Author: Ann Thomas
It was at the wee end of grade 2 that I met Sr. Vianey at Holy Child School, Delhi as she was interviewing my sister. Next thing I know I was getting an admission along with my elder sister. The shift to the new school, travelling back and forth fifty kms every day was hard, adjusting to an all girl’s school harder. Even as a third grader, I was one among a sea of people. Twice I even came rolling down the stairs. The Maths teacher didn’t make life any easy.
But Sr. Vianey, she stopped and had a conversation with me every opportunity she got. And I would create opportunities. I learnt from her why we wore uniforms. That year when dad asked me to not wear a ‘birthday’ dress, I didn’t mind. Uniforms ensured we are on the same level, you and me, equal in the eyes of those who interact with us. It allowed me to never feel less worthy than you with the dazzling shoes or jacket. Someday I would be ready, but for now the uniform would take one pressure off. I really understood.
Father Sayu, my Vice Principal at St. Francis de Sales allowed me so much freedom too. I could walk up to him and pick an argument with him anytime. He heard me as I whined about girls wearing hair bands because we have to or why kids were being forced to take commerce when they wanted science. He was kind and patient… The hairband rule didn’t change, but kids were permitted to rethink their choices in 11th. He knew we called him the ‘bhatakti atma‘. And years later as I walked the corridors, I understood.
When I look back I realise that they and many others like them made me believe that I counted. They allowed me to grow up on the idea that we can be change makers.
I didn’t grow up wanting to become a teacher. I was emotionally blackmailed into doing a B.Ed. Trust me when I tell you that every time I walk into a classroom, I know it is an honour. I know that every teacher has an unimaginable power and no matter what the argument, they determine the kind of people we become or choose not to become.
I have had the privilege of being friends with people who have changed the direction of the lives of their students simply because THEY CARE!
“If I was a teacher, I would make children do what they are good at!”Yehoshua
I think there is a lesson for us in that. As a teacher, we must be able to SEE our students for who they are in the sea of people around us; Minus the clouds of judgement that affects our view. We must be able to give our kids platforms to nurture, understand, question, critique, empathise, motivate, educate, believe and above all inspire.
As a parent, the realisation is even stronger.
I have been awarded the experience of few wonderful strong women who with with their acceptance, tolerance and consideration, improved the life of my son and our family so much. I remember watching in awe as Ms. Rhoda convinced a boy who was screaming his lungs out refusing to enter her class to go right in. Her impact continues in our life years later. I remember the patience with which Ms. Jyotsna helped a child who didn’t speak the language, have any friends or the will to get accepted, bloom. And Ms. Smita who patiently convinced a non-conformist to get back to his desk from days on the floor reading books while the class did their subjects.
In an era of technology, the definition of a teacher has changed, but the impact and power has not. These women remind me of the power of teachers!
I also know it is easy to forget, to lose meaning, and find purpose in the many mundane, irritating things that are involved in being a teacher.
So today I write to you, Dear Teacher, To tell you, incase you have forgotten:
- You impact our lives in ways you cannot imagine. You determine the happiness quotient of my home, the peace levels and the satisfaction index of the day!
- You determine what kind of values my kid learns. Was he kind to the people around him today? Was he respectful? Did he ignore someone that needed his help? He was watching you as he behaved and your actions spoke louder than your words.
- You decide his value, at least for now — for his friends, classmates and therefore him. Your words as he failed to do something, or your look when he did manage to act as expected, they say so much. They decided for his classmates how he would be treated, how he would be judged, you decide so much.
- You influence who their role models will be. Will they be the people who got the best grades or who impacted our lives and our systems today.
- You decide the lessons they learnt today. Will it just be about fractions and cavities or did you remember to speak to them about the floods in kerala and Assam, the treasure they found in the Kaliakra fortress, the bridge that fell in Kolkata? You choose the memory they took from that incident.
- You affect the way they look at themselves in the sea of people around them. Will they look at themselves as change makers, people who will create a ripple, question the system, ask others to do better, ask themselves to walk the talk…You affect that conversation.
- You teach them things I, as a parent, never possibly can. You can see them in a light I may never do. You watch them through interactions I could possibly never see. You understand layers I could possibly not imagine exist. You alone can help them navigate those layers, those interactions, those moments.
You sway the world you hold — the classroom and our homes.
You may forget, but we can’t.
Because, Teacher, you have the power to define every day, colour every emotion and ascribe meaning to every moment of our lives.