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January 28, 2013 / glennlim thots

What I learnt from Mr Kumar, and am still learning today…

glenn kumar

The recent 2013 / 2014 Ministry of Education TV Commercial on Mr Kumar’s impact on my life has received warm response from the public.

I thought I’d write something about it…

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Before MOE picked up my story, there was actually another more detailed production of it.

The production team responsible for making this happen (Writemind Productions) spent tireless months researching, planning, and making numerous calls just tracking down my ex-teacher. Finally, contact was made, and a staged ‘reunion’ was set – I was to return and speak at my alma mater, and I would meet with Mr Kumar for the first time in 25yrs!

The final production of this reunion was documented in this short video, titled iMPACT. I enjoyed every part of this process…

In fact, Mr Kumar had already retired from teaching. But, because of this episode, he has since returned as an adjunct. Yes, after all these years, he is still faithfully committed to his passion of shaping young minds.

One question that was raised by Mr Kumar during our dialog was – what were some life-lessons I learnt from him during those years he taught me?. This got me thinking, and here are some of the key lessons I learnt from him:

SELF-RESPECT – This is tied in with self-worth and value. I realise most people who cause trouble or harm to self or others, have a poor sense of self-concept, which influences his ‘estimatation’ or respect of others. It started out subtly for me, when I started vandalising and destroying property out of mischief. It then progressed to hitting out at people, and even being physically abusive to my brother and mother. Mr Kumar didn’t get to know the full extent of my violent behaviour, but there were times when he counseled me – “Respect yourself and the gift you’ve got, don’t waste your life and talent”. I have grown to apply this in my youth work today. Boys who act out violently; girls who look for love in all the wrong places – these are symptomatic behaviours of deeper poor self-estimation and respect.

SELF-REFLECT – Another missing link to a 21st Century impairment. We have lost the art of self-evaluation and inquiry, choosing rather to react to circumstances. Rare is the man who pauses to examine his daily events, interactions and inner thought life. It is so much easier to react on the fly, and make choices we regret later. Mr Kumar, in his calm manner, never addressed my issues when I was defensive or argumentative. He would often give me time-out to think and ponder on my actions, and revisited them with me at a later time. One of his favourite lines was “See me later after school” or “We’ll talk about this tomorrow, I’ll give you time to think about this”. Of course this would really test my patience, but I’ve learnt that as I spaced out my response time, I could process my issues more objectively, and made more rationale decisions.

SELF-RECOVERY – This is not just about mending problems, but an ability to redeem oneself from mistakes and setbacks, even when no one is there to support or encourage you. Today, the art of resilience is a lost virtue that needs to be reclaimed by this generation. Mr Kumar never once ‘saved’ me from any of my situations (when i got into trouble). Instead, he would insist I confront my own issues, face the consequences and find ways to repair my mistakes (whether it be relationship issues with family or friends, trust from teachers, or disciplinary issues). Yet, at every step of my process, he would unwaveringly lend his support on the side. He was a man of few words, but his presence spoke volumes of his belief in me. I remembered him saying –  “Glenn, stop running away, take responsibility of the mess you created, and recover from this.”…Well, I am still growing today.

Today, take time to recall some of the precious lessons we learnt from the teachers in our lives…Glenn Lim

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Here’s the original MOE TVC:

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Here’s a writeup on STOMP:

CLICK HERE –> Inspiring Video of Mr Kumar & Glenn

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Here’s an MOE interview writeup on our relationship:

CLICK HERE –> MOE SchoolBag Story (Teachers who made a difference)

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And here’s the assembly talk back at my alma mater (2013), where I paid tribute to Mr Kumar!

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A recent pic taken with Mr Kumar this year during an MOE’s Principal’s Sch Zonal Seminar (Aug 2013)  where I was the keynote speaker…

zkumar 1

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