Ideal Educators

Teaching without dedication does not a teacher make, says Uma Purkayastha

By Uma Purkayastha

There are teachers and there are teachers. But true teachers are quite rare.

High qualifications, prestigious degrees or a long teaching experience do not make a true teacher. Such a teacher is one who is dedicated to teaching the children as much as he or she knows, even going out of the way to make even the slowest of learners fathom what is being taught. His or her objective is to train tender minds and teach them accordingly, not by applying force or instilling fear or picking their faults but by arousing interest in their minds through humour and a pleasant demeanour. A true teacher cannot be rude and cruel to a student perceived to be dull and try to beat some “intelligence” into them.

True teachers treat the students as their own children or siblings, but with a strict commanding voice and with a parental heart at the same time. Such teachers should admit their inabilities when they fail to make the children understand the topic at hand. They try to gauge the grasping power of children, read their minds, and understand their likes and dislikes to make learning lively and effective.

Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of India (1962-1967), whose birthday on September 5 is observed as Teacher’s Day, said: “No subject is dull or hard if the teacher is not dull or hard. Our educational institutions are devoid of all cheers and joy; whatever a teacher does must be with a song in his heart to rejoice in the noble mission of teaching.”

Swami Vivekananda said, ‘‘The only true teacher is he who can immediately come down to the level of the student, and transfer his soul to the student’s soul and see through the student’s eye and hear through his ear, and understand through his mind. Such a teacher can really teach; and none else!  Without real sympathy, a teacher can never teach well and claim to be a perfect teacher.”

Poet-philosopher and educational reformer, Rabindranath Tagore echoed the same from the bitter experience of his own primary schooling, and said: “So long the teachers cannot create a joyful eagerness in the students’ minds, teaching will be unsuccessful, and it will be only the imposition of some subjects on the children’s brain which will never help them in their mental development.”

So, true teachers must make the teaching atmosphere joyous to attract the students, and inspire them to be inquisitive to know something new. If one is unable to touch the hearts of the students, one cannot be a good teacher.

The children come to school to learn, and it is very much natural for them to be imperfect at every step because of their immaturity. The practice of punishing the children is meant to awaken a realisation that they are at fault and need rectification for their moral development, but it usually leads to their moral death. In the name of punishment, a teacher should not be aggressive. We find most teachers resorting to loud scolding and merciless beating. Such methods may push a handful of students to the top but could have a blunting effect on many others and increase the number of school dropouts and child criminals.

The educational reformers, from time to time, have raised their voices against such punishment and explained how the children suffer from fear psychosis, and avoid going to school because of scornful and deprecatory comments and punishment from the teachers, which they helplessly digest in school but suffer quietly within.

Very good results and excellent performances in the exams are not at all the yardstick for measuring a true teacher’s performance. Such a teacher does not hanker after good performances only; his or her aim is to mould a child morally and socially to be a perfect citizen of the country. Many a brilliant student proved a very nominal performer in the country whereas those marked as mediocre have excelled. Morality is the main resource of their progress and advancement. And this is a true teacher’s success.

But what do the teachers get in return? Only praise and recognition? Each and every private school teacher is suffering from a financial crisis after retirement from service. Many of them prove to be true teachers. They dedicate their services to grooming the children perfectly. But the lack of financial security – unless they are from a well-to-do family – invariably affects them after retirement. Some are known to have been driven to penury, awaiting death.

Should not such teachers behind the architects, physicians, engineers, doctors, bureaucrats and politicians be entitled to free medical treatment and a decent subsistence allowance? This is something the government should think about as India celebrates another Teacher’s Day.

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