The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.” – Plato
September 5, the birth date of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as Teacher's Day in India. Once, a few students asked him if they could celebrate his birthday, he replied, "Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day." With this auspicious day round the corner I couldn’t stop myself from penning down my thoughts to pay my respect all great Gurus.
I remain in the company of budding minds and observe the teaching-learning process closely, on a daily basis. I have seen young men and women shape into competent and dedicated teachers with time. I see them grow each day and handle the most adverse situations nonchalantly. Teaching is not just a profession in our country but a mission to shape young minds. In our scriptures and epics, we have placed our teachers on a pedestal which is much higher than that of a king. A guru is considered to be an epitome of knowledge and patience. We have great examples of brilliant teachers who have changed the course of time with their teachings.
The first example that comes to my mind is that of Chnakya. Also known as Kautilya, he is the first famous Indian scholar. He served as a professor of political science and economics at the Takshila University. His two famous books Arthshastra and Neetishastra are considered legendary milestones in the field of economics and political governance. He believed, “Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.”
One of the contemporary examples of a great teacher is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He was a huge advocate of education as the primary driving force of personal growth. He believed that apart from holding a mere academic degree, a student should also enhance his personal skills and calibre which are utilised more in shaping an individual's career and life. He once said, “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, it will be the biggest honour for me.”
Teaching is a unique profession which does not limit itself to a classroom. A teacher is any person who has ever been a guiding light in someone’s life. I recently read about a few unique mentors in an article. They are known for being ‘unconventional’ in the field of education and are worth mentioning here.
21-year-old Babar Ali has been teaching since he was 9. At 15, he became the headmaster of his makeshift school which teaches about 300 students today and has 6 full time teachers. He says, “I believe that if you are passionate about something then you can achieve anything. Age, finances, other hurdles, they just don’t matter and eventually everything works out.”
Aditya Kumar, better known as ‘Cycle guruji’, rides about 60 to 65 km on a bicycle every day, and provides free education to children living in the slums of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. This inspiring man has been doing this since 1995. He says with enthusiasm, ““Where ever I got students, I would sit and teach — by the roadside, in parks, near slums. I had a board on the cycle, and students would just read it and stop me. I was one of them, I understood what it meant to be poor and without support.”
A primary school teacher in Malappuram district of Kerala, Abdul Mallik swims to work every day. Why? Because that is the shortest route to reach his school. His dedication is immense, “If I go by bus, it takes me three hours to cover the 12-kilometer (7.5 miles) distance. But swimming through the river is easier, faster and I reach school on time.”
Roshni Mukherjee has an online education platform called ExamFear.com where she teaches students with the help of videos which she uploads on YouTube.
“Recently, a student messaged me that he has been following my videos for three years now, and they have helped him score well in his exams without having to join tuition classes. He has now got admission in NIT. Such examples keep me motivated.”
These inspiring examples make this profession what it is, prestigious and esteemed.
Now, let me share with you a few examples which mean a lot in this context. I got a chance to interact with many teachers and asked them about their teachers. It was like letting loose an ocean of emotions and nostalgia.
One of them poured out her experience in a reminiscent tone. She loved dancing as a little girl. Her mother wanted to support her interest but her father was against her wishes and she was often scolded and thrown out of her house for pursuing her passion. In this situation, her teacher, Neena Thakkar came to her rescue. She used to give her shelter in her house and sent her back home when things used to cool down. But when this kind of behaviour continued and the father remained adamant she strictly warned him that she would complain to the police if the little girl is mistreated again. She also gave courage to the helpless mother to protect and respect her daughter’s passion. Interestingly this teacher nevr taught her in the class. “Her support transformed my personality”, she says, as she remembers her teacher fondly. “The influence of teachers extends beyond the classroom, well into the future.”
Another teacher shared his story with a smile filled with reverence for his mentor. He owes his confidence and command and love for a foreign language(English) to his teacher. He was a hard working and brilliant student but throughout the schooling he was taught in Hindi medium. Once he reached graduation he had to pursue his education in English language. Due to lack of command over it, he often faced embarrassment and mockery. One of his teachers made sure that he worked on his pronunciation and gave extra classes to him to enhance his comfort with English language. “Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.” He says, filled with gratitude.
One of the teachers told me that she struggled with the pronunciation of “sh” and that is why reading in English literature period became a struggle for her. She started avoiding the subject she loved. Her teacher of English language, Mrs. Solanki sensed her trouble and made it compulsory for her to read a paragraph in the class every day. Gradually, she won over her problem and today she is encouraging her students to improve their reading skills and speak with confidence. “Everyone who remembers his/her own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.”
The bond we share with our teachers cannot be confined and celebrated in one day. It is eternal. The love and respect we have for them should be expressed every day. But there is something about this day, as it approaches it brings with it a lot of memories. Let me go down the memory lane and share my experiences. My mathematics teacher Mr. Singh and English language teacher Mr. Khan possessed the panache to keep the entire class engaged. Mr. Khan dealt with the class in such a manner that we longed for his presence and earnestly waited for him every day. Mr. Singh had immaculate command on his subject and focussed on our problem areas and solved our queries in such a way that mathematics became fun with him. Their personalities exuded endless energy and made our classroom experience memorable. “Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.”
Lovable and sometimes intimidating figures, teachers present their students with important life opportunities and inspire them to discover their vocation, and motivate and guide them along the way. A teacher’s true appreciation comes with age. It makes me proud when a student gives the credit of her/his success to the teachers. It is beautiful to see the mutual respect that breathes between them.
“Too few of us understand a teacher’s value and effort while we are still students. It is when we mature that we truly admire these people and begin to recognize the positive difference they made in our lives. There comes a point where we start being thankful to all our teachers but the most memorable ones are always the ones who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.” I salute all the teachers who are giving their prime to enlighten the young minds.
I conclude this article with these lines by Aristotle, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life; those, the art of living well.”