What makes a school teacher great? According to some of our educator-friends, it’s the lessons they learnt from their school teachers as young students that eventually helped them form the right values and become virtuous in their jobs.
“Without them, we’d be nothing less than mediocre,” said one of them.
Another added, “We were lucky to have studied under some great teachers during our school days who tirelessly created a safe yet challenging environment for us to learn in. The reason we still remember them is their compassion-filled attitude towards us. Today, regardless of how old we’ve grown, we aren’t able to forget them and their life lessons that we swear by.”
ScooNews compiled some of these memories these educators hold close to their heart. With this, we want to understand the kinds of ethics and beliefs that have the power to turn a person into an effective tutor, a passionate and firm community-builder, and a great leader.
Himmat Singh Dhillon, Headmaster, The Lawrence School, Sanawar
Mr Bhupinder Singh was our Deputy Headmaster. He was in charge of the school parade at Founders and made sure that it was as good as that of any military unit. He watched over each rehearsal with the eye of an eagle and would catch and check the tiniest error.
He taught History but by the time I became a senior, he had ceased taking classes. However, I did win the Hodson Horse Prize for History. Such was his inspirational influence! In fact, he had a genuine talent for dramatics as well and we looked forward to seeing him perform on the stage during the annual staff productions.
Talking about his qualities, I found him a strict disciplinarian who would tick off anyone who was not in order. Every day, he would take his first round when we lined up before P.T. at 0630 hours to inspect our uniforms. Having said that, he was also one of the most kind-hearted and compassionate human beings I’ve ever come across. You could count on him when the chips were down.
He taught me how to go above and beyond and to serve selflessly and wholeheartedly. It was clear that he was not doing a job but was, in fact, fulfilling a call that emanated from a higher power. He taught us to be empathetic and follow the righteous path without any fear or favour.
He will always be remembered as the grand old man of Sanawar, the stuff that legends are made of! He personified dedication, integrity and devotion to duty. He taught us, by being an exemplar of exemplary character, integrity, values and leadership.
Dr Jagpreet Singh, Headmaster, The Punjab Public School, Nabha
My fondest memories of being in awe of Mr Javed Khan, my Biology Teacher in School, comes alive as I have another opportunity to express my gratitude to my GURU. His strong virtues of living life with utmost gratitude and humility are etched in my breath and soul. These two core ingredients are definitely instrumental in shaping me as an individual, a teacher and a leader. Mr Khan, known for his simplicity, embraced everyone and chose to be in this selfless profession out of his own choice. I try to echo his teachings and impart them to the next iGeneration leaders. Thank you, Sir, for making us what we are today. We owe it to you.
Madhav Deo Saraswat, Principal, The Scindia School, Gwalior
Both my late grandfather and father were inspiring teachers and had a very strong influence on me. Qualities like courage, selfless service and frugality came from my grandfather, Pt Ramkrishna Shastri. He taught me Sanskrit and also inspired me to be a teacher, not by words but through his life.
On the other hand, I learned tenacity and determination from my father, Dr Vishnu Deo Sharma, a teacher and administrator. He taught me Hindi and English. Under his guidance, I learned to balance education and administration.
Both these great personalities etched the art of perseverance in me as an educator. While my grandfather kept teaching his students until the last breath, my father, being equally driven, continues to teach at the age of 85. He, in fact, built charity schools in his late father’s memory.
The reason why my two brothers and I could passionately immerse ourselves in the education field is because of how our elders led the path for us. If I can be half of what they collectively were then that will be an achievement in itself.
Neeta Bali, Director-Principal and Head, GD Goenka World School, Gurugram
They say the influence of a teacher lasts an eternity. You can never tell where it stops. Rightly so, as not merely does the teacher impart subject knowledge but he or she shapes or breaks a human being. Often, a remark made casually or mindfully, leaves an indelible impression on the psyche of the young student. None of us is exceptions as each of us carries memories, pleasant or unpleasant, from our school days.
When I look back, I can recall vividly how my teacher of English in the middle school nurtured the love of language in me. As she would sail into class, she would exude certain energy, warmth, and enthusiasm, which was contagious and would force students to sit up, beating the mid-day inertia. She would teach with an unmatched passion, ensuring no one in the class felt left out.
No one escaped her attention, however hard they tried to evade! In a bid to impress her, I decided to use all the highfalutin words I knew, stringing them together very painstakingly in an essay I wrote for homework. She promptly corrected the notebooks. This time around, she finished distributing and called out to return my work in the end. Much to my chagrin, the essay was spotted with numberless red marks. She had made elaborate remarks, explaining the correct meaning and right context of each pompous expression used by me. The disappointment was writ large on my face. Before I knew, she declared to the class that I used excellent vocabulary to express myself. Very gently, with eyes brimming with kindness, she remarked that one day I would make a great teacher of English. The statement proved prophetic - I did take up the teaching of English as my profession and have loved teaching for the last thirty-five years.
She not just taught me the value of kindness and empathy but made me realize the power a teacher wields over young minds. This power and influence must be used very judiciously by the teacher, lest it kills creativity and freedom to express.
Nishi Misra, Principal, Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior
I studied in a convent school in Nainital, Uttarakhand. The values that the nuns constantly drilled in us are as relevant today as they were then. I guess that is why values are universal and timeless.
I particularly remember Sister Hermine who constantly reminded us to have "the courage of conviction.” Sister Josephine, another teacher, always insisted that we "own up" and take the responsibility of whatever happens in our life.
This indoctrination in my childhood shows up in my work today as I find myself leading the students in my charge on the road less travelled. I always tell them to keep the faith and shed the fear because the two cannot co-exist.
Rita Singh, Director, Indirapuram Group of Institutions, Ghaziabad
Back when I was in class 11th, I went on a school trip. Our class teacher had to plan it and put it up to the Principal. In our desperation, we thought she was taking forever. After having repeatedly nagged for the same, she finally tasked us with planning the trip. A few of us council members started planning, and we had no clue. A lot of issues kept popping up and it seemed like an overwhelming amount of work. We kept running to the teacher and she kept dismissing our doubts with a simple "Of course it's doable. Go and think of something. I will be right there.”
Subsequently, we went to her a few more times to ask for advice, and each time she would give us a singular hint or an aspect we may have missed. A few days later, we had made a plan just in time. While it seemed to us that we'd done it all by ourselves, each of her nudges had been instrumental in us forming a plan ourselves.
When it was time to take the Principal's approval, she took the entire team of curators with her. Her words still ring in my ears when she announced with pride, "Sir, I have these students who have charted out a wonderful plan for the school trip! Over, to you, Rita". Suddenly, this Rita was more confident, more sure of herself. This is where I realised the value of a teaching style that enables the learner to solve problems on their own, with just enough mentorship and maximum freedom to the learner. Also, I realised how important it is to give credit to people's accomplishments. I learnt the power of delegation and collaboration. In one stroke, I learnt multiple things. May your tribe increase, Mrs Kadri.
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