Those Who Teach, Can

Haresh Sharma’s Those Who Can’t, Teach, performed by the Hwa Chong English Literature, Drama, Debate and Film Society (ELDDFS) on the 20th and 21st of July, told the story of the teachers and students of the fictional Marine Parade Secondary School. Well-received by the audience, the play was an enriching and gratifying experience for many of the crew too, who had worked tirelessly to stage it. Student co-director Er Yuan Ren (16S7C), for instance, learnt much about the “intricacies” and challenges of directing.

As students, we have all met various kinds of people that we had to call classmates, and many of these were represented in the play. The character Raymond Tan, for instance, is “outcast and brazen”, according to the actor who portrayed him, Brendon Koh (17S7E). Brendon shared that it was challenging to “connect with the frustration and anger that Raymond felt towards the school and the current system in place.” Though Raymond’s life seems to be perfect, indiscretions on his and his father’s part present a darker side to this “model student.”

Next up: Ong Teck Liang, your stereotypical ah beng, complete with untucked shirt. Admit it: people like him bring laughter to our lives, given their ability to make fun of anyone and anything. Unfortunately for him, his complete disregard for authority during his schooling days very nearly costs him what most would consider a “bright” future—if not for teachers like Mrs Phua Su Lin.

Teck Liang demonstrating his rambunctious side to Mrs Phua, while Raymond looks on. Photo Credit: Calynn Tan (17S65) @ Hwa Chong Photographic Society

Ah, good old Mrs Phua. The caring yet strict teacher who always believes in her students, never losing faith in even the most irresponsible and disrespectful ones (see Ong Teck Liang above). Life in the classroom is difficult enough, but her life outside the classroom is not ideal either. From caring for a mother suffering from dementia to having to navigate around the snobbish scholar Mr. Zachariah Lee, Mrs Phua has  to deal with it all.

A confrontational scene between Mrs Phua Su Lin, the play’s protagonist, and Mr Zachariah Lee, the snobbish scholar who challenges her teaching methods. Photo Credit: Ian Sim (17S7C) @ Hwa Chong Photographic Society

Mrs Phua as a character probably has the most profound impact on the audience, as we students are able to see through our teachers’ eyes. We like to believe that our teachers are perfect. However, we hardly realise that being humans, our teachers are prone to failure too. Through Mrs Phua, we learn that though teachers are flawed beings, they possess courage, resilience and patience in abundance, allowing them to face the many challenges of school life. Like the students in the play, we often do not realise the many sacrifices that they make for us. When we ask them for consults, do we realise that, like Mrs Phua, they may actually be spending more time with us than with their own children?

 Those who can, teach—the adult Teck Liang confides in Mrs Phua even as she sits in a nursing home. Photo Credit: Ian Sim (17S7C) @ Hwa Chong Photographic Society

Our teachers can’t do everything for us, but they have always taught us to dream. They always give us hope.

And sometimes, this hope is enough to inspire us.

Written by Liu Wei Ren, Gabriel (17S7E)

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