A good teacher inspires and influences. And never stops teaching or learning! This Teacher’s Day, veteran teachers share their life lessons and insights in a letter to students everywhere.
By Divya Sreedharan
"Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, calibre, and future of an individual. If people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honour for me." — A P J Abdul Kalam
A good teacher teaches, but a great teacher transforms — both the subject and the student. For Kozhikhode-based retired college professor Radha Nair, a wonderful English teacher in school inculcated in her a lifelong love for English literature and Shakespeare.
For Coonoor-based former high school teacher, Lakshmi Sadanand, an inspiring Geography teacher in school brought a dry subject to life. “I still remember that she taught us a mnemonic to remember what a Mediterranean climate is. The mnemonic is W6: warm, wet winters with westerly winds!”
The two veteran teachers share what they learnt from their teachers and what they would like students everywhere to know.
Teacher’s Day is here. As you all know, it commemorates and honours the life of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India. Dr Radhakrishnan was a philosopher, scholar-politician, who was also a dedicated teacher. He worked tirelessly to improve the field of education in India. And it is his birth anniversary on September 5, that is celebrated as Teacher’s Day.
But ask yourselves, what makes a good teacher? Do you only meet teachers in school, or college or university? But it is possible that, as you grow into adulthood, a friend may influence you and your choices. Later in life, you may find that colleagues and co-workers, can become mentors and guides. So, know there are different kind of teachers. What is important here is that, as students, you need to be open to learning.
The first teachers: We know that anyone can be a teacher. In fact, have you realised that parents are the very first teachers? The home is where you learn to walk, talk, eat, and interact with others — these are the first skills that you learn by observing and watching your parents. They impart life lessons every day. You absorb and imbibe values and qualities from them. They teach you to be tolerant, stand up for your beliefs and face obstacles boldly. Always remember that parents play a vital role in your life.
Love for learning: While parents do instil a love for reading and knowledge, it is in school that your love for learning flourishes. A good teacher leaves a lasting impression on students. She conveys her deep love for her subject. Remember, a good teacher doesn’t just read from a text book; she interacts with the students, breathes life into the subject. So that students too want to learn and know more.
Communicate clearly: A teacher must know his subject but it is equally important to be able to communicate with his students. There must be clarity in thought too. He must be thoroughly prepared and have in-depth knowledge. However, a good teacher does not merely teach, he also tests and challenges his students.
Compassion, patience, and a sense of humour: A good teacher needs to be compassionate and courageous. She also needs to be patient and persistent. For, not all students can grasp a subject easily, some may take a little more time or need extra help in understanding something. Also, a good teacher needs a strong sense of humour. Dealing with mischievous students, day in and day out can be extremely tiring so, teachers need a sense of humour to get through the day!
Self-evaluation: A good teacher needs to be open to suggestions. He cannot be dictatorial, rather he must be open to self-evaluation. He cannot be autocratic and insist that he is right, always. He must be democratic and listen to the students too. In fact, a good teacher doesn’t just teach, he also learns from his students.
Question your teachers: Teaching methods have changed, teachers have changed. So, you as students need to change too. In our day, teachers explained, and we students took notes. Today, don’t just accept what is being taught or told to you; analyse, think critically and, ask questions. Open your mind. This is especially important at the high school and college level where you are beginning to form your own opinion and world view.
Learn languages: We Indians have an inherent skill for languages. That is because it is natural for most of us to speak several languages — at home, you learn or speak in your mother tongue, at school, you learn the language that is the medium of instruction. Then, you end up studying second and third languages as well. Many students dislike learning languages. But remember, learning an extra language is good for your brain. It keeps your brain elastic and helps it evolve. This will become especially important as you grow older.
Be well-informed: It is said that students are nation-builders. But, this also means you must be keenly aware of what is happening around you. So, be well-informed. Don’t be passive, be proactive. So that you can all together work towards building an India where all citizens are equal and have equal rights.
Use your mind... and hands: As students, you are always asked to apply your mind. We urge you to use your hands too. But that does not mean you must spend time texting, messaging or posting on social media using smartphones! No, it means that you must also embrace art and craft, write letters, do handicraft, gardening, or embroidery — all of which are dying out, today.
Develop inter-personal skills: As you grow into adulthood, you will realise the importance of developing inter-personal skills. You will learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with the opposite gender. Be respectful and not regressive, in your approach or behaviour. Also, you need to be responsive and responsible in your actions. Similarly, in your day-to-day life, learn how to recognise cues, how to respond to and respect another’s views.
Dear students, we have been teachers all our lives, but we have also learnt from life and from you, our students. So, keep an open mind and have an open heart. And always, have the ability to learn from life — every day and in every way.
Wishing you every success in life
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