Do you remember a teacher who was special to you? That person who influenced your life in a way that nobody else did? The person who held your hand and helped you around with something you were not confident about and needed a bit more attention or assurance.
When I look back at my schooling days I know that I have forgotten more than 60 per cent of what I studied – the theorems, the theories and ‘who said to whom’ are a total blank. What I remember, however, are the kind eyes of my teachers and their affectionate inquiry into my life. I remember their attitude to me and my friends, making us feel special and their pardon for our mistakes. For me these were the greatest lessons I learned as a young person.
My love for a subject depended to a large extent on which teacher was teaching it and so I decided as a teacher myself this is how I would teach. I would teach with my heart rather than my head. My mother was a teacher and this value I learned from here. ‘Remember you are the adult in that relationship’ she would say to me and it is something I remember the most when I am tried.
As it was Teacher’s Day just two days ago, I thought I would ask some of my colleagues about the lessons they have learned as teachers. For many, it was learning to be more patient. As a teacher patience is a virtue you have to be endowed with it or cultivate it. No matter how many times the student makes a mistake you have to learn the art of correcting them without making them feel like a failure. Nobody teaches teachers this value, only experience does and it takes a lot of energy.
So teaching is just not any kind of profession, it’s a dedication, a vocation. It’s one of those jobs that you should genuinely love doing otherwise it shows and it affects young minds in ways that even 25 years later as an adult you are remembered for the nasty words you uttered or the opportunity they missed, and they hold you responsible for it. Imagine that! That’s the onus on you as a teacher. So it’s a fine balance to be a sensei because you have to always be able to do the right thing.
Experience as a teacher teaches you many things. When you are dealing with students, you are not only imparting knowledge but also values. Students teach us to become better human beings. Sometimes the child will not remember you because they are so caught up in their life, but years later they will remember this teacher who empowered them to stand up for what they believed in.
Being a teacher is even more challenging today than before. Today information is available at your fingertips. Anything you may want is available for you to read online. Children’s attention span is affected by the influx of such information and technology. You have to constantly find ways to challenge their attention and keep them in class with you. When the teacher challenges your abilities to push you to think outside the box, new learning takes place and when you are confronted with your weaknesses, growth takes place. When you are empowered to move beyond your comfort zone, you learn to overcome your fears.
Thus, going to school or college is not just but information but the experience and an overall development that you can get in this set up. For eg when the student challenges the teacher with peer conformity they are also learning some new social skills and form stronger friendships. As a teacher those students who challenge the system and voice their opinion are my favourite. They make some major transitions.
I think being a teacher is a case of being a parent to not just one child but a bunch of 50 or more children every year. Without knowing, your words are hung upon as the only truth sometimes and this is a huge responsibility.
What do we get in return for such brave work? Unconditional love and adoration from the children. They are a boost to your esteem and constantly remind you how wonderful you are. For me they are my elixir to perpetual youth. They keep me young with their ever changing ideas, attitudes and challenges. As a teacher every year I have to invent new ways to challenge their challenges. New ideas to beat the information that they get online to become more authentic in their responses and more importantly to connect with each other as human beings and connect with their environment as nature.
So I know what the life of a teacher is and I salute every teacher today and feel lucky that I am also a part of this wonderful fraternity.
Happy Teacher’s Day to all the wonderful teachers reading this
(Writer is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and the HOD of psychology at Carmel College for Women)