Recently, I had the opportunity to meet a former student of mine, at the local HSBC head-office. I was attending a talk there and this student of mine was there to sell HSBC products and services to the attendees. She seemed familiar but I could not place her exactly but she did remember me – I used to scold her a lot.
She was my very first piano student. I started teaching piano at the age of 12 and she was living next door to me at the time. So, while we were teacher and student, we were also neighbourhood friends and I often played together with her elder siblings. I can still remember hanging a string across lamp posts and using that for our street badminton games.
I could also remember that she had a bit of trouble with English. She came from a Chinese educated family and in those days, they did not teach English in Chinese schools until Primary 3. However, as I registered my students for examinations under the ABRSM, all the examinations were conducted in English – including written papers. So, I had to teach her some English too.
The solution to this problem still surprises me until this day. While she could read little English, she could understand the questions after reading it for more than a dozen times. If she did not understand the question, we would skip it and come back to it later after she answered some of the other questions. Honestly, that’s all I did. I made her repeatedly read the questions until she understood what was asked. It must’ve seemed like torture at the time, but it worked. I do not understand the reasons why, but it worked.
Today, she speaks English really well. She ended up graduating with a Finance degree and working at HSBC – dealing in customer service for Premier customers. If I ever qualify to open a Premier account in the future, I’ll probably call her up to do it – let her meet her quota and earn some commission.
This is a small world, really. I sometimes wonder what happened to the other dozen or so students of mine.