60 years of dedication to education
The world has seen many professions during the course of its existence. Professions which everyone strives for, can usually be categorized as either being glamorous or highly paid. Especially in an era where ones profession closely relates the individual to the social status, no one can be mistaken if the profession of teaching is forgotten.
A true teacher may not earn you millions or make you popular like many of the high profile jobs in the market, but it surely does give you something special which no other career can provide. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you can be the corner stone on which many people have laid their foundation to build up their lives. And I have been lucky enough to build up the early stages of my life as well as my career under the guidance of one such teacher who can be considered a perfect example for all who consider committing themselves into a teaching career.
Mrs. Daphne Lord, has been and still remains to be an individual who has given priority to the needs of her pupils and her staff throughout her life. Anyone who has had a chance to be close to Aunty Daphne would find it hard to believe that it has been 60 years since she started her career as a young Elocution teacher, and she still continues at her desk and greets her pupils with a motherly smile that makes the class feel as if itís their own home.
ĎAunty Daphneí as she is called by all her pupils and staff, studied Elocution under Mrs. Wendy Whatmore and Mrs. Yoland Abeyweera. She laid her stepping stone under their guidance, got through her diplomas and decided to branch out on her own. She started her career as a teacher at her Alma Mater, Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena where she taught both English Language and Literature. Iím pretty sure that most of the pupils who had known her from school are very good friends with her up to date, because she is a person who always maintained a friendly relationship with her pupils both at school and at classes. In some people we find characteristics which separate them as "the best from the rest", and these characteristics made Aunty Daphne a well known and sought after teacher which resulted in the formation of "The Daphne Lord School of Speech and Drama", ( DLS as it is popularly known) which is still running successfully under her guidance.
Aunty Daphne rendered her services even more by being involved in the incorporation of the "Institute of Western Music and Speech" ( IWMS). She held many offices including being the President of IWMS for many years. She is the patron of the "Colombo Academy of Language Skills and Dramatic Art" (CALSDA) at present.
She has not only encouraged pupils day in and day out; she has also encouraged new teachers and given them both the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to be in the profession and has always been of help whenever needed. Such an environment has provided the teachers to feel at home and made them so comfortable that the teachers involved with DLS consider it as a family rather than a mere Institution.
One of the many unique features she has, is that she understands the potentials of her pupils and her teachers more than what they understand of themselves, which in itself is a God given gift. This has resulted in the blossoming of many a talented pupils and teachers. She did not limit her teaching in any way by only teaching general English, but she also taught the skills of Speech and Drama, Public Speaking and various other aspects related to the language which helped her pupils to be versatile.
Away from education, she is also well known for her religious faith which is portrayed through her commitments to the St. Luciaís Cathedral which is her Parish where she has been involved with the Liturgy Committee for a significant period. She is a person who always believes that everything is possible through God.
When I look at Aunty Daphne, thereís one phrase that I always remember reading from a novel which says - " Nothing is impossible, itís just that impossible things take a longer time to be done." This phrase really suits her, purely because of the amount of work she has put in throughout her 60 years at her desk and the results are there for everyone to see. Through her dedication and hard work she has realized her dream of providing English education to every corner of the society, and through her hard work and commitment, she has made the impossible possible.
As we all know, some people are given names with a meaning behind it or they may even be named after someone before them, but only a few people have for themselves a name which can clearly spell out their character. And I managed to find a few words that do give a clear description of who she really is.
D - Dedicated (Dedicated to her profession)
A - Attention to detail (Keeps a close eye on every pupil)
P - Perfection ( Likes to see it in everyone)
H - Honest ( Honest in what she says)
N - Natural talent (A talent of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of pupils)
E - Enthusiastic (Always willing to be actively involved in teaching)
Her childhood wasn't a bed of roses. Born on May 31, 1928 she and the two sisters were brought up by the grandparents while her mother who was a young widow had to cut corners to make ends meet.
Having played many a role such as the student, care taker, teacher, nurturer, a risk taker and the responsible one, Daphne Lord could hardly ever look at life through rose tinted glasses as a youth.
Not knowing the love and protection of a father who passed away at an early age, the three girls never knew what it's like to be rich and spoilt like other girls, their age. But little Daphne never longed for things she didn't have, instead she counted her blessings. Being the hero of her own story, she sits pretty at her desk as the principal of Daphne Lord School (DLS).
"My mother was a music teacher and she did quite a bit of sewing as well. We lived with our grandparents in a small room. We've been through a lot of hardships. I'm very grateful to my relations for what I am today. My mother was a wonderful person who later on looked after my children while I was away, teaching.
Our education was free. The Good Shepherd Convent, my alma mater which was just around the corner, treated us very well showing us no difference. In school, the nun in charge got Wendy Whatmore and Yolanda Abeyweera to do speech and drama classes for us who have done a lot for me since then."
Having being well trained under the two maestri in the field, the young Daphne got into teaching English with the help of Mother St. John Eudes in 1949. "Once someone told me that my mother couldn't afford to send me to University which is the very reason that made me start work soon after completing my diploma. At that time we were paid a mere sum of Rs. 5 at Good Shepherd Convent.
58 years into teaching today she seems an asset to the field of English language. "In 1962, I started my own classes at my place. Initially I had a few classes in the garden.
Gradually, the school grew. There's an increasing need for English education. I have students coming from outstations. Nevertheless I don't believe in charging my students who are in need, thundering amounts.
So many people call me the third grade school but there's no way I'm going to charge from people who hardly have enough money to eat a full meal. We've got teacher training classes which started four years back. There's a need for good training centres as well.
And it's been a joy teaching the future teachers as I get to learn at the same time. I feel that I've a lot more to learn,"
She refuses to be called a famous teacher saying that 'dedication' has nothing to do with fame.
Her day apparently starts at 9 a.m. at her desk at DLS. There, she guides, instructs and supervises. Since her health conditions don't allow her to climb the stairs to the class rooms, she does all her work at the desk. Encouraging her teachers to start on their own, she's ever so ready to lend a helping hand.
"I was an examiner at the Institute of Western Music and Speech (IWMS) from its inception. I'm also a patent examiner at Colombo Academy of Language skills and Dramatic Art (CALSDA) and I'm on the board of management as well.
I'm like the 'grandma' at CALSDA. They fuss over me."
Books, she claims are her passion. A childhood habit which has been flourished into an addiction, Dahpne's virtually surrounded by a collection of books which she claims to read whenever she finds time.
Very pious at heart, Daphne apparently does a lot of charity work helping the needy at several homes. Being involved in a lot of church work at the same time, she believes that the Lord is always with her irrespective of the fact that she can't go to church at times due to physical difficulties.
"I've been doing the Christmas pageant for the church for years.
I used to write for the parish church as well. Also I've compiled the English Holy Hour for every good Friday, for the past seven years," she says beaming.
"I've six children who are doing really well and religion has kept us together. They don't interfere with my work. I've eleven grandchildren as well. I feel most wonderful being what I am. I just can't see myself doing anything else but teaching. I don't think I ever raised my hand to anybody.
I can't grumble, now that I'm ageing, the work load is a little too much but I've girls to help me. Teachers should have patience and understanding. The biggest reward is when my students come and tell me that I've helped them to be what they are today.
I will teach till the end. I'm so happy and content giving all I have to people in need of knowledge and understanding." Having found that she possesses exactly what she desired in herself, Daphne Lord, though not born in the lap of luxury, has surmounted many a difficulty, and claims to be very satisfied as a teacher and a human being.
Sunday Observer Oct 28 2007