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I will never forget my first year in teaching. It was a perfect start to my career. The charismatic and indefatigable Clive Pantin was appointed the first lay principal of Fatima College. He set about his task with infectious enthusiasm. The Vice Principal, Fr. Farfan, gave us weekly lectures on teaching. He impressed me as a deeply spiritual, intelligent and creative individual. Both principal and vice principal were always in the staffroom discussing plans for the college and participating in many animated conversations and arguments.
As a young teacher, I was very impressed with the friendliness of the staff. Laughter permeated the staffroom. The atmosphere was very informal and relaxed. A genuine love for Fatima prevailed. Nearly everyday the majority of the staff went to lunch at Johnston’s Restaurant on Maraval Road for the five dollar special. Graduate teachers earned almost seven hundred dollars in those days. The staff worked very hard, played football and cricket and socialized at every opportunity. I quickly adapted to the Fatima culture.
One individual really stood out for his simplicity, versatility, commitment and energy. He was Harry Ramdass. He was coach of football and cricket, taught a variety of subjects and was responsible for just about everything. He was both loved and feared by the students. We developed a very close friendship that has lasted up to this day. Ray Holman kept a close look at my work and asked many probing questions. He taught me so much about teaching Spanish. Mervyn Moore was the first to correct me whenever I did something wrong. He literally took me under his wings and guided me throughout my first year. He was so gentle and fatherly. Francis John made sure I maintained the right balance between recreation and work.
I heard many terms during the years that defined Fatima, terms like “Fatima family”, “For the good of the boys”, “Service before self”, “Every person is important”, “A happy staff is a productive staff”, “Well-rounded individuals”, “By striving you shall conquer”. Like a sponge I soaked in everything and used these lessons to shape my approach to teaching.
Fr. Farfan encouraged me to join the Legion of Mary, an organization that enriched me socially and spiritually. What followed was a very hectic period of visits to the House of Refuge, St. Michael’s School for Boys, hikes, beach limes, games events, retreats, and trips down the islands. We really enjoyed ourselves but Fr. Farfan ensured our spiritual development remained his paramount concern. Daily Mass and recitation of the Rosary formed a vital part of all our activities.
The resignation of Clive Pantin brought out the best in the staff. We met at the home of Alloy Lee Ha and decided to take charge of Fatima. We needed to apply the lessons learnt during Mr. Pantin’s tenure. We were very concerned about our examination results and resolved to improve this situation. We decided to start with Form Six and encouraged Francis John to assume the deanship. Very quickly our Advanced Level results improved by twenty percent.
On October 13, 2008 I formally ended my teaching career. However, I can never leave Fatima. The place is too precious to me. I love the organization, the people, the scenery and the view of the mountains. Once I am close to Fatima and I have some free time, I still drop by to simply relax. Fatima was never my place of work, it was my home.
I have a box of cards and letters from parents and students. I appreciate all of them. However there is one card that I cherish. It is a Father’s Day card from a Fatima boy that states “You may not be my dad but you have treated me just as your son, and this I am very grateful for. Thanks for being there to guide me on the right track.”
This adequately summed up my approach to teaching. I considered every Fatima boy as one of my children.