Teaching.. a Noble and a powerful profession

We all know and have heard it a lot of times how teachers are so important in any society. For a society, state, country to grow or change, teachers must be good because they deal with the foundations of tomorrow, children.

I have had a couple of quite intense and interesting conversations with my mother, who’s been a teacher for around 25 years, about teachers, children and the psychic of both involved in this exchange.

I have dreamt for a long time to go back and talk to my teachers and tell them what my they gave me, the good, the bad and the ugly, that eventually forced me into where I am today. Why am I doing a master’s in the US? Why did I do engineering? Why did I work for 3 years in a company, under a manager who ill-treated me and never appreciated me for the work I did. Why did I end up being the Cultural secretary of a University of 8000 students and refused to step down when the possibility of organizing a national level event in a span of 1.5 months with the help of just student volunteers sounded simply ridiculous?

All these answers lie in my past, in how I was treated by my teachers in my school as a kid. growing up among 44 other kids in the same class and 100 others in the same batch. In the education system that classified and categorized children based strictly on academic achievement. In a system which believed in wrote rather than education, in running a business rather than a school, in churning out students making it to big league grad schools (to improve their image for good admissions for the next term) and not excellent individuals.

Schools and teachers seem to have lost the understanding of why they were created in the first place.

You must be thinking why I’m pulling out this topic off the thin air now all of a sudden. This is what got me thinking. Prof.Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk . I had been looking for the man who came up with “A hole in the wall” experiment, I had read of somewhere. But i’d forgotten the name of the experiment and hence could never track him down. I stumbled upon this when TED suggested it to me.

He speaks of what appreciation can do. And it reminded me of this conversation starter that I had with my mother who happened to find a report card (score card from school), of mine from the 1st grade. She said it read “Good in communication skills, talks a lot. Good in academics but can do better.” And I exclaimed. “They HAD to write that last bit didn’t they? The ‘can do better’ bit. They couldn’t just leave it at He’s good! “. And she said “Well there’s always room for improvement.”. “And everyone knows that without being told, don’t they? ” said I. She agreed. “Why can’t they just say He’s good!, He’s bad! He’s very good! Why do they have to tell you that you’re good but that’s not enough?”.

“They don’t say it when I score a basket on the court. Or take a wicket in the cricket field, or score a goal on the soccer field! Or win a chess game against the computer!” Why does academics have to have so much of importance always? Why can’t I be a guy who’s not good in math, science or history, geography, and rather be good at drama, singing, soccer, cricket, oration.

My school had a concept of ‘awarding’ what they called “Scholar Badge” to a student if he/she got more than 80% marks. This was essentially a badge you wore on your blazer to the school. If you got 3 consecutive scholar badges, you got a Blue blazer which was otherwise green. If you continued to get scholar badge after a Blue blazer for 3 consecutive years, you got a Blue tie, which again was otherwise green. Beyond that you’d get a medal!

I say, why not give the same badge to a student who performs in sports, wins the high jump in every annual event every year for 3 consecutive years? Or the one who wins the drama competition or singing competition every year?

But it’s all just acads. Because they want you to end up working as an engineer and not be just an individual. Coz no matter who you are, You need to be good in math or science, or history or biology or physics.

This is the reason i’m here pursuing a master’s degree instead of playing a lead role on a stage in a theatre company. Or swimming my way to medals in India. Because marks were the only thing that mattered. Academics was the only thing that could get you a job, that could fetch you a good life! The rest was just supposed to be a ‘hobby’. And this has been drilled into me for so long throughout my life that today when i realize and see people around me excelling in so many other things. I still lack the courage to take the step and drop out of school and go and try my luck in theatre. I look at plays, comedy clubs and look at the stage and reminisce about my days in school when I would be the happiest kid around rehearsing for plays, and perform on the stage, charged with the adrenaline rush , fumbling with dialogues and yet enjoying it to the fullest. Feeling satiated at the end of it like having drunk the ambrosia of life itself. The stage calls me, tempts me every time I watch a play. And I’m in NY, the home to Broadway, the greatest of them all. And yet I am studying science and not theatre. That which captures me and sends me into trance.

Thanks CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education, India), thanks teachers, for teaching me that an ideal life is one lived working in a company as an engineer, getting good grades and getting a good job. That what I had learnt was for grades and not for the pleasure of learning. That knowledge was there to be applied on paper in tests, and not in life.

You’ve made a career out of a life! And yet as I write this today, you certainly have failed to extinguish the fire, the realization that probably all that i’ve done methodically wasn’t the best way, that I could still mend things.

We’ll see…

Drink me up hearties!!! Savvy???


2 thoughts on “Teaching.. a Noble and a powerful profession

  1. Exactly!

    That has been my constant complaint as well. What are those people supposed to do – who cannot rote learn or be math whizzes? In the education system that I have grown up with, the importance to academics has been overwhelming and in so many ways, demotivating.

    We had a similar system here – the students were called ‘Prefects’ who – owing to their superior rote and vomit skills were made the shining beacons of light in classrooms – and were supposed to be examples other children should follow. It didn’t matter whether you were a pro at glass painting, or that you had won the 100 metre race for five years in row or that you could sing like a dream. You’d never be a Prefect. Unless you received approximately 90% in all your academics.

    At PTMs, never would my class teacher say to my Mum that she’s smart or funny or creative or represented the school in swimming competitions bringing much pride to the school or the fact that I did such a good job being a part of the Sound of Music play for the annual day. All they’d say is that her Math is poor and she can do much better.

    But, leaving the ranting aside – I’m glad we’ve all managed to partially identify what we love and find time/will find time to pursue what we’re really good at. That’s what is really important.

  2. yes.. exactly.. But i’m not sure how it is in other countries.. and far as identifying what we love is concerned.. yes we have.. only it’s now a hobby than a full time thing.. and probably somewhere that dissatisfaction will remain..
    We still have time.. 🙂

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