Time for the bucket list

Manju Gupta

Thirty six years ago, I qualified to be a teacher and I have enjoyed every bit of it, contrary to the beliefs I held in my college days. As a student, I always dreamt of being an architect or an officer in the civil services. I worked hard to get good grades but fate in the form of my mother strongly believed that matrimony was mandatory for girls before they entered their twenties. So, much to my chagrin, I was forced to do a bachelor’s degree in Literature because there was no question of my remaining single once I completed my teens. After marriage, the only career choice was a B.Ed, because a teaching career helped you to cleverly balance home and work. I was aghast, as the last thing I wanted to be was a teacher! However, my positive attitude helped me to make the best of what I considered a bad bargain, but once I started, I actually began enjoying it!

Starting my career in 1975 in a British school in Lagos, Nigeria, I guess, set the ball rolling. It was a delightful experience, working under Ms. Goodbarne, a thorough professional. She motivated us to be creative, imaginative, and adventurous and reiterated that we needed to internalize teaching. These lessons have stayed with me during my entire teaching career.

We then moved to Bombay; teaching in India after three years was a totally new experience. Fortunately, my creativity and the will to experiment was well received by the school management. I opted for all the rejuvenation programmes and also picked up my master’s degree. A year later, imagine my surprise when my husband announced, “We are going to a place called Chilka in Orissa as the Navy is starting a new base there; since you are a teacher, they have decided to make you the Headmistress of the Naval school there. You will have to set it up.” I was stunned as I had no clue as to how I was going to fulfill this tall order! I decided to take up the challenge and together with some other Naval wives, we actually ran the school… A happy school!

Soon, I blossomed into a happy teacher and actually enjoyed every moment of teaching. I thanked my mother for inadvertently guiding me into a profession which gave so much satisfaction. I always shared a rapport with my students and enjoyed their company.

In 1990, I moved to Secunderabad and have been here since. Teaching and then running a school has been highly rewarding for me and I discovered that to be a good teacher one has to be firm but empathetic, knowledgeable but modest, friendly but reserved, innovative but patient, enthusiastic but serene, and be a leader and lead from the front.

I have blossomed as a teacher, a headmistress and a Principal but suddenly, I got up one morning and decided that I needed a change. An inner voice seemed to say ”You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do.” I have a long bucket list and hence have decided to quit and move on. There are so many things I want to do but was afraid to do till now … travel, write, freelance … not to mention laze around, watch TV, solve crosswords, and read!

My only advice to all teachers is to enjoy every minute of your profession and you will see the joy reflected in all the shiny faces of your students. Innovate, create and make learning a fun experience. Always carry a repository of jokes to the classroom to break the monotony and get the attention of students. Kindle the fire in your students with ‘out of the box’ questions and encourage them to communicate with you freely.

I have tried to do just that and though I have retired from an institution, I have not retired from life. The fire will continue to burn and I shall always thank God for guiding me to a profession that truly fills me with happiness!

The author is ex-Principal, Pallavi Model School, and is now an educational consultant with St.Michaels School, Secunderabad. She also conducts workshops for teachers on teacher effectiveness and English Language teaching. She can be reached at [email protected].

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