Not just a profession – The Hindu


I always remain grateful to the many teachers in my life who were able to guide me to something new, mainly a new perspective without which I would not have been the person I am today. As a parent, too, I remain eternally grateful to these teachers who were able to point my children in paths they might not have seen without them. I am talking about those dedicated teachers for whom teaching is not just a profession but a way of life. It is these special people who work not just for their income, but for the result that they will be able to achieve.

Although I started reading quite young, my interest in English literature started when Sister Hilda, my English teacher in high school, introduced us to a whole range of interesting books. I remember she read us with her beautiful voice and her impeccable accent, that of Jean Webster Daddy long legs! Needless to say, I chose to study English Literature when I went to college.

Another exemplary teacher that I was lucky enough to have was the great Tamil poet Nakulan. He wrote in both Tamil and English. He taught me American poetry during my graduate studies. He was TKD sir for us. He was by no means the conventional teacher you would meet anywhere. He was the only dhoti-clad teacher in our English department. I would say he inspired us to learn more and more by leaving things unsaid. He must have believed the saying “the best is not to say”. In explaining a poem by Emily Dickinson, instead of explaining the verses in front of us, he would ask us to conceive of what is not there. I remember reading and rereading his poems in a frantic effort to learn more about his poetry. I think a great guru would always be like that, making you learn things on your own and just pushing you towards it.

Children in their early stages of learning need teachers who can teach them with empathy. My son was lucky to have such a teacher at the kindergarten in Ahmedabad. A shy child that he was, he would only connect with Ms. Banerjee who was his class teacher. I remember she came to school even when she had a fever because my son wouldn’t do his exam that day if she wasn’t present! I am also very grateful to a math teacher at Srirangam, Santhana Gopalan, who got my son so interested in this subject that mathematics remains his favorite subject to this day!

Teaching is more than a profession. There is no doubt that good teachers deserve great credit. In my opinion, elementary school teachers should be better paid and also have a lot of credit. The recruitment of teachers must also be done very diligently. As a society, we simply cannot afford to have teachers who are in no way suited to this. A primary teacher should also take on the role of parent when needed. As a student travels through their years, a teacher should become their friend, philosopher, and guide – a true guide who can point the right way.

A teacher should never be the one to break a child’s mind in any way. As the cliché for parents says, “better not to be a parent than to be a bad parent.” It is indeed better not to be a teacher if you cannot be a good teacher. It is something more than a job; it takes a lot of empathy and all the good qualities under the sun to make a good teacher! Hopefully our children will always have good teachers in their lives.

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