Sitting by my window, I reminisce about the years gone by and feel truly blessed and lucky to have had wonderful teachers at different stages of my life. I recall this quote by US lawyer and politician Brad Henry, “A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love of learning”. My first teacher, Sr. Valerie did just that. She made learning fun, stimulating, and engaging and so our classroom was an exciting environment for learning. She was gentle and loving. My mother proudly recounts those days when I was in kindergarten and did all my homework meticulously. The days I had not done it, which was not too often, and someone tried to complete it on my behalf, all hell would break lose. I would cry and bring the house down. I had to do it on my own and it had to be done well. No, my teacher wasn’t strict. I remember how she would have me seated at the table, holding my hand and teaching me strokes and all that was important to do neat work. She would appreciate good work and those words instilled in me a sense of responsibility and integrity. To this date, I believe in putting my best effort into my work and to never take the easy way out. She will always remain my favourite teacher.
During my formative years, my mother too, (Mrs. Amelia Ireland), was my teacher in school. She instilled in me important human values and taught me to always stand up for what is right.
From my college days, Mr. Gnanashekar, my English teacher is someone I remember fondly. He was ever-so-happy and shared a special connect with his students. In those three years, no matter what, he would keep his calm and never ever raised his voice in the classroom. He was polite and always greeted his students with a warm smile as he walked across the corridors. His art of storytelling, body language and powerful lectures set him apart from the others.
There was yet another teacher in college, my sociology lecturer Mr. John Paul, whom I did not like in the beginning. As days went by, I understood what a wonderful teacher he is. He would go out of his way for others. He was always there with a listening ear and a ready hand to lend to those in need.
Throughout my childhood, I wished to be a teacher. As fate had it, I became one about ten years ago… and my journey began… I carried with me all the advice, values and experiences into my own classroom with the hope to inspire and make a difference.
At the onset of my career, I was trained by an exceptional teacher Ms. Monita Sen. She was knowledgeable, creative and had a great sense of humour. She made learning engaging, challenging, significant and relevant. During my first month in the classroom, she showed that she believed in me and that made all the difference. She gave me autonomy, but was always there when needed. She allowed me to fail, to fall and to stand up and learn from those experiences. She truly was one that takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart. She is a role-model and I aspire to be like her someday.
My mentor, Ms. Khona Bhattacharjee, played a pivotal role during my first year as a teacher. She welcomed me into her classroom with open arms and encouraged me to try new things. It was there that I could put all the theory I had learnt into practice. A sense of belonging is what she made me feel. She was affectionate, interested in my wellbeing. She allowed me to ask and never to hesitate to share my thoughts and ideas. Most importantly, she believed in mutual respect and that, according to me, is one of the most important traits of a mentor-mentee relationship.
Another important person who played an integral part in shaping my life as an educator was Ms. Apoorva Saini, the Head of my school. She believed in tough love and gave me every opportunity to be more and do more, not hesitating to tell me when I was wrong or could do better. She was a true leader who believed in transforming those under her care, ensuring their success and encouraging them to fulfill their potential. I am ever grateful to her for challenging me and teaching me to always aim for more.
During the last leg of my Master’s programme when I had to work on my dissertation, my younger sister fell terminally ill and passed away a few months later. The coursework seemed like an uphill task amid the pain and loss of a loved one. Dr. Jacqueline Kareem was my guide. She went above and beyond her duty and responsibility as a mentor and supported me in different ways. From creating a timeline, to providing constructive feedback, data analysis and spending time over the phone, via email and at her home to ensure completion. There were times she would call or message just to find out how I was doing. Her brother too, was diagnosed with a terminal illness at the same time, and despite the frequent hospital visits, family commitments and college assignments, she was a pillar of strength for me and guided me towards completing of my research project.
When parents entrust their children under our care, it is of utmost importance for a teacher to help the child develop holistically, unlock potential and prepare the child for challenges that are part of life. I draw inspiration from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher.
Books are great teachers too. Some of the best life lessons that I have learnt are from Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch that I try to practice in my life as a teacher.
To all those teachers in my journey of learning, you have taught me to believe in myself and to never give up, no matter what.
The author teaches at a leading international school. She is a risk taker and loves to try out new things. She can be reached at [email protected].