Thursday, 4 September 2014

Ek Din Ka Madarsa – A Tribute to all Teachers on Teachers’ Day

The fifth of September is observed internationally as teacher’s day and what can be a greater matter of honour for teachers of India than that the day dedicated to teachers should fall on the birthday of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, a great teacher, and a great thinker! Teachers’ Day  reminds all of students about the great tr Guru Shishya tradition that has existed in India since time immemorial. Teachers’ day is  dedicated to all  those  wonderful people whom we call teachers - they are the untold heroes, Nation Builders, and makers of character who  have devoted their lives for the emancipation of the society. Many of us  must   have  surely come across descriptions given by our parents about their favourite teacher who would tie up the note books of his students on the carrier of his bicycle on the last day of the week so that he  could check the same at home. The  timeless qualities of humbleness  modesty patience and empathy, the ability to transform lives through his infinite wisdom  have marked the ideal teacher as distinct from other professional! Ultimately, what marks a teacher apart from others is his or her marked lack of interest in earning a good salary. A Principal and Educationist that I once knew used to say that a teacher will always remain down to earth, modest and humble, and relatively less inclined towards monetary gains! Teachers, surely, are those people who will go all the way out to help their students, they are people whose Philosophy of life is to give their all for the emancipation of the society.  As such the best gift for them is to see their students achieve succes in life, not just as professionals with a good salary package and the acclaim that a materialistic society would give them but as students with a good character and the qualities that make a good human being!  
But then, that brings me back to the history of how Teachers’ Day began to be celebrated in India. In the early Fifties, Teachers’ Day was celebrated in the Jamia Millia University as Ek Din Ka Madarsa, literally, one day’s school. This was the time when  Professor Mujib Ul Rehman was the Vice Chancellor, and Dr. Zakhir Hussain was the Chancellor. In those days, one day in the Academic session was pegged as Teachers’ Day, and it was on that day that students picked up the mantle of their favourite teacher. They took classes on  behalf of their teachers. The tradition exists even today. This was an occasion when students saw for themselves, what it was to be a teacher! In a school where I taught for a couple of decades, taking up the role of a teacher  was an activity that was taken seriously. The students would took up their roles seriously,  and dressed like their favourite teachers. At the end of the day, the students would collectively share their experiences with their teachers in a feedback session, and most of them  expressed their appreciation for what their teachers had done for them.
A few years into my job, Mr. Anil Virmani, the  Chairman of the school where I  once worked shared a story with me titled “Teacher, teacher what do you make?” The story was about a conversation  over a dinner between engineers, doctors, managing directors of big companies and  the wife of one of them who was a teacher. The topic of their discussion was about who earned the most. While the Engineer boasted about the bridges he had made, the Doctor talked about the patents he had discovered that had made him rich. The professionals were all boasting about how much money they made, how much prestige they had, and how popular they were in the society.The main assumption of success in their case depended on the amount of money earned. Ultimately, the assembled group turned towards the lone member in the group that had remained silent through out. She was the wife of one of the professionals and a teacher too. These successful professionals asked her, “Teacher teacher what do you make?” They wanted to prove that this woman didn't have a standing in the society because she didn't earn as much as the others.  She smiled and answered, that though she didn’t make much money, she had at least made the engineer to be what he was, and the doctor to be the successful practitioner that he was. Taken in totality, she might not have earned the salary of the Engineer or the Doctor, but then she could at least claim to have led these professionals to the  success  they had achieved!  She had achieved the greatest success of all the professionals who had been gathered there, for if it had not been for her, the engineer would not have earned the salary that he deserved, nor would the doctor! Ultimately, the professionals who had gathered to boast of their success were silenced as the mulled bout their favourite teachers who had encouraged them to take up the path that had lead them to success in terms of the money that they earned.
So then, what is it that marks true teachers as being apart from the rest of the professionals? Is it the salary that they earn? No, certainly not! So then what is it that marks teachers apart from some or their more successful students? It is apparently the the feeling that they have done a good job and moulded students into the successful professionals that the are that finally marks the success of teachers. If it hadn’t been for good teachers, we wouldn’t have successful engineers, successful doctors, and successful managing directors! The patience, selflessness and the devotion of the teacher towards the job in hand had marked  her  as distinct from all the other professionals who had been gathered there and were boasting about how much they made. While all the others boasted about the amount they earned, it was this humble teacher in their midst who claimed that although she didn’t earn so much, she was at least satisfied with what she had done for the society and it was this satisfaction that had exceeded the satisfaction of   having earned a huge amount of cash!

When I talked to the students who had volunteered to take up my class, they told me that they were overwhelmed by the task in hand and did not not know how to take up the lesson in hand. This was understandable because they had not planned for the lesson in hand, nor had they prepared the lesson plan that would go along with the lesson. They said that they had found the task so great that they wouldn’t like to be teachers in the future! The teachers who talked to the student volunteers  became aware of how the students felt that teaching is a tough job! It is only when the learners take up the mantle of teachers that they realize that teaching includes within it challenges that few would dare to take up! The revelations of the pupil teachers opened the eyes of all the teachers who were present.
Once, when I was given the task of enlightening and motivating the teachers who were present on the occasion of teachers’ day, I was daunted and wondered what I would say, but then I remembered my  favourite teachers and then launched myself on a journey that would visit each quality that I liked in them. Today, when I look at the admiration that students have for their teachers,  (which they express on Teachers’ Day with greetings and cards and bouquets) I feel glad that our students have the same respect that their parents and grandparents had for their own teachers. The only thing that has changed perhaps that instead of flowers, students now give their teachers cards, and instead of homemade sweets, students offer their teachers chocolates. The feelings that students have for their teachers will continue as long as we have dedicated teachers and and curious students.
So dear fellow teachers of the world, rejoice in the knowledge that you are Nation Builders, and builders of Character! No other profession can provide you with the satisfaction that you get when a student of yours comes to you after five or ten years and tells you how you were the one who motivated him and compelled him to change his ways, and yet you did not know that you had the power to transform a life, even if it was just one life! Therein lies the power in teaching, that although you might not earn much, you are however wealthier than others in terms of the blessings and prayers that your students and the parents would  have given to you! If people have labelled teaching as a noble profession then surely they were not wrong were they? Both healing and teaching are noble professions and if a doctor heals the  disease in a patient, then the teacher applies salve on distressed minds. It has not been wrongly said that when you open a school you shut down a prison, and when you employ a teacher, you rid the Nation of a criminal – That my fellow teachers is the power of teaching!

For if a teacher could so light up the darkness of the world with
His smiles even though he would burn out himself,
How much better would the world be, to have
Such wonderful teacher who  could show the way
Of hope!
For who would cover up a light so bright,
That the darkness could chase?
Let this be a tribute from my side,
To the teacher who taught me to dream,
And be
One who'd dare to convert those dreams
Into reality!
And if Teachers could nurture others
As parents true and real, then how
Much more  valuable are they,
Parents who have the worlds children,
As their own,
And taught them lessons in patience
And honesty, and humility – for to be 
Good human beings be the lesson 
Of teachers  that are teachers of life!

The photographs that I have pasted in this post is an attempt to show my fellow teachers in lighter moments as people who are more human than can be, people who are not the strict and Calvinistic professionals that Dickens and the society might sometimes portray them to be. Teachers are full of life and like to celebrate life as a gift from God, a gift that needs to be appreciated during light moments, whenever they present themselves! 

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