout. The poor boy would be left with a stinging pain in the palm and his lunch money vaporized. For some odd reason, the girl in front would always be displaying her wooden ruler the next day. I had long suspected her mother was the owner of the book shop in school but never got to find out the truth. I managed to get the ruler in tact every single time by shifting my palm slightly to form an angle so that the full impact of the hit was deflected a little, just enough to avoid her notice and breaking the ruler. Though the boys would always hound me and asked me to, "Teach leh?" I never did.

The chalk missile

This teacher loved to throw chalk stubs at the offender. Since that was his specialty, it rarely missed. However, that technique had a weakness against students sitting at the back. The longer the distance, the higher the need for a lobbing projectile in order to avoid the students sitting directly in front of the offender, making it easy to dodge.

There was, however, one hell of a finishing move we only witnessed once during my entire Primary School days. One fat boy pissed the teacher off so much that he was summoned to the front of the classroom to swallow a piece of chalk. He was even ordered to chew the chalk. Wow, that left our eyes opened wide. During recess time, we crowded around fat boy and asked him the all-important question, "How did it taste like?"

"Like Coca-Cola," he grinned.

The flying jotter book

It was common to see jotter books flying out of the class room windows from the third level back in those days. Most of the time, it would land in a messy heap at one corner of the classroom instead. That was mainly due to the student not completing homework or getting re-re-re-re-re-re-correction wrong. Thus getting a jotter out of the window would be top level achievement. Flying books were such common occurrences that the student with a crisp neat jotter book would be teased by his or her classmate as the teacher's pet.

Well I could go on a few more but I think I'll stop here. I have to pick M from the airport. Anyway, what I wanted to point out was that how different children back then react to such things. None of us went back complaining to our parents. That was because, this would be what the conversation would sound like,

Noob son: Mum, teacher made me eat chalk today.

Mum: What! What did you do wrong this time?!

Option 1 (Tell a lie)

Noob son: I didn't do anything wrong!

Mum: Don't lie! Tell the truth or I'll beat you.

Noob son: (tell the truth)

Mum: (dishes out another round of punishment)

Option 1b (Tell the truth)

Noob son: I disturbed my classmate.

Mum: Grrrrr (dish out another round of punishment)

Option 2 (Tell the truth, the real truth)

Noob son: I never do anything wrong! Really!!

Mum: Then why the teacher punished you! Tell the truth. Don't lie or I will beat you.

Noob son: No! Really, I didn't do anything!

Mum: You unrepentant brat! (dishes out another round of punishment)

That was the life back then. The teachers and parents were bitches but trust me, life was still fun. We all grew up alright. We learnt to cope and watched out for one another. I wondered why many of us became so over-protective as parents after we grew up to cultivate this generation of strawberry kids. The teachers these days are not even half of those of the past. Besides, don't we trust our kids to learn quickly like how we did to steer off trouble? Or perhaps, we have reached a stage where parents no longer trust the school anymore. Whatever it is, I don't like where we are heading.