What makes it Worthwhile for a Teacher

10 Sep



The teacher walked into the class. The teacher walked into the class.

Nobody noticed. Everybody fell silent.

The teacher stood still for a moment, taking in the chaos. The teacher smiled.

The teacher shouted for attention. The teacher greeted the class.

Noise and chaos abated, but only for a moment. The class greeted the teacher.

Which one would you like to be? Would you like to be one?

Who really becomes a teacher today? One who feels the calling? Or one who chooses it as a lifestyle option?I know enough of both. And have been lucky enough to meet teachers who really want to make a difference to the life of the children they nurture. Teachers matter – they make a huge difference. And they work hard. Often thanklessly. And then there are many who are tired and jaded. Or out of their depth. They seem not to care, to just want to plod through and carry on with their lives, living out their frustrations in the classroom. We have all seen them sometime or another.

It must be sad to be in the face of so much wonder, and make nothing of it. To sit face to face with daily magic and not see the sparkles. How can we share the magic with them?

Really both are the same question, are they not?

What would it take for you to want to become a teacher, and remain a good teacher, one who shares the wonder of this journey?

My list of things that worked for me when I taught regularly:

1.Buzz: I loved the buzz of the classroom. The questions. The whirring of brains. The intent look and then the lighting up of the eyes when the students got what I was trying to share. The challenge of that one student who could not. The deliberate gaming of the student who would not. The fencing with each student, as if in an elaborate dance, till they could work independently with what was being taught. It is important for a teacher to have good students. They don’t have to be clever, but they must care. This is the biggest motivation.

2. A classroom that works: It does not have to be high tech, even as I have worked with classrooms loaded with gadgets and support mechanisms. Even at its simplest, the lighting should be good, the class materials accessible and the seating comfortable. If my students are comfortable, they can focus on learning. Lowering expectations does help – but the expectation that there will be writing materials is a minimum. We want to get on with the teaching, not hold up the class arranging logistics.

3. Conversations: A lot of conversations with the students, with other teachers, with mentors, with support staff. Every little thing builds a web of support for students and for the teachers. There have been times when an experienced teacher has solved a tough situation for me in a moment with sensible advice. There have been moments when students have shared their concerns, that were so easily resolved when we did it together. A single teacher school is probably the toughest – teaching needs mentors, support, a community to be enjoyable and productive.

4. Respect and Love: I taught for the respect and love that rejuvenated me everyday. The class and I were a team against the monster of ignorance or unemployment. We fought together, we laughed and cheered. So many of my students are still facebook friends with me. So many meet me in the towns I travel to, even years after teaching them. Teachers will always go that extra mile for love and respect. It is the fuel to excellence.

5. Time to Prepare: Half the work in teaching is done outside the classroom. A well trained and well prepared teacher is a transformational force to be reckoned with. I have always regretted the lessons when I did not prepare (often agonising and back breaking work) for the class. Even if I knew it well and had taught the same thing ten years in a row. To plan a lesson for any group is essential to making it work for them. There is nothing more frustrating than to find that there is no time or credit given for designing and preparing lessons. This needs to be resourced as much as actual teaching time does. And must be done honestly. It is so easy to slip up on this, trusting experience or simply playing it extempore. To do that is embarrassingly dishonest. A prepared class is like a song, with every note ringing true. You will see that in the eyes of the students.

6. Strokes: Every teacher needs validation, needs recognition for every tiresome, plodding moment of immense patience exercised. The provocations are aplenty and every moment can be a ticking bomb. Ask any teacher you know – they deal with extremes with admirable stoicism and a sense of humour. They develop a thick skin and a sixth sense for averting trouble. In that process, they get tired. Sometimes, not all the time, they need to be told how wonderful their work is and how much it matters. A teacher too needs care either from the community or from a team of mentors.

7.Student Success: Nothing renews a teacher more than student success. Especially old students. If you get a chance, call your old teachers today. Send them a message, visit them. Send them flowers. Tell them how happy you are, and how well you are doing. There is no greater happiness for a teacher than to see their students prosper.

Finally, to all my students out there, love and blessings always. To all my teachers out there, deep and heartfelt thanks for all the love and learning.



This was published in the Times of India blogs on September 5, 2013. Teachers day in India. The Link to the post is here:



P.S. Another 5 Star rated post!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: