Dear Senior Philip,
You may not remember me but I will never forget you. I was seven years old and you were only ten when you walked into my classroom and changed the course of my life. Our paths never crossed again after that encounter but you made quite an impression.
Before that day, I was a rambunctious child, content with viewing primary school as my personal playground. I cared more for playing than attending classes or doing home work. Now I wonder how I scaled through Primary 1 and 2 without being at the bottom of the class. Primary 3 dawned bright and promising, I had made new friends like me, and it was turning out to be a bigger fun fare than my previous school years.
I remember that day like it was only yesterday. Our teacher, Mrs. Esho, had not shown up all morning. The class managed a façade of orderliness, which we could not sustain after lunch break when it became obvious she was not going to show up at all. Primary 3A was ecstatic, and all hell was let loose. We turned our classroom into a mini playground and invented all sort of noisy games. That was when the Headmistress sent you to find out what was happening. You were not the Head boy and I am not sure what position you held then, but handling the raucous was your responsibility.
We all ran for our seats when you suddenly appeared. With apprehension, we awaited your punishment. Rather than punish us, you decided to conduct a spelling competition. I would have preferred the punishment though; I would have preferred anything but an academic competition. I tried to hide my face but I was chosen to represent my row. I remember how my heart thumped furiously like it was going to jump out of my chest when you called me to the board. My feet must have turned to lead or I am sure I would have made a dash for the door. My teacher never asked me to answer questions, and I never volunteered. I was content with just taking home my average grades.
As I shuffled to the board, I felt very faint with grief; I wanted to be anywhere else but in that classroom. The class was very quiet while I laboriously made my way to the blackboard, I imagined the quiet was a befitting sequel to the jeers that will explode once I goofed the spelling. I looked up at you and you smiled encouragingly, I finally made it to the board. The word you asked me to spell was ‘egg’. In my dazed state I began to write, waiting for the jeers to erupt behind me. I clung to the chalk as I dejectedly looked down. Then I heard your smiling voice asking the class to clap for me. I couldn’t believe I heard right, until I looked up and saw you looking at me with a beaming smile. That set me on the path to believing in myself. I can’t now remember your exact words to me, but I know that at the end of the third term in Primary 3, I came 1st place and for the first time in my life I realized that I could actually be the best at school work. Till I graduated from Primary school, my grades never strayed from the top percentile.
Now I am older and wiser, but each time I am asked to write down the names of the people that have influenced my life positively, your name is one that readily comes to my mind. I don’t even know your surname, but etched in my memory is ‘Senior Philip’, what we called you back then. Wherever you are, I just want to say thank you for walking into Primary 3A and making a little girl know that she could be the best with just a little push.