Growing up, even though I lived less than three kilometres away from school, spending more than 14 hours in school each day meant that I barely had any time for academics.
I remember scoring 2/100 in JC for a chemistry test. The thing is, I didn’t turn in a blank paper. I actually attempted all the questions. I just got all but one question right.
Wanting to allow us to understand how we fared against the rest of the cohort, the teachers would print everyone’s grades and stuck it up on the notice board. I was trigger happy that I wasn’t the last in the cohort and that there were a whole bunch of people that scored zero.
At seventeen, eighteen, I didn’t know any better.
There was this one Wednesday where I turned up to my economics tutorial in my blouse and shorts, soccer ball at my feet and skirt still on my shoulder. It was definitely a Wednesday because at Meridian lessons started at 9.30 on Wednesdays and we would kick around before.
I was about 15 minutes late and I didn’t even remember to copy my homework. Needless to say, my economics tutor flipped. He made me stand on the table for the entire lesson. Standing there, I could easily touch the fan if I raised my hand. I was too afraid to move and of course it was then impossible for me to fall asleep during his lesson. I never dared to ask what was the rationale for making me stand on the table.
Recently when I spoke to him, he didn’t even remember making me stand on the table. “Poor table,” he said, when I mentioned the incident to him.
And then there was math. I’m absolutely horrid at it. Math tutorial worksheets were structured such that they got progressively more difficult towards the end. I used to complete only the first few questions, then cross referred the last few questions from friends, kind enough to lend me their assignments. So when my teachers came around to check my work, they would find that mine had questions 1 – 3 and 7 – 9.
Of course my teachers asked what happened to questions 4 – 6. My answer to them was that the stack of paper was too thick and that the middle ones might have fallen out along the way. Actually, I just didn’t have the time to copy every single one of the answers. So I prayed and hoped that they weren’t meticulous and that they didn’t flip through every single page. We didn’t actually have to hand in our tutorials. Our teachers went through them in class hence the reason why I was able to get away with that little trick a number of times.
My math teacher in my first year had a long conversation with my mum about getting my priorities right while my teacher in my second year made me turn in one practice paper each day as we neared our prelim exams.
I eventually managed a B at the A Levels, passing it for the first time ever. Thankfully the working world has excel sheets and all that is needed is simple sums.
As much as my teachers wanted to us to focus on academics, they also wanted us to become men and women of calibre with the heat and will to lead and serve in a challenging world. That meant that they wanted us to have issues that we were passionate about, even if it was something as frivolous as which team I supported at the World Cup.
I took my A Levels in 2010, the year that South Africa hosted the World Cup. My math and form teacher from my first year cornered me one recess.
“Are you watching the World Cup? ” she asked.
“Erms yes I am?” I answered, looking sheepish and hoping for an excuse to get out of the conversation.
“Okay half time for each match is 15mins. That’s about the time that you should spend on one economics essay or about two math questions. So every night write one essay or do two questions while waiting for the game to restart”.
I never expected her to come up to me with ways to squeeze in time to study. Held during the months of June and July, the World Cup coincided roughly with the time junior colleges held their preliminary exams.
Our principal then was also famous for confiscating the boys’ gaming devices. She would keep them under lock and key and give it back to students only once they are done with their exams. As draconian as it sounds, all she ever wanted was for us to give life our best shot.
She used to come into our lectures and give us long prep talks. For some strange reason, I still remember her telling us that she grew up wanting to be a National Geographic photographer. I have seen her work and I must say she shoots brilliantly.
While I don’t remember really remember the contents of the talks anymore, the emotions and intentions conveyed are firmly imprinted in my memory, as though it was only yesterday that I heard her speak.
My sister’s a teacher. A childcare teacher. Looking at the amount of effort spent preparing the lessons for those little minds allowed me to develop an even deeper appreciation for teachers.
Meridian Teachers are a unique breed because they continue to teach and nurture you even after you leave those giant blue gates. Almost all of them have journeyed with me through university and into the working world. Talking about life with them over coffee, another flavour gets added into the brew – friendship.
With the recent merger announcement, this Teachers’ Day maybe one of the last few Teachers’ Day celebrated as a Meridian community. So here’s a salute to all my Meridian teachers who are instrumental in making me who I am today.
Here’s wishing all my Meridian Teachers courage, purpose and character in all that you do!