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Life is more than book knowledge

13 Feb 2017

Mdm Shanti, Principal of Riverside Secondary, looks back on her school days and shares her experiences in a letter to her students.

Watch her video or read her letter below. 

Dear students,

Since the age of 7, for the major part of my life, my day started with the ringing of the school bell. Even today, decades later, it still does. Back then, however, it was the old bell, the kind rang by an ice-cream vendor but much, much bigger and louder and very commanding. It made sure it wasn’t ignored! On a warm afternoon, from my Primary 5 class, it was an interesting distraction watching the school attendant strolling towards the bell, looking at his watch, waiting patiently for the seconds to tick by and then gently swinging the rope, the clapper hitting against the bell sides and the resounding sound vibrating across the school. Never was I disappointed by the buzz of activities that always followed. The loud clanging school bell has of course now been replaced by a digital chime. But its importance to me then and even now and possibly for all of you, is that when it first rings in a school, it signals the start of a powerful learning experience.

What did I learn? As a student, I learnt in my Language lessons that the written word can touch hearts and move nations. I learnt, through my Geography teachers, that water has the power to carve a rock and create a breathtaking waterfall. I learnt in my science lessons, the ingenuity of man that has lifted 400,000 kilogrammes of steel, the airplane in flight. But just as importantly, and I dare say more importantly, it is also in school that I learnt to do things I never thought I was capable of.

Among the many firsts was the debate that forced me to think on my feet, writing my first drama script for the class for a road safety message where I also had to put my shyness and stage fright aside and take on a role, the first time I held the microphone in my clammy hands as I addressed a hall filled with people. These moments are etched in my memory forever for they played a part in shaping who I am today.

Now many years past my own school days, as teacher, and now as a principal, these are some of the experiences that I want my students to have. I am still learning but this time for my students and from my students. I wish for you to learn the lessons that I have learnt, that life is much more than book knowledge, that although all of us are not equal in abilities and talents, we can be equal in our efforts, that the downs in life will be followed by ups, for if life is a straight line, it means that our heart is no longer beating, the importance of being able to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong.

The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you. We all have a purpose in life, otherwise we would not have been born. You and only you can define what you are and what you can become by the choices you make.

Choose to enjoy school, for it is here that that you will learn, discover your passion and build relationships that will see you through the tides of life. Choose to smile, when challenges come your way, for you are stronger than you think. Choose to be quiet, when you know the next word from you will be said in anger. Choose to do the right thing, always, for you know that is what makes your character. Choose to stand tall and with pride for Singapore, for this will always be your home and it made you who you are.

I pride myself on being an educator. I find great satisfaction in relating to young people and learning continuously. I like having the honour and privilege of playing a part in influencing young minds. I like the kind of person a school forces me to be. Always learning and always conscious of living out the values that I so often talk about. My dear students, I am happy and proud to be your teacher, as you are my inspiration and I learn from you.

Yours Truly,
Madam Shanti