COLUMN

Teaching and Coaching

Summary

After the first episode of reality show ‘Sirasa Super Star

After the first episode of reality show ‘Sirasa Super Star’ I was convinced that everything associated with these ‘reality’ shows are staged and are pure fake. However, I enjoy the good songs and impressive singing talents presented in many of these shows. The culmination of the recently concluded Voice programme and the raw emotion of both the winner and the particular coach were not fake. These are the real results made out of the passion we loosely associate with teaching and coaching. The real happiness of seeing your ‘product’ reaching impossible heights. In this case immediately, and in many other cases, much later in this long journey we call ‘life’…

I was in grade six, a much spoiled and lazy student encountering the first male teacher in my life. Up to now, in the lower grades, we were spoiled by a large number of female teachers. They showered us with love, care and everything else a young child would ever need. Grade six was a tough one. The first male teacher, with a very different temperament, he himself the class teacher and also the teacher of a new subject ‘Social Studies’ and we have lost the loving first name we were associated with. He wore Ariya Sinhala outfit, and had a menacing look and was indeed a terror. This was Weerasinghe sir. ‘Harsha’ became ‘Wickramasinghe’ overnight. I was devastated, as can be expected. Having lost so many desirable things linked to my former happy life, virtually overnight after the December holidays.

To label this phase of my life ‘sad’ is an understatement. The scholarship winners who just joined us from outstation schools edged out all of us from the Junior school in examination results. They were becoming the favourites in the class. And a very different teacher to cap it all… I lost all interest in studies and was not paying sufficient attention to studies and especially ‘home work’… One day, unknown to me, a deadline has approached. We had a Field Book (ක්ෂේත්‍ර පොත) as a part of the Social Studies curriculum. Weerasinghe sir had given the class a take home assignment to produce things from nature (found in your garden) such as leaf, feathers and sand particles pasted in a centre spread of the Field Book. I actually didn’t know it was due, and the large CR book which was the Field Book was not with me on that day. So Weerasinghe sir arrived, and asked all of us to bring the completed Field Books to his table. Quickly, he separated the men with Field Books and the rest of us. Fortunately it was like 40% of them and 60% of us. He thundered “those who did not submit the Field Books to line-up here in the order of the register…”. We, with the letter W in our surnames were a fortunate lot. Whatever misery will first befall on the Abeysinghe’s and Bandaras. We the Ws and Ys will receive a lesser torment, as the sir will be tired… we thought. Unbelievably, he started at the Z end of the alphabet… which meant I will be the third in the line of execution. Frankly I don’t know who faced it before me, but it was a thundering slap on your left cheek for those two. My turn came and I got two, one on each cheek, and it was so very painful and I actually saw stars..! The severity of the punishment was actually escalating, as he became angrier after delivering the punishment to each student. The Abeysinghes were shivering, and for valid reasons. He broke a beading out of the class cupboard and started using it when it was around Liyanage’s turn. I vividly remember the nails popping out of the stick which increased the effectiveness of his delivery. For once, we (the Ws and the Ys) benefited from a double jeopardy..!

We were given a full week to complete the task… all of us. People who submitted on time and the rest of us. I was so stunned by this inhuman punishment and could not comprehend what made him so angry. But I knew this was a serious business. I went home and spent the weekend searching the garden for nature’s treasures and collected a good sample. To top it all, I had my hobby of collecting feathers to help me. After pasting all the leaf, flowers and sand samples, I made a colourful bird out of my excess feathers (those specimens with more than one sample) right in the middle.

On the next due date, I faced him with courage, for I have ‘delivered’. Actually, the punishments received has resulted in 100% compliance in the class..! Shocking everyone, Weerasinghe sir exclaimed that I have done a good job, and showed the pages to the whole class. He added…බලන්න ගොඩක් උත්සාහ කරොත් ලැබෙන ප්‍රතිඵල..! (see the result when you really strive hard). He marked the books and gave those back to students and told me… “Wickramasinghe, I will keep your book for a while, because I want to show it to other classes”. For a ten year old, this was ‘recognition”. This was a decisive moment of my life, where I understood the value of teaching and coaching. It takes a real man to bring out the best in another’s. I quickly started to develop on my initial success and became a good compiler of things. Literary festivals, Exhibitions etc. required my inputs to develop a presentable document. With practice and guidance of so many teachers and seniors, I became a good compiler. A thing I enjoy doing to this day. I have compiled the national energy account from 2003 to 2019 – resulting in the annual publication Sri Lanka Energy Balance. The pleasure I enjoy in compiling these things seems to never end. But it surely had a beginning. It was him, Weerasinghe sir. The two thundering slaps and the praises next week. It was him, Weerasinghe sir. His happiness in seeing my product is the same happiness I saw in Umariya’s moistened eyes when Harith won the Voice competition.

She had given everything she knew and everything she had to all those fortunate young people as their coach. I saw the immense joy in her, doing it with such competence, especially this song I have shared. These are the gentle souls that will change this world one day. With the right kind of attitude and a good perspective of life, her flock can take the journey of life… to the destination they desire with ease. This is my tribute to all those wonderful people we broadly identify as teachers and coaches, who managed to elevate me and billions of other members of our human family over the ages to the heights we have reached today. Yes, Weerasinghe sir, wherever you are.. and all my teachers and coaches… a big thank you…

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