Going back to school is always a bittersweet experience. There are things we love to remember, and others we wish we could forget. But in all the confusion of those growing up memories, some images stay fresh and keep coming back to us. For those who stay in school for a lifetime – the teachers – it’s a different sort of bittersweet. There are children who stay in your mind because of the things they said and did, or because of how they changed you and your approach to teaching. For this issue of Teacher Plus, we asked some students to go back to school and reconnect with their teachers. In these free-wheeling conversations, they traced the paths through these memories. What emerged was an interesting set of travelogues…
‘I love what I do as a teacher’
Jagrithi Prabhu Kiran retired as a Professor of Post Graduate Studies in the Department of English and Communicative English at Jyothi Nivas College. She now works at Inventure Academy as The Head of Academics.
“The greatest joy that a teacher can have is to enable his student to challenge him as soon as possible”.
Hardly any of us realise that our teachers have lives outside of the classroom. We tend to think that they were put on this earth for the sole purpose of teaching us Shakespeare and algebra. During our younger years especially, our relationship with our teachers is quite impersonal.
Recently, I bumped into one of my old school teachers, Jagrithi ma’am and while we were exchanging pleasantries, she got a phone call. I was surprised when she referred to me as a friend rather than a student to her caller. That made me wonder, just how many teachers would refer to me as their friend. When do they cease to be just our teachers who teach us math or English, and become our friends?
A few days later I was asked to do an interview with one of my teachers and I immediately thought of Jagrithi ma’am and called her to ask if she was free. Very soon, I was seated in her living room, and chatting with her over some green tea.
I asked her the standard set of the questions, and got some pretty interesting answers.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Oh, it was quite by accident. It wasn’t my first choice of profession. I wanted to be an IAS officer. I feel that teachers in India are over-worked and under-paid. We are often emotionally drained. We require a lot of energy. It is difficult being positive all the time and fighting a system which tends to focus on negativity. We often punish, but rarely reward the student.
So how do you cope with being a teacher? What would you say are your strengths?
I think my open-mindedness and my flexibility allow me to deal with my profession. I try to cater to my learners’ needs. My strength would be that I am a reflective teacher.
And your weaknesses?
Unfortunately, I am quite impatient with my colleagues.
There is always talk about the shortcomings in the Indian Education System. What are your views on this?
I would agree that our current education system has many drawbacks. We need to make education more relevant. We need to start teaching things which are required in today’s technology-driven world. We also need to accept that our students might be smarter than us at times.
What advice would you give those people who aspire to be teachers?
I want to emphasise the importance of subject competence. You must know your subject well. Students can easily make out when they are being conned. Secondly, they should genuinely be interested in what they are doing, because teaching definitely requires something extra. A good sense of humour is definitely a must. They should also be able to speak the learners’ language.
Which age-group did you think was the hardest to teach?
It was definitely, the smaller children. I’m simply terrified of them.
Do you think that teachers play a role in their students’ lives?
Yes, I think that they do play a huge role. I know this sounds clichéd, but teachers are role models. I would advise everyone to “teach what you are”. It is also important to set a clear boundary inside the classroom, no matter how much you like a child. Outside the classroom things can be more relaxed.
How was your first day as a teacher?
My first day at Jyothi Nivas, was actually quite nice. I wasn’t nervous at all. I even got to play a basketball match!
Do you have any special memories from your teaching?
I’ve had a lot of good memories, but one particularly amusing one was when one of my students used photoshop to put a teacher’s face over the body of Jennifer Lopez. She was terribly upset, but I managed to see the lighter side of it.
Has teaching changed you somehow?
Yes. It’s changed me a lot. It’s given me self-worth. I was very cynical before, but that’s changed now. It’s also a great release.
I’ve overcome my insecurities and am now aware of my strengths. I would say that teaching has given me more than what I have given to this profession. I just love myself for what I do as a teacher.