The good teacher

One who makes a lasting impact on your life, one who make you a better person

Published - September 05, 2021 01:04 am IST

Let me tell you about Miss Hilda Nelson who was Headmistress of Mary Sheafe School For Girls where I studied in England. Miss Nelson was always dressed in a suit — matching jacket and skirt — accessorised by a string of pearls or sometimes a double strand. Pinned to her left lapel was a brooch. Short, silvery hair, a slim watch on her wrist, and gold-rimmed glasses perched on the sharpest nose I had seen till then gave her a stern look. The whole formal look was completed with shiny black stilettos. Miss Nelson was rarely seen without her yappy little dog Topaz.

The words “Miss Nelson wants to see you”  would make us go cold with fear. Well, one day when I was in Form 1, I did hear these words. What had I done? I wondered.  I was such a quiet, good girl, did well in my studies and never broke the rules. What could I  possibly have done to be called for by Miss Nelson?

I don’t know how I walked the distance from my classroom to her room, but I found myself standing in front of her. She smiled and in her clear, crisp voice said, “I would like you to read the passage for next Monday’s assembly.”

I was a girl with very little self confidence, a voice that was just above a whisper. The thought of reading in front of so many girls and teachers petrified me. Tears flowed.  

Miss Nelson ignored the tears and asked me to read the passage aloud to her. I squeaked it out of me. To this day, I don’t know why she chose me, the only Indian girl in the school to read at a Monday morning assembly. There were so many others who would have  loved to do this and who would have done it well.

Every lunch time that week, she took me to the assembly hall and made me practise. 

“Open your mouth, take a breath, pause, read slowly, no that didn’t sound right, repeat it a little louder. Stand straight, shoulders back,  chin up. Don’t look down, look up at the audience.”

Well Monday morning came, and the butterflies in my tummy fluttered like they wanted to get out desperately. We girls sat on the floor for assembly.  I sat between two friends who held my hands and encouraged me. After the first song, we were asked to sit down for the reading and I slowly walked up to the lectern. Miss Nelson looked at me and gave one nod. I read just as we had practised. My voice came out loud and clear. Everyone was surprised and whispered, “Well done” as I walked back to my place. 

As Miss Nelson passed me by at the end of assembly, she looked at me and gave a slight nod and a smile.  

I did many readings after that, at school and college. Now as a writer, I get called to speak to all kinds of groups. At every event,  just before l speak, Miss Nelson’s words still echo in my ear. Had she not called me to read that first passage, and groomed me as she did, would I have been a shy quiet woman? 

Many years later when we were in London, I took my husband Kumar to meet her one day. She was delighted to see us and we had a very English tea with fruit cake that she had made. 

After we left, Kumar said to me, “You know, you sound just like her!”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.