I’m sorry Madam

25 years ago, I had a Geography teacher in Secondary 1 who we nicknamed “gao-guk” aka Ninety Cents. It was really really mean of us boys to do it, and looking back now I wonder if it was her first teaching assignment.

It was a play on her name, and like I said, it was really really mean of us boys to call her that. That said, I suppose we all give nicknames to our teachers, and over the years we’ve had many. Sadly, as I get older, my former teachers too. Some have passed on, some have left the service, and still some have stayed on. All of them have influenced me in some way or another, but I will leave those tales for another day. Today i want to talk about my Sec 1 Geography teacher.

I remember quite clearly that our lessons were always immediately after recess or, 1 or 2 periods after that. This was when a period in lasted about 40 mins. We had geography lessons at least twice a week. We were an all boys school and we were really really mean to her. Not only did we call her names, but we did it to her face. We used to poke our heads out the corridor to see when teachers approached, and when she was spotted coming down the corridor, we’d loudly call her nickname. In class, we’d rudely refer to her by her nickname. That said however, we’d always, always call her Madam when we addressed her directly. In fact, we addressed all our teachers, “Madam” or “Sir,” and there was no compromises with that.

Before Geography class everyday, she would sit under this HUGE tree right outside my class. And she would just stare off into space. I remember that we used to make fun of her for that as well. in class, we had 3 blackboards. If you raised them in the right order, you’d have this system where you could see at least 2 boards at any time. Our Geography lessons pretty much were us copying EVERYTHING she wrote on the boards in cursive. She would literally cover the board with writing. This didn’t please us at all.

So boys being boys, we found ways to torment the poor teacher. We made barbs with staples, and all sorts of other pranks. For teachers day 1987, I remember the teachers put up this Vaudeville styled dance number, and right from the back of the Hall, the upper secondary boys started chanting, “We want gao-gak! We want gao-gak…!” This chant rose in volume starting from the back of the hall on the second floor stalls, and all the way to the front of the hall, where the lower sec boys were. Needless to say, we all started chanting. All this while, Ms N, sat absolutely primly, in the front row, in her beautiful sari, her feet together, her hands on her lap, and keeping a straight face.

My gawd. She must have felt SUCH embarrasement.

In retrospect, I would like to say, “Madam, I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that we were so mean to you. I don’t know where she is today, but I know she went off to another school the following year. If I could see her today, I would apologise.

I’m sorry Madam, I’m so so sorry.

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