A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)

Job Description: Teacher. What’s that, you say?

39 Comments

It’s Teachers’ Day today. 5 September. The Birth Anniversary of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, eminent Statesman and Educationist. Educationist. (I have a red squiggly line under this word, as MS Word refuses to accept such a term. Grammatical or spelling error! And I wonder why, because even online dictionaries do seem to recognize this spelling!)

While the nation, especially the younger folk go ga ga over wishing teachers all over, I wonder at the diminishing relevance of setting the day aside to acknowledge the community of teachers. Given the job description of a teacher, what does it entail? Once upon a time, the Guru was placed on a pedestal, and Indian tradition still does that, in very many minds and schools. What has it come to now? With a more discerning student body, more openness in discussions on teacher profiles, more multiplicity of perspectives on roles teachers need to adopt, and finally, the need for a qualified teacher to recognize that he/she is not the end or even the means, but merely a tool of learning, how do we perceive the “job” of a teacher?

The line, I find, is very thin between being teacher and learner. For, if you cannot be still learning, you cannot teach. Richard Bach whose quotes from “Illusions” are here, speaks wonderfully about teaching 🙂 I remember referring to this page, when I first started writing in this blog space, on A Quest Spills Over. This is what he says about learning and teaching and doing.

Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.

I simply cannot let this day go by without sharing with you something a lot of you would have already read before, something that I find is more and more relevant these days, for teachers. It is supposedly a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his son’s Headmaster. Here it is.

Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s Head Master

Respected Teacher,

My son will have to learn I know that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for ever scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.
It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is far more valuable than five found.
Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning.
Steer him away from envy, if you can.
Teach him the secret of quite laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to tick.
Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hill –side.
In school teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him they are wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when every one is getting on the bandwagon.
Teach him to listen to all men but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness.
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.
Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.
This is a big order; but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow, my son.

Abraham Lincoln.

(You can google it and see many versions of the same text, as verse, and as a prose text, in the form of a letter too. I picked this out from one of those many sites.)

For me, it is a visitation to my inner self. Like any other day. 🙂 Many say teaching is a thankless job. I wonder at that. I have found the most fulfilling of moments in the connection a child makes to what you say in class, even in the disagreement a learner has, with what you say. In sharing something that connects instantly with them. In the sly looks they share sometimes, when they think you aren’t looking. In the notes they pass to each other, which takes me back to my own times sitting on the back bench. In just being with them, tedious though it can be, at times. In the sudden sorrow too, when I realize that I am unapproachable to some, because of my rather standoffish attitude at times; in the firm, strict “teacher”, the dragon that I am too! While, at the same time, I take heart when some of them come back after leaving school, and tell me it was fun being in my class, no matter that they could not play the fool :D! That is the best of all. When they remember you, years on, and just come up, smile and talk to you. Not thankless. Not for me 🙂 🙂

Something else to share. Something I concur with entirely. Read for yourself 🙂 This is from an email I received ages ago, the source of which I simply cannot trace. That account got deleted so I cannot even figure out who sent it 🙂 Luckily I had written it down.

A succesful teacher must have (it goes..)

The education of a College President (A Dean)
The executive quality of a financier
The craftiness of a Politician (!!!!!)
The humility of a Deacon
The discipline of a Demon
The adaptation of a Chameleon
The hope of an Optimist
The courage of a Hero
The wisdom of a Serpent (!!!!!)
The gentleness of a Dove
The patience of Job
The Grace of God
And….
The Persistence of the Devil!

The last line says it all actually. Only with a certain amount of persistence, gentleness, humility, craftiness and patience can you be a teacher, for sure 🙂 🙂

And finally, let me leave you with this video of Taylor Mali, speaking about “What Teachers’ Make”. The idea may be a bit outdated, but there is some truth and some meaning in what he shares 🙂 Happy Teachers’ day to all the Teachers, Mothers, Fathers, Mentors, Instructors and everyone who, by their own lives and their actions, teach another something. Anything.

God Bless.

Taylor Mali, on “What Teachers Make”

5 September, 2010
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Author: Usha Pisharody

A rambler, pretends to be a teacher, loves to dream, and go on Quixotic Quests in the Realm of Romance With Life...

39 thoughts on “Job Description: Teacher. What’s that, you say?

