Every year, India celebrates its teachers on the 5th of September, the birth date of its second president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an educator and statesman of the highest calibre. I must confess I knew next to nothing about him and I’m glad I took the time to find out a little more. Like most famous Indians born in pre-Independence India, he came from humble beginnings and rose to great accomplishments on the back of his intellect and integrity, the latter so dreadfully lacking in the present generation of us free Indians 😦 Here is a great quote attributed to him “When we think we learn we cease to know.” Personally I would like to add, and vice versa! “When we think we know, we cease to learn.” I firmly believe my country is in dire need of better teachers – teachers of the old school, selfless, dedicated and passionate about their vocation. Not the cash-crazy owners of tuition classes that have sprouted all over the country 😦
Today is the day and inexplicably my son has a holiday! No celebrations in school which is rather disappointing and the card we made sits rather sadly waiting to be happily received by his class teacher tomorrow. Well, be that as it may, these are some of the thoughts running through my head on this Teacher’s Day…
I’m remembering my 5th grade teacher Ms. Olive Callan, in Stella Maris, Kobe. She was a wonderful human being and an excellent teacher. She was loving and yet could be firm, even stern without ever being demeaning or cruel – in my opinion the hallmark of a great teacher 🙂 Her warm smile could light up the most miserable day and she loved us unconditionally as we did her. She left school the same year I did, me to come back to India and she because her son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor 😦 I can’t remember details clearly, it was so long ago, but I remember that that was an important reason in my wanting to become a doctor and a neurosurgeon! Didn’t do the latter, but did eventually manage the first! I tried looking for her recently through random searches on FB but I know nothing about her or where she lived except she was from the UK. How I wish we could connect again! Thank you Ms. Callan for a fabulous 5th Grade and for planting the seed that flowered into my present life-path 🙂 Love you!
And then there’s Teacher Lydia…my brother’s teacher…a woman who mentored him through some of the most difficult times of his life and I’m not talking academics here. My brother had Duchenne’s and had to be home schooled. This is why I believe in miracles people…at a time when my parents were exhausted from looking for a teacher that would agree to come home and teach him, Ms. Lydia entered our lives and nothing was ever the same again! Before we knew it, she became a valued member of our tightly-knit family & continues to be to this day 🙂 She’s one of the most positive people I know and although she was my brother’s teacher, she taught me a thing or two about life and attitude! She loved him, scolded him, cajoled him and loved him some more and I know he adored her. We all did. My eyes are tearing up just thinking of their bond – they were lucky to have each other and me, I was lucky to have them both. I’ve lost him and I don’t see Ms. Lydia as often as I should anymore (what with me being in Bombay and she in Goa, battling arthritis), but if you do happen to read this Teacher, I want you to know, you are never far for my thoughts and I love you always. Always.
My favourite ‘Teacher’ movie has to be ‘To Sir with Love’, starring the inimitable Sidney Poitier! I adore him and I adore this movie…the scene where he finds the sanitary pad burning away in the fire is forever etched in my memory. I first read the book when I was in school myself and I remember thinking how terrible those children were and how brave and strong their teacher! I remember wanting him for my teacher! Much later I saw the movie as an adult and the feelings came flooding back. Again and again in my life, the best teachers have been those that combine a healthy dose of discipline with genuine concern for my well being. It has often taken me a long time to acknowledge the latter in the face of the former! It’s a failing I’m happy to report I got over with time, age and experience 🙂 There have been many teacher films made over the years… great ones too…but this one remains for me the Gold Standard against which I compare them all.
Another ‘Teacher’ memory is crying copious tears while reading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” by James Hilton, a slip of a book borrowed from my Dad’s bookshelf! It’s such a poignantly heart-warming tale of a teacher who struggles to connect with his students initially and then goes on to become an institution of sorts! I remember him reciting the names of his students and at that time thinking it rather funny and silly 🙂 He was that sort of teacher Mr. Chips was…unintentionally humorous, sensitive and quietly affirmative – the best kind!
And of course I have my very own ‘Teacher’ story given that I married mine 😉 Oh don’t get all het up! Nothing illegal I assure you 😉 Hubby was a senior resident in Preventive & Social medicine and took classes for us when I was a student in my 2nd year of Medical College. He was an ok teacher I suppose but I’m not really the best judge of his teaching skills now am I? Given that I was busy concentrating on his rather sweet smile 😛 We were married after 3 years of courtship and have been married now for 2 decades! We’ve both learnt from each other and taught each other about life, love and marriage. It’s been one long lesson – mostly fun 😉 Thank you Darling for sticking with me 😉 I know it hasn’t been easy. Love you.
Now of course the tables have turned and I find myself transformed into a teacher 24/7, as every parent does. Being ‘teacher by default’ to my 4-yr-old son is really the hardest & most exhausting thing I’ve ever done – watching my language and actions and controlling my thoughts constantly is tough and often I just let go and rebel against the high standards I set myself! I don’t think I would have been a great teacher in the traditional sense – I would have been fun but not very consistent and too impatient for my own and my students’ good! It takes a lot of self-discipline and that’s not my forté! And yet the thought of moulding minds & influencing others is powerfully seductive…I’m glad I have only the one student to potentially ‘screw up’ 😛 Good Luck Ishaan…you’ll need it 😉
So here’s to Teachers everywhere & in every form! May they continue their good work, live long & prosper! Happiness always 🙂