Dear Singa, My Father Was The Most Courteous Principal. No, He Did Not Quit.
My late dad, won the your award – the “Friend of Singa Award” in 1992 for being the “Most Courteous Principal Award” in recognition for his “courteous, considerate and caring character towards others”. If you remember, he was then the principal of Pearl Park Primary School.
Did he win it because he was the meet-and-greet, and all smiling principal?
From what I recall, he was far from it. He was like a typical strict and straight-faced Chinese teacher. He won because he was a non-quitter.
For years, the primary school was plagued with problems of littering and discipline. Despite the school having a few part-time cleaners, litter was everywhere –coming from both the students and public. He took the broom and swept the entire school himself. The entire school.
I remember then I felt slightly embarrassed that the head of a school would be seen sweeping the compound, “Papa, you should not be sweeping the floor. You are the principal. The workers should do it. Or make it compulsory for the students.”
“If the principal doesn’t do it, who would?”
He showed his version of being caring and considerate – to lead by example day-in-day-out. A year later, the school was spin and span. Students, and even teachers helped in keeping the area clean. I felt very proud that even the hawkers at the People’s Park district knew and were talking about it.
He continued sweeping though. He did not quit.
The primary school then was not known to be the best in academic students. In fact, there were the typical rude students with problems of discipline.
He got to know every one of them personally. Every one of his delinquent students. He had an exercise book where he wrote them the names of all his students (In typical Chinese language fashion, that was how he remembered).
Every now and there, I would find a stranger in my house – getting free tuition from my father because they were not performing well in school. You would have thought that all the students would be appreciative of that act, but I can say it is far from it.
Many were disgruntled and still complained. But my father preserved and those who continued ended up improving for their examinations.
He continued giving free tuition after he retired. He did not quit.
Like you, my father was 30 years into his career and could have just taken the back-seat and let the teachers do the ‘work’. I am sure at many points in time, he was also tired.
You gave my late-father the courtesy award because he showed by example what it really meant to be courteous: to care for others, even strangers from the bottom of the heart; to be generous in giving, even if people do not appreciate.
I ask myself what my father would do if he were you and was “too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society”. He would have started from the basics, led by example and preserved.
One thing for sure. He would not quit.
(The writer has been a teacher for the last 11 years, knowing he has big shoes to fill. He will always remember what his Papa told him “帮助人的人 有永恒的快乐”. A person who helps others will get eternal happiness.)
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