  1. Here’s to you Usha on teacher’s day! I wish I had been a student of yours. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much Shail, for the wishes 🙂 🙂 And well, I have this rather silly grin on my face, bordering on a light laugh when I think of the shock you might have got, if indeed you had been a student :D!! I wonder sometimes at the picture that might have been projected (of me as a teacher ie :D) as being not quite real 🙂 🙂 Still, I am deeply honoured that you would wish so. Thank you so very very much for that! Made my day, totally 🙂 🙂

      Like

  2. I was looking for your words Ushus. Its been a long break from school for me and I was so missing it and them. The little ones. Specially today.

    And I see your words.

    LOVE this post. To ad infinitum as you would say 🙂

    It says all that I want to say and more than that, all that I am yet to learn.

    The guru was indeed placed on a pedestal earlier. Now he/she is more of a friend and guide.

    Though sometimes Ushus, honestly speaking, this balance is so darn difficult to find. One treads cautiously each day.

    This line between being friendly enough but not too friendly lest they start taking one for granted or become chuddy buddies as a friend puts it.
    And being a teacher , the quiet, dignified and not one to take nonsense kind of a teacher.

    Still trying to find a balance. They giggle sometimes desperate to share a secret with their ‘friend’ and sometimes just stand in fear of the verbal lashing they will get for doing something silly and dangerous.

    I had to wear a saree or wear kurta..all khadi with jeans and jhola look so that they would take me seriously. Half the impression and awe can be created by the ‘look’ mom says.:)
    And it works.;)

    So no jeans. *sigh****

    *sigh*

    more multiplicity of perspectives on roles teachers need to adopt

    Ah! raw nerve this one Ushus. Roles to adopt yes. but one feels severely limited at times.

    In the big schools here,’ international’ ones as the name says (some of them atleast) it is “keep the parents happy’ policy. Never mind even if it is at the cost of the future of their kids.

    As a newspaper story today said. Students are the clients these days.

    I sometimes yearn for the simpler schools. Sans all the trappings of the ‘international’ institute.

    Long story. Dismal one.

    ——————————————

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that letter from Abe Lincoln.
    And you wouldn’t believe Ushus!:) During my B.Ed we had to prepare an English textbook as part of our course.
    This was the letter I had included in my book. I LOVE this one. Had forgotten about it. You know how one sometimes has something at the back of one’s mind but is a little lost?
    That is how it was.

    Till I read this here.
    Thank you darling.
    Muah!:))

    Like

    • Looking forward ‘to’ your words I mean. *typo* 🙂

      Like

    • At first I thought I’d write into your comment, and then decided no, I would not want to touch the beautiful gift of the words you have left behind. I just want to keep looking at it and keep reading it 🙂 🙂

      You’re right about the shift in the role that teachers now adopt. A friend and guide, yes, but then again, as you point out, the balance is so darned difficult to find and maintain… should you appear in informal clothes and risk their friendliness (lol!!!) or be aloof and risk their fear of you??? Difficult difficult choices… and that is only a part of it! The “look”! Incidentally, here in Kerala, esp. the school where I am.. a saree is a MUST! God Forbid that we wear even a salwar kurta on working days. However we can now wear them when its not a working day for the kids!

      And it is not just the international schools, but even the private schools here, that have the policy of simply pleasing the parent community, no matter that its their own children’s future that is at risk. Sorry state of affairs as you say! Students as clients. Gosh! Utterly depraved the situation is!

      The letter? How come I know you know??? *Giggling* I knowss… alwayssss :D!

      Indy??? Thankssss 🙂 Just like that! For you… for the awesome teacher in you that I know!!!

      Like

  3. I have found the most fulfilling of moments in the connection a child makes to what you say in class, even in the disagreement a learner has, with what you say. In sharing something that connects instantly with them. In the sly looks they share sometimes, when they think you aren’t looking. In the notes they pass to each other, which takes me back to my own times sitting on the back bench. In just being with them, tedious though it can be, at times. In the sudden sorrow too, when I realize that I am unapproachable to some, because of my rather standoffish attitude at times; in the firm, strict “teacher”, the dragon that I am too! While, at the same time, I take heart when some of them come back after leaving school, and tell me it was fun being in my class, no matter that they could not play the fool 😀 ! That is the best of all. When they remember you, years on, and just come up, smile and talk to you. Not thankless. Not for me 🙂 🙂

    Like Shail I too wish that I had been your student. I WISH.:)

    A succesful teacher must have (it goes..)

