Teacher's Day

(From Public Domain Pictures)

Teachers Day bring so many memories, good and bad.

Some good memories:

The last week in class 5, the top grade in my primary school.  We had assembled in a classroom.  It was customary for the headmaster to give us a pep talk in that assembly.; he was our maths teacher as well.  We were two in our class competing for the top position, myself and a boy, and it depended on who scored top in maths.   The headmaster would also make mention of the academic excellence on that occasion.  And he mentioned his disappointments in the learner's poor performances, then concluded his happiness in one learner who scored 100 %, that was me.  Whenever I think of teachers, the incident dawns on my memory.  

Years pass on

I joined the master's degree course at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.  The orientation was for a week. On the first day, our professor told us, we should address each other by the first name.  I got a shock coming from a culture calling teachers names was the worst form of disrespect. 

When I started alphabet learning as a child, I was asked to touch my guru's feet to get his blessings.  As part of the ceremony, I submitted an auspicious gift to him, a ripe areca nut and coins wrapped in a betel leaf. I was three, my guru in his eighties.   He told me, for regular lessons, I should attend his institute.  I was looking forward to that.

The guru's institute was a thatched open shed in the middle of a wilderness.  As the tiny tots in my batch joined him in his institute, we realized he was a real terror.  Canes of different thickness and malleability, he kept behind his low stool.  Every time a toddler failed to get the hang of writing an alphabet, he pulled a cane from behind his stool and thrashed him across his back, legs, or palm.  I didn't have trouble writing the alphabet, so he spared the rod for me.  I hated even to see his shadow.  Every day I reached home after lessons, I daydreamed, thrashing him across his body until he cried aloud. It would sound a joke now, though a classic example of how gurus had terrorised young minds.

In my school and college days, I found teachers, a few created lasting impressions in me, the rest came and went.  

I was also a teacher, don't know how many of my learners think high or low about me.  Teaching is a tough task of nation-building, depends on the culture, school ethos, facilities available, etc.

That kind of learner-teacher relationship had deeply influenced me.  As a student, I never felt free to question the autocratic authority of teachers, called them 'sir' in a humble and appealing tone.  And that culture restrained me from addressing the professor by his first name.  I learned none of my colleagues had faced that dilemma.

I decided to shed off my inhibition and adopted the new freedom.  I compared the two cultures.  The rituals only don't create true respect in any learner. It's a natural feeling to reciprocate the love, care, and respect you get.  You can only respect a person who loves you, care for you, and is willing to try to elevate you.  It was that kind of respect I had for my professor. 

Today is September 5, the national teacher's day.  My message to teachers out there is, come to the level of your learners, take their love and respect, giving them the same, which you will not get by making them touch your feet.     


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