It's Teacher's Day. We've bought gifts/flowers for the kids' teachers and duly delivered those. The children are happy and I'm glad their terrific teachers have gotten some affection and material things in return for the very difficult job that they do!
It was only natural that today my thoughts went back many years, to all the teachers I have had. I studied in 12 schools in various parts of India. 3 years of undergrad while pursuing a cost-ccounting degree, the MBA, not to mention various music and art classes exposed to me a whole variety of teachers, teaching styles and personalities. Considering the very diverse and large sample size, it is surprising that there are but a handful of teachers who made a mark on me. There are but a few who impressed me with their sagacity and goodness, nourished my intellect, challenged me and yet supported me. Just a few whom I truly respected for their mastery over the subject and their desire to keep learning and teaching. The vast majority, sadly, were either nonentities (at best) or malevolent influences (at worst) whom I dreaded interacting with.
I fondly remember my English teacher in Grade 7 who encouraged me to write - essays, poetry, fiction, anything at all. She was the one who turned me from a mere bookworm into someone who enjoyed writing almost as much as reading. She had the most beautiful handwriting and we were in touch for a few years even after I left that school. In high school, I had one good science teacher and a very inspiring English teacher. Again these were people who taught me just for a couple of years before I moved on. College was a nightmare with a teacher who detested me and resented my participation in extra-curricular activities even though I never let those affect my grades. I used to hate going to college that first year for fear of the tongue-lashing that I was in danger of getting, ever so often.
My music and art teachers were overall, quite good. They did the best they could with me :) Come to think of it, the people I've learnt the most from have been my managers (sometimes they have taught me what not to do!) and my friends (some of them actually sat down and taught me Statistics and Economics!). Truly, Life is the best teacher.
As far as the current crop of school teachers goes, one finds the usual mix of truly talented, passionate and inspiring individuals rubbing shoulders with the mediocre and apathetic lot. However, the task of a teacher at any self-respecting middle-class school has become so much tougher. They are expected to not only teach the books, but also design and execute a whole bunch of extra-curricular and curricular activities and projects for their class and school. Parents are more demanding, more competitive, more involved - which is both good and bad. At every one of Ads' Parent -Teacher meetings, I am normally to be found tapping ny feet with impatience as parents before me take up far more than their allotted time discussing every minute detail of their child's day and performance with the teacher, analysing and probing beyond all reasonableness. He said this, she behaved this way, he doesn't eat this, she doesn't listen, why, what, when, how.....the list is endless. And really, none of it seems very serious as I sit there in class, unable to avoid overhearing. Come on, these are 7-8 year olds we are talking about . They are behaving as they are supposed to behave, which is, NOT perfectly! It takes me all of 5 minutes to check that all is well with Ads and that there are no red flags. I sign the sheet that's held out to me and I am done with the PTM for another couple of months!
I look at the detailed performance assessment of my kids with specific remarks on every subject and skill and I wonder - Does the teacher really write an individualised account for every kid or does she do some amount of Ctrl C-Ctrl V? I wouldn't blame her if it was the latter! There's English, Math, EVS, Hindi, Computers, Gym and Physical, Music, Dance, Art, in addition to a whole section on soft skills. For anywhere between 20 and 30 kids! I don't have the patience to read it myself, especially as I know that even negative feedback is couched in such sugar-coated terms as to be almost positive! Gone are the days when Remarks meant - Excellent, Good, Fair, Needs improvement, or Poor! Gosh, sometimes I almost feel nostalgic for those simpler days, though I'm glad that spanking and hitting are now a thing of the past at most of the good schools. Having been at the receiving end of a ruler more than once, I sure don't want my kids to deal with that.
This September 5, I wish that my children have the good fortune to encounter many many excellent teachers and guides. Most of all, I hope they will be good pupils and have the wisdom to know that they can learn from everyone and from every situation and circumstance, good or bad.
Happy Teacher's Day!!