TEACHERS’ DAY MUSING
Celebrating the birthday of the great philosopher, educationist and ex-President of India Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on 5th September every year, now known as Teacher’s Day is very gratifying. Aren’t we all teachers, drawing out or bringing forth the best from all those we encounter?
Let me begin with a story. Chhotu was a poor village lad, who had the good fortune of attending a fairly affluent school. It was 4th September – the eve of Teachers’ Day and the whole class was busy buying expensive gifts for the teacher. Chhotu was a well adjusted boy and so was content with giving the teacher the best he had. He went into his father’s field and plucked the choicest and the biggest red pumpkin. The next day Chhotu proudly carried the huge red pumpkin – his prize gift to the school and gave it to his teacher. The teacher invited the whole class to her home for dinner that night. Chhotu could hardly wait for the hour.
He knocked at the door and was welcomed in. All around the room were displayed the costly gifts of the other boys. Chhotu looked around for his “Bhopala” (red pumpkin). His heart sank. The teacher perhaps did not like his gift and so had not put it out. Dinner began. Chhotu was silent and upset. All along the teacher spoke of the prize dish which would only come out for dessert. Everybody waited eagerly smacking their lips.
A huge dish with delicious pumpkin was brought out. The teacher had cut up the pumpkin and made a lovely tasty halwa (pudding). She was moved to tears and praised Chhotu for the largesse of his heart. Chhotu was delighted and all enjoyed the halwa. Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same. Chhotu had, had left an indelible imprint on the heart of his teacher.
Teachers are those who see themselves as bridges, over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse encouraging them to create bridges of their own. Isn’t that the reason why our rich Indian heritage has taught us to equate a teacher to God: “Acharya devobhava?” The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires”- William Arthur Ward. The Acharya is one who teaches by his or her own conduct or behaviour. “A teacher affects eternity, s/he can never tell where her/his influence stops”-Henry Adams.
What I am today is what my parents (my first and eternal teachers) and teachers have made me! What then is the secret of these special teachers? I think it is a fair share of Selflessness and Service, mingled with Patience and Punctuality, Courtesy and Kindness tempered by Impartiality and Integrity, sustained by Awareness and Alertness and enriched by Love.
The true test of a teacher is not just academics but meeting the needs of the students – many a time, the extra ordinary needs of the students. Some have to be told and they forget, others have to be shown and they may remember and still others have to be involved and they learn.
While parents possess the original key to their offspring’s experiences, teachers have a spare key. They too can open or close the minds and hearts of their students. Students are what their teachers make of them just as values are caught and not taught. Neither printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds, what men or women should be, nor all the books on all the shelves but what the teachers are themselves.
Let us ask God to make us progressively unnecessary, but only after we have played our role of showing our students the way and their own inner wealth. Allow students to make their own choices, their own mistakes and have their own experiences. To be a teacher is indeed, a calling. Let us be eternal learners, committed to constant updating and not expiry date teachers, helping students to explore and discover the world in an attractive, exciting and meaningful way. Let us be proud facilitators, creating knowledge and letting our students be the co-creators, for the future Einsteins, Edisons and Jhansi Ki Ranis are all seated in our classrooms, awaiting the Midas touch of truly great teachers. Happy Teachers’ Day on 5th September 2014!
Dr (Sr) Mudita Menona Sodder RSCJ
31st August 2014
Dr. (Sr. Mudita Menona Sodder is regular contributor to SILENT VOICE;