The infinite curiosity of children can make learners out of teachers.
In a few months' time, I shall be writing "finis" to the last chapter of my life as a teacher. As I look back and take stock of my 20-odd years in the teaching profession, I realise how enriching, how rewarding it has all been. What a rich harvest I've had, what a vast ocean of love and esteem I've been steeped in. While the outside world was being torn asunder by strife, we inside the school have been forging bonds of undying love and regard. Many of my students dating back even to 20 years still keep in touch jubilant about their achievements, depressed about some setback or just plain "I was passing this way, so just dropped in... "
Being a teacher is an extremely stimulating experience, especially if you teach the younger ones. Their curiosity, their searching questions often show up the gaps in your own knowledge and can jog you into viewing things from totally different angles:
"If in winter, the whole of Greenland is covered with ice and the ocean is frozen, how do people know where land ends and ocean begins?"
"During high tide, is there a big hollow deep inside the ocean?"
"You say the sun's rays push the comet's tail and that's why the tail is always directed away from the sun. Then why doesn't the tail get pushed off altogether? The sun is so powerful... "
"You say all living beings die. What about the amoeba? It goes on splitting and splitting... when does it die? Or doesn't it?"
How can I forget my own sense of inadequacy when I tried answering these and other similar questions? How can I forget the enthusiasm and sense of wonder that I saw mirrored in their shining eager eyes? How can I forget my Fifth standard students who dragged me to a remote corner of the campus to show me an "albino" neem sapling they had discovered and wondered, "Without chlorophyll how will they prepare food?" Or the class on simple machines as I encouraged them to speculate on what could have prompted various inventions, their imagination took wings and one student came up with the very plausible idea that the nail cutter must have been invented by a habitual nail-biter.
Teaching English has not been as rewarding or stimulating as teaching science, but it also had its moments. Though many a time I have been confronted with questions on why English was so illogical, I was occasionally rewarded with some brilliant and beautiful pieces of creative writing. Imagine my joy in having a student who could quote reams from Richard Bach or could wax eloquent over a Stefan Zweig or an Ayn Rand book. Think what rapture it is to read the last sentence of an essay on "The value of humour in life" as "Life without humour is like a black and white photograph of a rainbow." Or take this while correcting answer scripts you suddenly come across a line like this in an answer for a question on O. Henry's "Last Leaf" "Behrman's ivy leaf may not be Michael Angelo's "Last Supper" or Leonardo's "Mona Lisa", but it saved a life and hence is a masterpiece." Answers like these relieved the tedium of the gruelling hours spent in correction work.
The list of joys I have experienced and the lessons I've learnt goes on... But I would like to say that more than from teachers, it is from my students that I have learned. They have taught me invaluable lessons in life to see the good in everyone, never to underestimate anyone, never to hold a grudge, to smile even when your heart is breaking... and for all this and much more, my dear students, here is a big thank you from the bottom of my heart...
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