Good teachers are a blessing and grateful students even more.
It is my privilege to share one of my trysts with gratitude during my brief stint as a teacher in a graduation college for one semester.
A serendipitous happening
I had just returned from the US in the mid of 2016. As soon as I landed, as destiny would have it, I received a teaching job offer. Within three days, I was teaching management subjects to graduation and post-graduation students.
No experienced teacher wanted the headache of having to manage an unruly class of grown-up young men and women. And so here I was assigned as the class teacher of the ́most notorious class ́ in the college as soon I was freshly appointed. In hindsight, it was the best decision I took as it not only helped me readjust faster in my home country but also the daily interactions with youngsters rejuvenated me.
Lessons as a teacher
Before the end of the semester, the students had to write one last internal exam. And in my generous mood, I corrected the papers quite liberally, overlooking minor flaws like grammar, spelling mistakes, etc., which I am otherwise quite particular about. As long as they understood the practical concept, I overlooked the rest.
After distributing the answer-sheets, I was flooded by a surge of students who kept hankering for the maximum marks possible. Including the one who scored the highest at 29, wanted ‘just’ a half mark more to make it a perfect 3-0. I congratulated the topper of the batch for what I thought was a well-written paper with some innovative answers. But I had to turn down his request as I couldn’t give full marks for theoretical subject papers.
Anyway, I couldn’t blame the students. You know how it is with us, Indians! We are born in a highly competitive environment where we are taught to fight for everything. In an educational setup, every single mark, the half or quarter of it matters. We are taught not to give up without a fight. It’s how we, parents and teachers, have trained our children to become. And so, we have made it a ́dog eat dog ́ world for them!
There was one student who I watched from the corner of my eye, amid the teeming crowd which surrounded me from all the sides. He was patiently watching and observing the ongoing proceedings with the answer sheet clutched in his hand. After a long wait, it was his turn. Needless to add, he was the last in the line. But that was his choice.
As he brought forth his answer paper, I asked him how I could help him. And he replied, ́Maam! I did not come to add more marks. I just came to show you my paper and tell you you gave me more marks than I deserved. Thank You! ́
I was speechless. This was a rare happening.
The grateful young man, one of the most intelligent students I taught, was not fighting like the rest to be first in line and haggle for extra marks.
That incident will never be erased from my memory and will always pop up as a sweet reminder to show gratitude when you ought to.
And I have to thank that young student for teaching me a lesson or two. Yes, we teachers learn from our students as well.
Gratitude is so important in our lives, but it should not be confused for what it is not. Often, I see people who make tremendous efforts in going to great lengths to express their gratitude. But only to people who hold influential positions and titles. People whose close associations will be beneficial to them.
That is not gratitude. That is opportunism. There is a subtle but huge difference.
Sycophants love sycophants love sycophants. Arguably, we live in a sycophantic culture.
Anyway, that student was not the only one to express his love and gratitude during my brief teaching tenure. Class teachers, and teachers, in general, are treated like superstars in college. There were many students; each had their own style of expressing gratitude. Some through words, some with gifts, some through their thoughtful actions. But it is the intention behind those acts which holds a greater significance and meaning. Some did for a covert benefit; for some, it came from a genuine place.
As I completed the semester, the students had given overwhelmingly positive feedback not just to the Principal, but also to me personally. Some said I was the best teacher they had right from their elementary LKG class. I’d have fellow teachers with an experience of over a decade who would watch me in action in the sidelines and enquire later in the staffroom as my methodology seemed interesting to them. I had no teaching qualifications or prior experience—my lack of expertise infused in a fresh approach to the classroom teaching style. So, to make an impact in such a short time felt satisfying.
I must admit here that my motherhood experience helped tremendously in being a good teacher. I taught my students and tried to make routine learning fun for them, as I did with my daughter. At least my experience of teaching my child came in handy and did not go in vain, I thought.
Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand. To be a good teacher, you need to be a good learner. Most importantly, you need to be a good listener, patient observer, and a selfless giver.
I’ve witnessed fellow staff members scream, admonish, and insult the students. Losing control and one’s steam is a natural human tendency. But in our role as a teacher, we must be the bigger person always, have hope and faith in our students. Let them make mistakes, learn from them, and flourish in their own sweet time. Also, words have the power to either build or cause long-lasting damage to the students’ psyche and self-esteem. As teachers, we hold power to create or destroy our students. The choice is up to us.
Teachers, like students, come in all shades. There are good teachers and bad ones. The bullies who misuse their power and authority can go the extra mile to tarnish a student’s future.
It’s easier to dump the blame on students than calling them unruly and poorly raised. But we must accept that our students are a mere reflection of us, parents, teachers, and society alike, and own our responsibility in enlightening them with our influence, not authority.
Also, there is a lot that goes behind the scenes as a teacher. When I stepped into the teachers’ shoes; I discovered that a lot of work goes unnoticed and often taken for granted. A lot of preparation goes before each class, and a lot of physical energy is expended teaching one class after the other standing on your toes in a saree and speaking in a loud tone to a class of over 60-70 students. There is a lot of documentation work after the teaching hours. And you are also spearheading extracurricular activities to enhance students’ personalities and give them a wholesome learning experience. It is a tough job, but also one of the most satisfying ones. I’ve learned that there is no greater joy than the love of learning and sharing knowledge.
In conclusion, I’ve learned many valuable lessons as a teacher, of which gratitude is the biggest learning and takeaway. Gratitude is acknowledging and genuinely understanding the value of even the most minute blessing in our life, and seeing hope and opportunity even in the darkest phase. Gratitude is looking at the proverbial glass, and seeing it as ́half-full,’ – being genuinely thankful for it as well as the opportunity to fill the glass to its full capacity.
Teacher’s Day is less about a paying tribute to the profession and more about the spirit of learning.
I have so many inspiring real-life instances of gratitude that not only touch me but also serves as a reminder to stay humble and thankful always.
On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to teach as well as learn from all my students. I have also learned from each one of my teachers and mentors throughout my academic and corporate life.
Do you have a favourite memory to share on Teacher’s Day? I’d love to hear it from you.