My teacher, my friend

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I’d like to introduce to you a very dear friend of mine. His name is Gerald Jordan, and he was my History professor in the University. Even while he was teaching me I felt a great deal of affection for this sweet and caring gentleman. He came for many of my dance performances, let me use his phone to call my boyfriend, provided a shoulder to cry on during a very difficult period of my life, and was a very engaging teacher. During my first tutorial with him, he asked us a question, and said that everyone had to try to answer it. One guy tried to be smart, and said, “Professor Jordan has asked us a very interesting question.” Gerry folded his arms and looked at him for a while, and then asked, “Well are you going to try to answer it?” It would have sounded sarcastic coming from anyone else, but coming from Gerry, with his blue eyes twinkling, you just knew that he was getting a big kick out of the exchange.

His wife Gail is just as special, because she is his anchor. She is his intellectual match and they support each other. When they are together they are a powerful mixture of compassion and good humour, with a combined wisdom that is truly an insiration. In an age when marriages fall apart at the drop of a hat, this wonderful couple in their golden years provide hope and stability. They joke about each other’s weaknesses with the complete confidence of two people who truly value and respect each other.

But above all what I love about Gerry is his ability to spread his network of love and friendship. It has been almost 20 years since he was my teacher but we have kept in touch and through him I have met many other wonderful people. All of us are connected by our love for this kindliest of professors.

When Gerry and Gail, who live in Canada, visited Singapore in February this year, they stayed in my house. They were hardly there- so busy was their social schedule- but we managed to squeeze in some time together in between their lunch and dinner appointments. The house felt empty after they left, and I hope to be able to go to Canada next year to see them again.

For a long time after he stopped teaching me, I kept referring to him as “Professor Jordan”. He was very amused by my inability to call him by his first name. But as I explained to him, in Asian culture, it is considered disrespectful to refer to your elders by name. Eventually though, as I grew closer to him and Gail, I dropped the formality.

Gerry is so much more than a teacher to me. He is one of my dearest and most special friends.

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3 thoughts on “My teacher, my friend

  1. Hi, Mrs V. It’s really heartening to know that a teacher can be a heartwarming friend as well. In asian culures, most students regard their teachers as mere teachers, and nothing more than that. In Western cultures however, students regard their teachers as friends, playing outdoor activities with their teachers. In comparison, sometimes I wish that Singapore students were more like the western students, having the courage to regard the teachers as friends who teach them lots of invaluable stuff! 🙂

  2. Perhaps it also depends on the teacher. And times are changing. I notice that even in Singapore students are much more friendly and open with their teachers now than when I was in school. But you are right- there is a lot that teachers and students can learn from each other if they are willing to let down some barriers. Do you think that the large class sizes have something to do with the high level of formality we maintain in our classrooms?

  3. Yep, this could be one of the reasons as well. With bigger class sizes, a teacher would need to focus more on the weaker students and “neglect” the stronger ones.

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