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A teacher speaks her mind

I was born in a family of three daughters to parents who were not conversant in English. I was admitted to an Anglo-Indian School in Chennai in the middle level. The school had a lovely campus with a beautiful church inside. I did feel lost for some time, but I quickly fell into the groove mainly because of my classteacher who was so supportive and encouraging. School taught me to not only admire the beautiful creations of God but also honour the values and sentiments of our family members, peers and our TEACHERS.

As I grew stronger and proved my academic excellence, days became more memorable in school. The right mélange of play and work, the true blend of the teachers’ love and severity, the Principal’s integrity together with the passion for imparting true education — everything paved the path for us to realise the worth of good education. Today, I can proudly say that I am a teacher of English and French and curriculum coordinator of a reputed school in Chennai.

My ardent love for my teachers made me give up my government posting and, after serving as a teacher for nearly 25 years, I look back. Have I, as a teacher, created another Mahatma Gandhi, a Mother Teresa or an Abdul Kalam? Why is it not possible for me to mould my students — nay children — into better human beings of greater values? I then realised that my children are never my own — I do not really possess him or her; in other words, I feel that children today cannot surrender themselves to their teachers as I had submitted myself at the feet of my educators.

I am unable to frame rules for my children who are with me for the prime part of the day. Teachers are always expected to be kind. They are questioned by authorities and parents for calling a student an idiot or lazy goose — words that used to belong to the teaching faculty. Teachers and school authorities are unable to curtail children from bringing cellphones or iPods to school.

When I call the father of a child who was found playing with a pack of cards, he says: “Is it necessary for me to come here for such a silly issue? You can just throw away those cards and forget about it. If you talk about my son, I can also tell you so much about your school.”

I called the young father into my office and said: “I called you because I do not have the right to use any strict measures to forbid him from playing with cards in the classroom.” I need to collaborate with you to educate your child and tell him that you are with me in bringing in discipline on the school premises.” I also asked him, “If you think that there is so much to talk about the school, do you think and believe that this school will do anything good for your child?”

We still believe that teachers are influential. I still go to school in a starched cotton sari with my hair folded the way my favourite chemistry teacher came to my class. She was my role model. We agree that some teachers have made the whole world follow in their footsteps — I quote Mother Teresa, the teacher-turned mother who made the entire world work along with her to support the fragile and the poor.

School life teaches a child the happiness of being together, the worth of friendship, the classroom culture and, above all, to respect and love human race beyond caste, creed or religion. School is the only community that can form the basis of secularism and patriotism. School is the child’s window to this wondrous world. Are we going to guard this ambience of harmony and protect the bonding of the teacher and her child? Or, are we going to interfere in her everyday work and allow her to get disgusted and shun her responsibility. Is it possible for a mother to teach or discipline a child without scolding or raising her hand? How is it possible for a teacher to discipline a child even without scolding? Words like lazy, noisy creature — are also construed as an offence. Is the purpose of a teacher’s time in school really going to be served or defeated? In recent past, teachers have been enquired into, suspended, arrested and even killed. With fear enveloping every act of hers, should a teacher perform her tasks or wait for a set of rules to be framed by every parent for every individual child?

The whole world has the right to interfere with children except their teachers. The law overlooks a child who uses the cane on another child impairing his vision, but penalises the teacher and the school for leaving the cane on the desk. Can’t we tell the child that he is forbidden from using or misusing the teacher’s wand? Laws are framed for school buses for the safety of the children but truck drivers who knock down schoolchildren are not penalised by any special norms that govern the road safety of the kids. The law does not worry about educating the parents that it is their responsibility as well to teach the child right from wrong.

Are we as teachers running into the risk of being blamed, penalised and humiliated in public for the service we render to the cause of children? Is there not a single student who can harass a teacher, cause trauma in the teacher? And when they do so, the teacher should silently bear all the pain and yet render the best to every child.

Teachers today go through a lot of trauma with the responsibilities of completing the curricula, designing lessons, competing with technology and facing the new generation of poor values and attitudes.

I am amazed that children justify the damage done by them to school property. They say that they do pay school fees and hence have the right to damage it.

My appeal is not to protect teachers who indulge in excesses and wrongdoing. My appeal is for the cause of children and for the betterment of the next generation. As a teacher, if children are not made to realise that a set of rules is needed to run their daily routine, scientists need to design vehicles that could automatically stop when the vehicle encounters the red signal. We will see more scandals, more violence and more pain within the family and all around — as we do not catch them young to own responsibility for their actions.

(indira1111962@gmail.com)

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 1:18:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/a-teacher-speaks-her-mind/article4017272.ece

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