    The education of a College President (A Dean)
    The executive quality of a financier
    The craftiness of a Politician (!!!!!)
    The humility of a Deacon
    The discipline of a Demon
    The adaptation of a Chameleon
    The hope of an Optimist
    The courage of a Hero
    The wisdom of a Serpent (!!!!!)
    The gentleness of a Dove
    The patience of Job
    The Grace of God
    And….
    The Persistence of the Devil!

    The last line says it all actually. Only with a certain amount of persistence, gentleness, humility, craftiness and patience can you be a teacher, for sure 🙂 🙂

    I simply had to paste them here. Just that.:)

    The craftiness bit is oh! such a must! 😀

    Taylor Mali and what teachers make?
    Peas in a pod. 😀

    A post looong back on the same.
    http://indyeahforever.wordpress.com/2009/04/05/just-a-teacher/
    His passion just oozes through doesnt it?:)
    Love you for this.

    They are blessed to have you as you too are, to have them:)
    (((((((((((hugs))))))))))

    Like

    • They are blessed to have you as you too are, to have them:)

      You say that so well… we are truly blessed aren’t we, Meggie?

      And you know what? I knew that this awesome teacher would be by, at this space, sharing herself, and giggling and saying all those things she has…. 🙂 You my dear. Meggie, Abhigurl, Indygurl 😀 😀 😀

      And so am I too… *giggling conspiratorially* and trying to wear a smug grin at the same time. Because I knew 🙂 🙂

      Thanks sweetheart… 🙂 You’re the best!! ((((hugs))))))

      Like

  4. Happy Teachers’ Day! I envy teachers – they could spend an entire lifetime counting their blessings!

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  5. Former US President Henry Adams had good reason to say “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

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  6. Fantastic post! How much you love being a teacher, how much you love your students, how passionate you’re about every aspect of teaching reflects through this post, Ushus. In fact I see a reflection of my mother in you :). What you’ve written is exactly how she feels too. I know this for sure because the gleam in her eyes when she talks about her students, the pride and fulfillment in her voice when she talks about her profession- passion would be a more apt word- is hard to miss 🙂

    Ushus, your posts on your students, teaching have always made me feel how enriching and enlightening an experience it must be for your students to have you as their guide 🙂

    If every school, every educational institution has inspiring teachers like you then the future of our children will be so much better and so much safer 🙂

    Loved every bit of what I read in the post, Ushus. Happy Teacher’s Day once again. I hope and pray Namnam too is blessed with teachers like you in her life 🙂

    Like

    • Deeps, thank you so very very much for all those warm words you have, for the choicest of expressions of your appreciation! Means a lot to me, coming from you, who has as a mother a wonderful role model for us too! Wishes to her, on this occasion!

      I do hope that Namnam will also have that good fortune to have good teachers, for they make wonderful things happen for you! I still remember firm favourites from school and college, and how they turned my life around, totally! Shall ever be indebted to them!

      Thanks again, Deeps 🙂 God Bless!

      Like

  7. Hi5 to a wonderful teacher, n a wonderfully wonderful person – you!! 🙂

    Like

    • Hi5 back dear one 🙂 That’s a wonderful way to wish as well… am just getting the hang of it, trying to do that everytime I score with the kids (at home, not school… lol!!!)
      Double Hi5 :D!!! Thanks sweetheart!! 🙂

      Like

  8. what a brilliant post, heres to more teachers like u and indy 🙂

    PS: i loved reading the comment exchange between u and her

    Monika, thank you 🙂 🙂

    Like

  9. Very well written Usha. Some of the most memorable people in our lives are a few teachers who influenced us when we were quite young. Sometime I wonder if we dont meet such people now that we have grown up or as we grow up we cease to be influenced by others, think too much about ourselves.

    Like

    • Aparna, welcome to this space 🙂 Ah yes, the memorable people in our lives are quite incomplete without a few fav. teachers, and those who influenced us. MOre so nowadays, when role models in society and the home seem to have feet of clay 😦 But then again, the same affliction has got to the teaching community too… perhaps that is why we are less influenced by them as well!

      Thank you for the visit and the kind words!

