A teacher is one who teaches. Simple and true. But, there is something important beyond that. There is a line between a ‘teacher’ and a ‘good teacher’. The former imparts bookish knowledge of events and facts, which is, of course, an essential academic activity. But, the latter is the one who injects in malleable minds perennial excitement, a sense of curiosity, zest for research; where young minds shall come to apprehend life and all its aspects with exhilaration, tempered by curiosity and wonder.
A teacher must always first live his or her life as a ‘student’, with no superannuation; and, in the eye of the pupil and the public as a moving encyclopaedia. There should be ready answers to ‘why, where, how and when’.
Zenobius, in the first century BC, said, ‘He is either dead or teaching school’.
During my China tour, I questioned a guide, ‘How come your country has made rapid progress in such a short time?’ With a flood of confidence and a smile, she replied, ‘Sir, three things: Education, education and education,’ adding that ‘our leaders brought a tsunami of quality education through dedicated, committed teachers, with no compromise on quality.’
Today, let us see where our universities figure in the top 200 world-class universities. Abysmally nowhere, whereas China has a significant presence.
In a country where everyone has a presence through ‘vote power’, quality education is on the back burner — a big reason for our slow progress.
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at 17, said during an address at UNESCO, ‘One child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world.’ And, humbly, she attributed it all to her teachers, ‘for education, especially for girl child education’.
Good teaching remains in us after we have forgotten what we have read. For attaining this coveted standard, we need good teachers who do not work merely as professionals, but with passion, as all professions sprout from good teaching and learning. Einstein said, ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’ A teacher should inculcate among pupils, the dual art of ‘education for living’ and ‘educating for making a living’.
A teacher should make his or her classroom as attractive as a playground, where students love to rush in, not wanting to miss a single day!
In 1953, during my days at DAV College, Ambala, we had an English teacher, Prof Lakhanpal, who was a mediocre Urdu poet, too. Before his lecture, he used to recite one or two couplets, and translate them into English. Students never missed his class.
Once, then PM PV Narasimha Rao was on a public stage where Pt Bhimsen Joshi, the music maestro, too, was present. Rao got up and touched Joshiji’s feet. The media later asked him why he did it. He simply said, ‘He has been my music teacher.’
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