It was an age of doctors, engineers, civil servants and architects. Software engineers had not been invented – and there was no space for teachers: neither in environment nor in the advertisement columns. School teachers were convenient appendages in the system. They just happened. Teachers, especially school teachers, were taken for granted. Schools needed them. Indeed, society needed them. But why one would become a teacher was nobody’s case. One aspired to be a doctor, civil servant even a movie star but never a teacher. A teacher was never a celebrity, never a pin up material – barring our quintessential teacher, Dr S Radhakrishnan. Most times teachers were not in the news, not even for the wrong reasons; like striking work before examinations, like taking tuition on the sly. Why then did I choose to be a teacher? Let me explain.
I never aspired to be one who would leave her footprints on the sands of time. But I did want to stand tall. I did want to go that extra mile. When I passed my X class, some choices had to be made. I chose the humanities stream. This choice closed three options. I could never become a doctor, engineer or an architect. I had a penchant for writing and I wanted to become a journalist.
But my family held the teaching profession in high esteem. The family thought teaching to be the most respectable profession for a young girl. After I finished my post graduation I enrolled for B-Ed course.
I taught in a school in Delhi for several months before I got married and moved to a distant city in South India. As I taught, I got inexorably drawn towards the students. It was incredible how students reposed implicit faith in the teacher. It was impossible not to respond .I joined a school in Visakhapanam and started teaching kindergarten children . I visited Delhi a year later during Durga Puja .I was watching Arti in the Puja Mandap ,a young boy came up to me and touched my feet. He asked me if I remembered him. He was my studentwhom I taught for several months.. I was too stunned to reply and vaguely nodded. In this age of ‘hi and bye’ this was a novel yet sobering experience. At that instant something clicked inside. At that moment I said to myself, ‘This is it! I am going to be a teacher and a good one at that. Where can one get such untainted love and affection? Where can one be on the learning curve throughout ones life?
As I took off my blinkers, I realised that this is what I always wanted to be. This is where I belonged. No pushing files and papers for me. Thirty young minds with three hundred ideas; every class was a revelation. No two lectures had similar response. Thirty different answers to one question! My mind and heart grew younger with each passing day. Where was this generation gap that we all talk about? If there was indeed one, I had bridged the gap. Or at least I had become the bridge itself. I felt humbled when parents came up to me to discuss their wards; sometimes with diffidence, sometimes with exasperation.. Indeed, teachers are expected to bring around recalcitrant teenagers, catch up with a precocious ten year old and even mother a six year old boarder. It is an onerous responsibility and I relish it. The curiosity of the students sends me scampering to the library and the Net and yet I enjoy the learning process like never before. With tingling anticipation I often wait to be stumped by a brilliant question. It is a timeless, open ended challenge and I have been overtaken more than once by it. But it is pure joy to be overwhelmed by a youngster’s incisive question. God bless her for that open mind: my choice has led me to touch tomorrow. Yes, teachers are children of a better God.