I still remember the day Mrs. Walter walked into the classroom and into my life. She was to be our new English teacher and she was to change my life forever. I vividly remember the first introductions (she made us write our names on little colour cards and hand them back to her, so she could get our names right!) Her zealous yet charming conviction that we were going to have a great time together was so contagious, that I went home with a faint feeling of exhilaration and could barely wait for my next English class.
For the next three years, I could barely wait for my English classes; for back then the excitement of being in Mrs. Walter’s class was the only thing that seemed worth the trouble of going to school at all. And it was in these classes that my love for learning took to new heights and I gained a spring in my step.
The enthusiasm and interest Mrs. Walter showed each student was unlike any I had seen before. She had that special ability to catch that ember, when all others saw was ash. She believed in us with such fervour and brought such energy and passion to her teaching that we really got carried away.
As for me, I went on to be her pet; and I could swear I saw fireworks each time Mrs. Walter beamed at me. She believed in me with a mystifying conviction and her simple faith made me believe in myself and filled me with new buoyancy.
Life got a lot better and here I am still thinking of Mrs. Walter after she walked out of my life more than a decade ago. She probably never realised how she had changed things for me and how I revered her. Her words were manna for me and her word of approval my greatest motivator.
I need no effort today to bring back memories of my teacher, everything about her is crystal clear; the classes, her words, our conversations, my feelings. Mrs. Walter probably believed in a rather potent point made by Henry Adams years ago – “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
History has innumerable instances of tutors changing the course of their pupil’s lives. Anne Sullivan gave Helen Keller a new existence, Morrie Schwartz inspired Mitch Albom to chronicle ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, William B.Carruth influenced Alan Loy McGinnis to become a motivator himself and there are innumerable untold stories of teachers having touched and changed lives.
The tutor-pupil relationship is so astounding and has such power that it is a shame to leave a teacher to just help a child score higher grades. My fervent plea is let one of the noblest fields be noble, let us respect and expect more from it. Let us have more Morries, more Mr. Carruths and more Mrs. Walters.
And let us not forget what Lilly Tomlin as the bratty five and a half year old ‘Edith Ann’ in a popular teleseries had said, “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.”
The author is a freelancer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at [email protected].