Ma’am I swallowed my tooth!



Recently, I had the opportunity to teach a bunch of 1st graders, thanks to a very dear friend Usha, who is a Grade 1 class-teacher in an International school here in Singapore.

They were learning about the human body and she thought it would be interesting to have me as guest speaker, me being a doctor and all! When she first asked if I could come and speak to the children a couple of months ago I must admit I was a bit nervous – but decided to ‘boldly go where I had never gone before’ (sorry couldn’t resist the star trek ref) and so I said yes!

We agreed to keep it simple (they were after all only 6yr olds!) and settled for some interesting facts about the systems they knew and decided to show them some of the medical instruments doctors use while examining patients, the classic example being every one’s favourite: the stethoscope!

On the day, I gathered my notes and instruments and headed over, feeling rather like a kid on his first day in a new school – nervously excited!! Got there half an hour early by design and the Principal was kind enough to show me around. It was nostalgic to say the least – I haven’t been inside a school for oh…let me see…never mind, too many years to count 😉

Enjoyed looking into the beautifully decorated lower-grade classrooms and the more austere higher-grade ones. Why do imagination and curiosity lose out to practicality as we grow older? Such a shame! Walking around the various labs, the cafeteria, the indoor gym, the library, was like a welcome blast from the past!

And then, it was time for class! I met the kids in their classroom where Usha introduced me as “Our Guest Speaker – the Doctor!” They all yelled “Good Morning Ma’am” in a chorus as I stood smiling, nervously self-conscious, aware they were all staring at me like some kind of interesting specimen, until a little boy piped up, “Are you a doctor really? You don’t look like one? Your not even wearing doctor clothes!” Another little girl squirmed in her seat while frantically waving her hand around to attract my attention. “Yes,” I said and she burst out “Ma’am you know, once I swallowed my tooth and now it’s right down in my stomach!” I burst out laughing and all my nervousness vanished! This was going to be a hoot!

Welcome to the world of 6yr olds 🙂

And so we began…all throughout the one hour, they fidgeted, talked out of turn and yelled out details of every injury and fracture they or their family members had ever suffered in the manner of all 6yr olds!! “Ma’am my grandpa’s skull burst!” yelled one little boy and then seeing my shocked face – he went on to explain patiently “Ma’am he slipped and had a fracture in his head and had to go to hospital.” Another little girl shared how her foot had been in plaster for 6 weeks and then her hand for 4 more, the poor darling I thought and then thought, her poor mother!! And all the while my friend from the classroom kept up her chorus, “Ma’am I swallowed my tooth and now it’s in my tummy!” It was entertainingly surreal.

I showed them the stethoscope and thermometer and a syringe – all too familiar from visits to the doctor’s clinic. They were fascinated by the otoscope that could ‘see right into your ear.’ “What’s there to see inside the ear Ma’am? Is it red-coloured?” The hammer used to test reflexes interested them so much that while leaving, they had all made their own, by sticking their pencil points into one end of their erasers!! Smart kids these! They trooped out in a straggly line proudly showing off their handiwork. Moms please accept my apologies for ruining one more eraser – but what’s one more in the hundreds that will follow! 😉

The hour passed in a flash! While leaving, they presented me with 3 beautiful thank you cards that I will treasure always 🙂 I don’t know how much of what they heard that day they will remember – but I know this I will never forget what they taught me – stay young, don’t be afraid to ask questions, never limit your imagination and always listen to your teacher!

And so that was my first shot at teaching…entirely adorable, utterly exhausting and hugely satisfying!!

A big ‘THANK YOU’ to Usha and her ‘bacchas’ for giving me one of the happiest moments of my life!

2 thoughts on “Ma’am I swallowed my tooth!

  1. You are welcome dear. Just imagine the time I have with them!!! You spent just one hour….6 year olds can be a repertoire of fantastic ideas. You want some more time with them???? 😉

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