O Captain! My Captain!

Dead Poets Society – Oh Captain, My Captain:

One of the most hackneyed, and also most inspiring movie scenes (for my generation).

And that scene of heated confrontation and barely concealed contempt between teachers, and between teacher and students, played out in real life. In the offices of my school’s PE Dept and the principal’s office, between the principal and the Head of PE Dept looking to shut down our canoeing team, and our canoeing teacher-in-charge, who was then going through a personal life crisis and breakdown, and who was browbeaten into submission and silence. And our team captain, who boldly stepped forth into the fray to fight and plead on our behalf.

Our day of redemption finally came on that Monday morning school assembly following the senior team’s stunning, totally unexpected and historic win at the Nationals. The school has a tradition of formally announcing the winning achievements of our athletes and sports teams on Monday morning school assemblies, and for first place winners, the athlete or team will go on stage to take a bow before the entire school and receive their recognition and applause (for our trophy sports teams like rugby, if they win first place, the whole school even gets a day off).

That particular Monday morning, the principal grudgingly read out his announcements, including our canoeing team’s first-ever first-place win. He then promptly wanted to end assembly right after. The team had been told beforehand that due to a heavy schedule of staff meetings that morning, there would be no time for us to go on stage and take a bow.

But then someone called out for the team to go on stage and take the traditional bow. It was Mr T, a wiry and affable PE teacher who had been friendly to the canoeists and sympathetic to our many difficulties. The call was taken up and repeated a few times from the assembled crowd: this time, our friends from the swim team and water-polo team. The principal hesitated. Then, some words and gestures from the senior staff standing by the side.

Eventually, the principal relented. The canoeing team (only the seniors, for it really was their victory to savor) was finally called up on stage, and led by our team captain HK, lined up and took their bow and deserving applause from the school.

Oh Captain, My Captain.

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