When Teacher Plus asked me to write the ‘Last Word’ for the September issue about my favourite teacher, I was at a loss; I have so many I fondly remember. So what do you write when you’re asked to write about teachers? The term ‘teacher’ makes me hop on to the memory train, whizzing past everything that I did in school all those years ago; taking me to my earliest memory of the word ‘teacher’.
I remember, as a child I would love to “teach”. My mother continues to embarrass me by telling all my friends about my fixation as a child with the game ‘teacher-teacher’. Turns out, I would even hold a stick in my hand and hit the floor punishing my imaginary students! It is just as well that I am not a teacher now.
Like in most schools, in my school too, Teachers’ Day meant students role-playing, trying to behave like their favourite teacher. The ‘student-teacher’ visits all the classes, the teacher goes to and teaches all the subjects that the teacher covers. This role-play was serious business, as students playing the part of teachers were judged by a panel comprising teachers. On the annual day, which was usually sometime in November, the results of the competition would be announced.
The first time I participated in the teachers’ day competition was when I was in fifth grade. I played the role of Manjula Aaya (aayas assist teachers in handling large classrooms full of boisterous kids). In my lovely school, playing an aaya also counted for the competition. I was completely thrilled to play Manjula Aaya! She was the head of all the aayas in the school and she sat outside the principals’ office and reported only to the principal. On that day, I dressed like Manjula Aaya in a colourful chiffon saree, with a big bindi and jhumkas. I don’t remember all the things I did that day, but I do remember sitting very importantly in front of the principal’s office with my head held high. I won the second prize that year!
In the tenth grade, I played my biology teacher who also taught me different subjects in different grades. Her methods of teaching were interesting and we always looked forward to new things in her class. A day before Teachers’ Day she called me to the staff room and asked me what I was planning to do in each of her classes. I told her that I hadn’t planned anything and that I would teach something she had already taught or give a surprise test. Instead, she asked me to continue teaching from where she stopped in each class. Her plan was to make each student read a paragraph aloud from the lesson and at the end of each paragraph, note down any question that comes to their mind and discuss it in the classroom. She also gave me a list of possible questions from the lesson. I was reluctant as I was unsure if I could do it, but I agreed.
On the day, I remember going to each of her classes, most of which were junior classes. When the time came to teach biology to my own classmates, I was nervous. But, I followed her plan and soon the class was abuzz with discussions, debates, and fights. The plan worked! Not only did I remember each and every word of that day’s lesson, but also won the first prize in the competition.
Such role-playing puts you into your teacher’s shoes, at least for a day, and I like to think that it taught me the importance of shifting my perspective in all my relationships, so as to better understand others’ points of view. As we shower our teachers with praise, for helping us pass exams (the hard way), for getting us out of trouble, and for all the myriad tasks they undertake to better our lives, I always wonder how much of what I am, is because of the teachers I looked up to, and admired.