Some books change the way you think, forever. The first time I read the book by Debashis Chatterjee, – ‘Can you teach a zebra some algebra’, it was a revelation. As an educator, teaching at IIMs, training thousands of business leaders and interacting with students, he has broken down the functions of teaching-learning into a book that every teacher must read.
Every Alexander needs a Socrates, every Chanakya needs a Chandragupta, he says with ease. All of us have these extraordinary teachers in their lives who shape their personality. Every teacher has moist eyes remembering those special students who made all the teaching worthwhile. A teacher is many roles rolled into one. A parent, guide, idol, , motivator, problem solver, counselor and an educator, among others.
Whenever I think of a teacher, it is the school teachers who come to my mind, especially Miss Philu from St. Joseph’s, my favourite teacher, like many from my batch. Not just for the gorgeous silk sarees that she wore everyday without repeating for over a year, but more for being the warm hearted teacher who instilled the love for the language in me. She definitely was not an extraordinary English teacher, for she taught science better, but she made the subject interesting just by immersing us in it. That, I feel, is the most important quality of a teacher.
A good 25 years ago, when I completed school, I doubt she had access to the new age student engagement pedagogical tools that are so standard in schools today. And yet, she manages to be remembered by someone like me. A lot is being made about teaching and learning today. I studied at St. Joseph’s Convent for 11 years and credit it for shaping what I am today. I can easily identify a Josephite when I meet an unknown person, simply by the way we carry ourselves, decades after leaving school. The school just stays with us. None of our teachers ever intimidate us, neither did we cause anguish to them in any way. Maybe it got to do with the warmth and rigor of the nuns who oversaw, but also because self-discipline was a major part of our growing years.
So when we see harried students and parents today, expecting the schools to be the solution-providers for all that their kids don’t know and also many schools that take parents for a ride, one can just not attribute it to the ‘changing times’. Knowledge was perhaps better transferred when both respected and cared for each other. Let the teachers do their jobs, you do what is expected from you. Parents have donned the role of a major stakeholder today. It is a myth that all teaching and learning happens in class. I find a severe lack of learning at homes today. Parents who need to speak to kids to expose them to languages, meet people, artists, achievers from diverse fields, take them to events, museums, buy them books and generally stay non-judgmental, also play a major role in shaping a kid. Can a teacher do all this? Partly, yes! Bringing a slice of the world in the classroom every day. A teacher ought to also keep abreast of the current happenings, be well read, ahead of the students by several steps.
It’s not just a profession, it’s a passion. It ought to be that way for a teacher shapes a whole life, a generation. When you wish your teacher tomorrow, don’t just expect, commit to learn also!