When you are all of six years old and enter a huge primary school building after years of being pampered in a
kindergarten, discomfort is your sole companion. New teachers, a campus as huge as a castle, hundreds of older kids marching like ants and a different teacher for every subject. Sounds pretty much like getting married—a new family name, a
new house and people who become family overnight!


As a second-time mom of a first-grader, I ought to have been relaxed. Yet there I was, on her first day of school, having breakfast with the principal along with other nervous parents–Kiasu, as they are rightly called in Singapore. But schools know well what can calm down the tense nerves of my generation of helicopter parents. So after guzzling down three sandwiches, two cupcakes and a mug full of coffee, I decided that the school that could satiate my hunger was perfectly capable of taking care of my over-the-moon pampered daughter number two. Putting my anxieties to rest, I headed home.


At around 1.50pm, my palpitations were back as I marched up and down the bus stop, waiting desperately to hug my little furball, afraid she may be in tears owing to change. Just then, the bus arrived. Out jumped both my girls giggling and laughing as they
drowned me in a bear hug. On our way upstairs, there were stories of the school and teachers and new friends. I asked my first-grader, “What was the best part about school?” “Didu,” she exclaimed!


“P4s joined us to help discover school. My buddy was Didu. She held my hand and led me to the toilet and the canteen and even gave me a tour of the school. I love the secret garden and the Koi pond. Her friends pulled my cheeks and called me cute. In the
canteen, she took me to stall number 7, which serves vegetarian food. I forgot to take back change, but Didu got it for me. She even sat right next to me during recess.”

I could see Didu’s face light up like the rising sun. Her sister had put her on a pedestal. It was her turn to speak. She said, “Monu had forgotten where to head for the bus after school. She took the opposite direction. I found her crying like a kitten when I reached
there. She gave me a tight hug. This was the first time she didn’t boss over me like Boss Baby and said ‘love you’ instead!”

I enquired about the bus ride and the first-grader began, “Oh, I love the bus. Didu caught places for us and even let me sit by the window. I made a new friend too–Alisha!”

As their stories continued, I gaped at the two with moist eyes, helping them with another serving of their favourite mac-n-cheese. As the girls devoured the pasta hungrily, my worries vanished and my heart felt grateful for this little big teacher at home. She secretly confided that she had insisted upon being her little sister’s buddy and her class teacher had willingly agreed.

It wasn’t until that afternoon that I realised school is about way
more than the ability of a child to read or solve math problems.
A school is a child’s second home. Lessons are not just learnt in classrooms and teachers are not just the ones that get paid. They are those that hold your hand from the time you are in your mother’s womb; the ones that come to your rescue when you need to face a bully on the bus; or need fashion advice for that
princess-themed birthday bash; or simply need somebody to guard
your secret. You always need a role model to ape.


P.S. My little big teacher handed me a card made and gifted by her little sister. It was a thank-you note addressed to the very first
teacher in her life. The class teacher had mentioned it could be anyone who has taught you a valuable life lesson. So, here’s wishing a Happy Teachers’ Day to all the unsung
heroes that teachers truly are, whether they make you book-smart
or street-smart.