Education & Career Relationship & Lifestyle Special Feature

A True Teacher is a Beacon of Light, Dispelling Darkness of Ignorance

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A teacher not only imparts gyan or information but also imparts knowledge and life skills to the student. It is said that a teacher is a motivator, an influencer, a role model for some and an icon to be emulated by others. This makes a teacher a catalyst, shaping the characters of the students, opines Navodita, in the special feature, exclusively in Different Truths.

Teachers’ Day for me dates back to the school times when we were very young and education was almost taken for granted. I began to value it only when I began going for community service to the school for the visually handicapped and the deprived children close by and saw them struggling with different problems they had. Every time I came back from such places, I always thanked God for giving me the life he did where I was able to attend school and enjoy the happy childhood with friends, parents, and teachers.

Of course, we were told very early in life that Teachers’ Day is celebrated as it is the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a noted scholar of comparative religion and philosophy besides being the first Vice-President of India and second President of India. Radhakrishnan believed that ‘the teachers should be the best minds in the country’.  He constantly propagated his worldview of Advaita Vedanta, which he interpreted in a contemporary understanding. He reinterpreted Shankara’s notion of ‘Maya’. According to him, ‘Maya’ is a subjective misperception of the world as ultimately ‘real.’

He even gave special importance to the role of ‘intuition’ or ‘anubhava’ in his philosophy, which implies ‘religious experience’. Influenced by several thinkers including William James, Francis Herbert Bradley, Henri Bergson, Friedrich von Hugel and Swami Vivekananda, Dr. Radhakrishnan had a strong opinion about the importance of intuitive thinking as opposed to the intellectual form of thought. He discerns and writes about five kinds of experiences: cognitive, which includes sense experience, discursive reasoning, intuitive apprehension, psychic experience, aesthetic experience, ethical experience and religious experience. It is indeed a moment of pride to celebrate this day as Teachers’ Day to commemorate Dr. Radhakrishnan’s birthday. However, World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on October 5. The meanings of a teacher, of course, remains universally true – givers of knowledge.

A teacher not only imparts gyan or information but also imparts knowledge and life skills to the student. It is said that a teacher is a motivator, an influencer, a role model for some and an icon to be emulated by others. This makes a teacher more responsible. Others believe that a teacher is like a catalyst, who brings about the necessary change in a person. The task has to be done by the student himself. A teacher should think that her or his role is limited to being a disseminator of information about only a particular subject. No, not at all. A teacher illuminates the way of life and can grant a sense of direction and guidance to an individual.

Even today, when you hear about incidents of teachers beating young students in class with a stick, a shiver runs down my spine. There are other problems, too, that rural schools and education in rural areas are struggling with. There are problems related to teacher attendance, teacher competence and coordination between teachers themselves. At the college level, education and the pattern of teaching go through a sea change for the students. Students are left freer to make decisions, deal independently with their curriculum and pattern of self-studying. However, at times it is felt that the management in colleges views students as customers and teachers as commodities, who have to deliver the product called ‘education’. It is here that education and its quality suffers a setback. Is the idea in colleges to get maximum admissions or to impart the best possible education to students so that even the weakest student who has taken admission feels that he or she has improved after studying in that college? The effort should still be on to impart good education and have feedback forms filled by students to assess teachers’ performances even at the college level. Only then can the quality of teaching be improved. There should also be faculty development programmes from time to time. Besides these usual struggles, a teacher often has to grapple with other behavioural issues as well. Several movies have been made on the role of teachers – both in Hollywood and Bollywood.

Parichay, a 1972-movie, starring Jitendra and Jaya Bhaduri, directed by Gulzar is about misunderstandings between a grandfather and his five grandchildren and how a young tutor (Ravi) sets things right. Ravi, an unemployed young man, starts to tutor five young kids who have made every previous tutor run away with their mischievous deeds. They try to show similar stunts on Ravi, too. However, he takes them lightly and praises them before their aunt, which gradually transforms them and they willingly learn from Ravi. 

Similarly, To Sir with Love, a 1967-British drama film directed by James Clavell, starring Sidney Poitier, is about a young unemployed man who gets a teaching position at a secondary school in the east of London. It deals with social and racial issues in a school where Mark Thackeray, a black from California, finds himself dealing with dropouts from other schools who misbehave and have caused previous teachers to run away. The movie depicts very well how he deals with certain adults issues with a calm appearance and wins the pupils over. It is based on a novel by the same name written by E.R. Braithwaite. 

In modern-day cinema, there have been movies like 3 Idiots directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Vibhu Vinod Chopra, which is set in an engineering college. The story revolves around three students and the director of the Institute, played well by Boman Irani. It popularised the character ‘Rancho’ who was witty and an intelligent student. The movie depicts well the college life where competition, marks, and a strict teacher are a part of this institute. Yet another good film on the struggles of a teacher was ‘The Class’, a 2008 French film, directed by Laurent Cantet, based on a French-language teacher struggling with a group of ‘problem children’. The film stars Francois Begaudeau, author of the same novel, playing the role of the teacher.

Teachers thus have played a significant role in all our lives. We make our decisions in life based on counseling provided by teachers who also guide us and assist us in our endeavours. It has rightly been said about a teacher or Guru by the saint poet Kabir, “Guru, Gobind Doi Khade, Kaake Laagoon Paaon, Balihari Guru Aapno, Govind Diyo Dikhaye.” If Guru and God, both stand before me (at the same time), I would prostrate before the Guru, who showed me the Light (way) to God. The teacher is truly a beacon in the darkness, a light in ignorance and a hope in distress. It will be good if we can follow these ideas, instead of just following the modern-day rule of information-givers to students. Then half our task would have been accomplished.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the Internet

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