On Teacher’s Day

7 Sep

On teachers day, greetings to all who teach and learn. This is a day to celebrate what we do for the joy and the difference it makes to lives.

And a time to reflect on why we do what we do, how we do it and when we stopped doing what we thought was our purpose. A day of thanks and renewal.

A time to remember our teachers who made us who we are – the good, the bad and the funny ones

A time to call up friends and share anecdotes of the tricks we played, while our teachers turned away, smiling unseen and let us have our moment.

Also a day when we remember the great educationists and what they stood for – S Radhakrishnan of course. But also Maulana Azad. J Krishnamurti. Sri Aurobindo. And even Mahatma Gandhi. And take a moment to know that almost everybody could be a teacher. And then realise the wonderful opportunity that hides in this fact.

It is a day to reflect on the students we have had, and how our lives have been enriched by them. Then and now. The joy of meeting a student and their family in the market – the little glow we carry with us after such chance meetings

The little nuggets of time that we carry with us – moments when we managed to snatch inspiring conversation as a teacher or as a student. The moments when we shared music and books. Or a little mention of a philosophy. That long discussion that shaped us in ways  that we did not know then.

From the Upanishads, a simple definition of education – on one side the teacher, on one side the student, in between there is knowledge, powered by discourse. It is this discourse that creates magic. We also teach when do not know we are teaching, sometimes just by being who we are. In the Guru shishya parampara, teaching included not just the arts and sciences, but the philosophies and defence too. Life skills, attitudes and values all come from the teacher.

The bonds between a teacher and a student are deep – even if it does not feel so today. The process of learning is an emotional engagement that starts with a student declaring the vulnerability of ignorance. This is why the teacher has a position of trust, a responsibility and a duty of care. The teacher’s power and duty come together to build the student’s knowledge and ability to use that knowledge.

Teaching well is a little bit like being in love. The joy is in being consumed by it. It takes dedication, motivation and true will to become a good teacher. In a good lesson everything but the learning ceases to exist as we cast aside the real world for a bit. The happiness of a good teaching day stays with us for ages, and the misery a bad lesson can cause is the stuff of legends. As ever, with experience, we learn to take the good with the bad, learn to settle for routine. Knowing that there will be these moments that will make it all worthwhile.

On this teachers day, in the Indian tradition, I bow to those teachers who came before me, and I bow to those who will come after me. Each of us doing what we can, laying a brick here, a stone somewhere else and binding it all as if it takes no effort. I bow to the knowledge we share, to the skills we demonstrate and the characters we build. I bow to those moments when we see our students coming unstuck and we step up and nudge them back in place. Above all, I bow to the divine in us that guides us when we would not know how to, I bow to the state of grace that is a teacher.

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