Tribute to Papa

It’s my father’s 60th birthday today. He retired yesterday after a 40-year career as a teacher. As a surprise, my mum and sister thought it will make him proud if we submitted an article to his favourite daily in hope that the editors will publish our story.

As luck will turn out, they liked it and our story made the Malaysian national daily.

Here’s the story as originally published in The Star

We were always asked what it was like to be the children of parents who were teachers.

People expected to hear that we lived under strict conditions with no time for play. And worse, if we ever dared bring home poor results from school, we would be severely punished.

It seemed like the only reason to explain our straight A results in school.

It also didn’t help that our father See Koon Suan has earned a reputation as a strict teacher. When peers from our father’s school find out whom our father is, they know not to mess with us.

Yes, our father was strict with us but he also made sure we were given every single opportunity to succeed — sacrificing his personal needs to ensure we had the best upbringing and education.

Our father didn’t grow up in privilege, unlike us. He saw his father work three jobs to support the family. His whole family shared a room in a house.

But he succeeded nonetheless despite the circumstances and was admitted to a teaching college where an illustrious 40-year career awaited him.

And he was not one to rest on his laurels. We watched him spend many nights feverishly marking his students’ homework.

But despite the workload from teaching his core subject English, he also initiated the school marching band and even founded the IT Club during the 1990s, back when floppy disks were still in use.

It was clear that he was deeply committed to his school, and above all, his students.

He was a discipline teacher feared by his students. Grooming them to be useful citizens was his top agenda other than educating them academically.

Not only was he a great teacher at school, he was also a great teacher at home.

He taught us about the Internet. We remember the excitement from hearing the dialing tones our phone used to make while it tried to connect to the World Wide Web and being thrilled at being allowed to use the mouse to click on the various icons on the screen.

Ju Vin remembers the computer games he used to bring home. The computer games taught us skills like touch typing, enabling us to average a typing speed of 110 words per minute.

This skill proved to be extremely valuable in our current careers. There was also a game around American history and another on solving a series of puzzles to hunt a fugitive around the world, which really opened our eyes to the world beyond Malaysia’s soil.

He also used to bring us on various trips to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Genting Highlands which again, took us to a world beyond our small town of Kuantan when we were little.

With our father’s help, we also created a website while still in primary school. It was a very exciting time for us as we were the only ones we knew at the time who could call ourselves web developers — even if it was just a website about Britney Spears!

He was always our go-to tech guy as he would be able to fix all sorts of problems with our computer and various gadgets around the house.

When we were growing up, he would give advice on which laptop or mobile phone to buy, all while elaborating the specifications of each choice, which were alien to us at the time.

He taught us to swim. Ju Vin remembers how he would make her swim towards him in the local public swimming pool all the while inching further and further away from her. The greater distance she was pushed to swim only made her a stronger swimmer.

He taught us time management.

“Never be late” rang constantly in our house. We always had to be early, if not on time, for all of our appointments.

He taught us to speak proper English. He used to correct us whenever we peppered our conversations with lah’s on the telephone with friends.

It was annoying to have your father listen in on your conversations but later we realised he was just worried that our written English would degrade as a result.

He taught us that hard work will lead us to places. Ju Vern remembers being 12 and telling her friends with dead certainty that she was going to attain a scholarship to study abroad. That level of confidence could only have come from the many conversations over the dinner table where he would have said, “If you studied hard, a scholarship should be within your reach.”

He also taught us football. There was no other team better than Manchester United and no football manager better than Sir Alex Ferguson.

“A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us there, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way”.

Happy Retirement, Papa. After 40 years, you definitely deserve a long and enjoyable break.

Written on June 22, 2017