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
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.
(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
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.
Taylor Mali, on “What Teachers Make”