I still remember the first day of my middle school. Somebody complained to you that I had written my classwork in disconnected letters. You smiled and said that students from grade 6 were old enough to write in cursive. I remember hastily connecting my letters before you came over on your rounds and spotted the errors.
My parents and I were still grappling with the news of my dad’s unexpected transfer while packing my stuff to start my schooling in your coastal town. I was asked to stay in my aunt’s house until my parents could join me three months later.
I did not know whether it was the new place, the burden of additional subjects, or my lack of interest, I found my grades ebbing away like the faded leaves in the town’s Palm trees. All I was interested in was eating (excessively sugary) sweets sold by the ‘auntie’ and roaming the huge grounds of the school, which used to be a graveyard long ago.
There was one more thing I was interested in, Ms. Mildred. And that was to listen to the non-detail books in your hushed, soft voice. Well, your voice was not like that when you scolded us for not handing in our homework. How I long to listen to the abridged versions of Ivanhoe and Peter Pan in the last hour of the class?
And then you went on a long leave because you got married that year. Your sub was sweet as well as strict, but she never read us non-detail books. You came back as our English teacher when I was in Grade 7, but you were not the same anymore. I missed your passion for teaching and even your anger. You had developed patience, looked tired, and maybe even disinterested. You were on leave every other week. Was this because you were a new mom?
Our new homeroom teacher was extremely kind and hardly punished anyone, but I missed your presence and brisk efficiency. I wonder what the studious kids thought about this? Or do they just think about their studies and never about the teachers?
Can I come back to Grade 6, Ms. Mildred? Will you please be your old self and read Jane Eyre for our class? This time I promise I will pay attention to all the new subjects.