      Like

  10. If there ever was a post that deserved to be read by all this is IT.

    To see your writes appreciated is such a joy:)
    muah!:))

    lol@risk their friendliness
    Love the way you put it 😀

    @ Mon Thanks a bunch Mon:)
    You made me smile:)

    Like

  11. That was such a heartfelt piece. ” if you cannot be still learning, you cannot teach” – a real, true nugget of wisdom, if there ever was one! I do wish more teachers would understand this. Also with the changes that our education system and syllabus is undergoing, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the teacher to be a guru and his/her role is and has to be that of a guide. Since both my children are in school, I see before me a certain kind of war within the teachers themselves. While some of them are welcoming the “no learning by rote, more hands on work” system with open arms, while others still prefer the “mug and regurgitate” system.

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    • Dreamer, first of all.. thank you for the good words for this post. And yes, there is still that conflict both within and without, as far as teachers are concerned. The main issue here, I guess is that the “quality” of students seem to be going down! Now what they mean by “quality” I fail to understand! To some, it means the ability to write exams on exams without messing up, or giving in… for others it’s the ability to memorize and know a lot of facts, theories, formulae etc… for some it’s the discipline that is inculcated by the rote learning and strict stentorian “teacher”! To be absolutely frank, I have certain conflicts about the old vs the new, but the thing is that I am willing to learn 🙂 And I rather like this system too, for the challenges it throws up, both for the learner and the teacher 🙂 🙂 Sorry for the rant!

      Like

  12. Congratulations! This is truly a wonderful post. Wonder how I missed it? Must be because I run away from teachers (a vestigial school brat reflex) … but now that I read it … simply loved it.

    Ritu… Lol! @the thought of you running away from teachers! Well, that is rather how it used to be with me too… so it’s quite a surprise I’m one among them, supposedly… :D! Thank you so much!

    Like

  13. Congratulations on the blogadda pick, Ushus!! Every bit of this post deserved to be picked 🙂

    Hugs!

    Deeps, Hugs to you too! And thank you!

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  14. Congratulations. Your students are truly lucky to have you teaching them.

    Dear IHM, thank you for those kind words. But I’m not sure you’ll have the kids agree with that 🙂 🙂 More like I’m lucky to be with them, and learn from them, though I do get them to push their limits 🙂

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    • Usha Ma’m , Your words as always are truly inspirational.. I feel truly lucky to have been your student .

      And Sunitha, you are among those whose presence in class and out of it, I do treasure 🙂 God Bless!

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  15. Hi again,Usha Ma’am 🙂
    Teaching is indeed difficult,and to a certain extent(that’s an understatement), underappreciated by society.True,the children are indeed helped by miles,but schools and institutions in India underpay the teachers a lot.Poor reflection of our nation indeed. But the real boon,or rather the payback of teaching is the joy-inducing feeling that a young mind has benefited from your words,words which in this world are thrown away so easily and heard even less.I’m 16,to be 17 soon, but I go and take remedial lessons for a few kids along with a couple of my friends, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing the look of relief come across a child’s face when they finally understand something that previously bewildered them 🙂
    Whatever society says,I’ll always respect teachers,and no matter what job I’ll do,I’ll always strive to teach atleast one kid,cus like they say,knowledge drives out darkness of the mind, and who won’t want to be the candle that drives out the darkness?
    Loved your post Usha ma’am,thanks a ton for writing it so that people like me from miles and miles away could read it and introspect 🙂

    Like

    • Achyuth, Just that you read it, and have responded is enough 🙂 Thank you immensely for that! The rest of your words, itself, is sheer joy, that someone from the other side of the teacher’s table thinks so 🙂 Figuratively speaking, ie!

      Incidentally, rarely do I ever let that table divide the class and me… 🙂 🙂 Glad to know of your views, that shud be underscored, really. For all the thanklessness, one perceives it to be, the rewards by way of connecting with a child far outweigh the negatives 🙂

      Thank you again 🙂 God Bless!

      Like

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  17. And now it’s my turn to say, “Your students are lucky!” Indeed they are!
    I find a lot of myself in you and reading (with tears in my eyes!) the following lines I almost felt I was reading my own thoughts:
    “In the sudden sorrow too, when I realize that I am unapproachable to some, because of my rather standoffish attitude at times; in the firm, strict “teacher”, the dragon that I am too! While, at the same time, I take heart when some of them come back after leaving school, and tell me it was fun being in my class, no matter that they could not play the fool ! That is the best of all.”
    That’s our greatest reward – I realize that year after year. I’m grateful to God for twisting my fate just to make me experience this.
    However, I am sure you are a much better and more experienced teacher. I have great respect for dedicated, passionate teachers like you!! Your words do inspire me a lot. Hats off, USHA 🙂

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