Every so often, the declining number of student taking Literature at O Levels is reported in the media as causing collective hand-wringing and head-shaking in the Singapore intelligentsia. The humanities subjects like literature and history get short shrift in Singapore, especially literature because people (parents? teachers? principals?) perceive it to be a subject difficult to score an A in. I myself was discouraged from taking the humanities at A Levels even though now… on hindsight, it would have been a quicker journey to find myself through the humanities rather than the hard sciences.
Physics at A Levels is a real pain in various body parts for me; Chemistry was marginally better… marginally. Mathematics even at A Levels was easy for me, as I had great help from my dad and I eventually concluded Maths is just another language with funny notation. Enjoyed Economics at A Levels very much as it married my ability to tell a story backed by numbers.
My General Paper tutor was really hard on me. I guess Mr Peter Teo did not really see the likes of me before… unlike others in his GP remedial class, I was in remedial class not because I cannot string a grammatical sentence together, but because I am too intellectually lazy to string a coherent story together. Mr Teo took me in hand mid Year 1 in JC when my grades yoyo-ed 90% to 20% and back to 80% for my GP essays. My lovely grammatical sentences altogether make no sense…. My essay lost its ability to persuade, appease, placate or outrage… I wrote 2 GP essays for every single one that my classmates wrote from then on. For many years after JC, even after I got my A1 in GP, I attributed the excellent grade to my own efforts…. Only with the distance of time did I really appreciate Mr Teo. A good teacher sees something in the student that the student is unable to see in himself.
Wherever you are now Mr Peter Teo, I hope you are well. I did not go into a profession which uses language (contrary to your expectations), but rest assured that your efforts to shape how I write still has great relevance in my work place as I use language in my written and oral communications to convince, disagree and state positions.