Without the fear of sounding cliché, let me put it this way- if my life were a book, my childhood would be its most memorable chapter. Undoubtedly, a sizeable portion of this
golden phase would include the memoirs of my school days. Narratives that would be incomplete without the mention of the role played by my teachers. I don’t know how many of you remember your teachers but as far as I can recall, they are all etched clearly in my memory. Each one of them- the ones who warmly held my hand when I feigned unconsciousness on forgetting to prepare for a test to the ones who caught my smart act; those who brushed aside a harmless act of naughtiness to those who ensured that it didn’t go unnoticed and certainly not unpunished. The ones who discovered that spark and turned it into fire and the ones who subtly announced that it wasn’t the best choice for me. There were ones whose classes turned into fanfare even when classrooms were not smart enough and others who I thought could only hum lullabies!
Despite all odds, I loved my teachers- all of them. Often, I hear myself repeat an idea, a thought or a lesson that I learnt from one of them inside or outside of the classroom. So delicate is this induction between the teacher and the taught, that you can’t help being left magnetized for life. In a lot of ways, we are extensions of the teachers who mentored us.
And so, we grow up idolizing many of them and here, I particularly speak of the teachers in schools. Years later, they are remembered with much fondness and warmth. This brings me to the second and more pertinent part of this piece.
I was recently part of a group discussion where young children were being counselled about career choices. We are all aware of the diverse options available to our children today. Very unlike the limited choices there were around two decades ago. As students began to enlist their preferences, I realized that in a group of about eighty not even one had thought of becoming a teacher!
In another incident, I met an old friend- an absolute expert in her subject, full of compassion and love, who had once been a teacher. Today, she is looking for more lucrative options.
Yes, we all love our teachers but what is it that prevents a whole lot of us from thinking of becoming one ourselves? It is certainly more than a mere case of interest. Is it that we as a society, a nation, as policy makers have done nothing more than smother our teachers? You see this individual who is constantly trying to stay at par with the changing times, is spending hours in upgradation and is trying to innovate her skills each day. And then you see her harassed, by a system that promotes a certain teaching criterion, abundant written work to validate her teaching, a spine deformed too soon by incessant bending over note books and “pocket money” to carry back home at the end of the month for the amount of work that is comparable to any other sector. They may get a variety of students with different mind sets but they are supposed to wave their magic wand and turn them all into super heroes. And to top it all, the ever-popular belief that if nothing works, you can always teach! What a disgrace to the profession that forms the back-bone of all other professions and that is desperately in need to preserve its own spine today.
In no way do I mean to say that we have an unhappy lot of teachers around. No. They are an incorrigible lot. They will still smile and tell you that they are happy enough with the love that students shower on them. But that still fails to solve the mystery. Why is it that we love our teachers but don’t often dream of becoming one? Why is it that we call them Nation builders but would rather have our children find some other means to help in this Nation building process? I think it’s time to ponder over this!