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THE CIRCLE OF TEACHING

Thursday, September 14, 2017

They care, they entertain, they inspire. And they teach us a thing or two along the way. The Mumbai Mix Team speaks to teachers about the gurus who have inspired them to become who they are

As the city geared up for the final day of Ganpati visarjan last week, we may have forgotten about our guides, our inspiration and our idols— our teachers. When it comes to teaching, we’ve probably all ‘been there’, but we can’t say we’ve ‘done that’. The noblest of professions, being a teacher is more a calling than a job. No matter how far we’ve come or how much we’ve accomplished, there’s no ignoring that our teachers have had something to do with where we are today. But, even the best teachers have, at some point, been students. In the words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” So, we ask teachers from the city to look back and share with us how their favourite teachers have inspired them. 

Lasting impressions

Teachers leave imprints on your mind like footprints in the sand. Their teaching inspires, motivates and moulds your thoughts and actions. The one who laid the foundation for my teaching of English Literature is Dr. Mitra Parikh, HOD PG Department of English at SNDT University, who taught me during my M.A. days back in the ’90s and through my M. Phil. degree, and who is now my guide as I pursue my Ph.D. in Literature. Her greatest quality lies in not just doling out textbook knowledge, but bringing discussion, debate and dialogue into the classroom. She remains a mentor and catalyst to a multitude of students as they acquire various degrees in English Literature. Added to her profound knowledge of literature is her very intellectual sense of humour, which always lightened the mood in the classroom. 

– Celina Fernandes, professor at Jai Hind College

Sweet endings

At every crossroad, I found a mentor in a teacher who led me to do better things. However, the earliest and fondest memory of a teacher who made me smile was Mrs. Ratna Soans, my second grade teacher. I remember on my birthday when I was distributing chocolates in class, she accompanied me to each bench to help me as I would keep dropping the chocolates. By the end of the day, when I gave her a Dairy Milk chocolate bar, she made me eat most of it. Then, with one of her sweetest smiles, she kissed me on my cheek. That remains one of the most cherished moments that I’ve shared with a teacher.

– Naziya Khan, mass media faculty at various city colleges

Life is the best teacher

A teacher I remember dearly is Mrs. Roy. One day, she walked into my classroom and started narrating a story from the pages of a history book. Perhaps that was the moment I realised that I want to teach just like her. It changed my life! My favourite part about being a teacher is when ten or twelve years later, a charming adult stands before you with a smile and says, “YOU taught me.” A piece of advice I’d want my students to remember for life is that you should always value your time. Every hour, every minute, every second — that’s the way to live life.”

– Sudha Kodange, secondary school teacher at Swami Vivekanand International School

A Dash of magic

Dr. Ranade taught us that in order to stay relevant, unlearning is as important as learning. Interestingly, he is also the best student I have ever known. Not just curious but also diligent, he sets very high standards for himself and, in the process, for his students as well. It is not every day that you find yourself competing with your teacher instead of your classmates. I remember Dr. Ranade did not sign my dissertation till about four days before the submission. Whenever I went to him asking what was wrong, he would simply reply with, “Think! It’s right there.” I was freaking out because everyone else was done printing and spiral binding their copies and here I was still waiting for my final full stop, till one day, I thought I had figured it out and went to him. When I narrated my newfound conclusion, he replied nonchalantly, “I told you it was right there.” And then, I experienced it — the joy, the pure bliss of doing something all by yourself. I also realised that a teacher’s job is not to hand-hold you; it’s to let you know where you’re supposed to go. It is then your job to get there, by yourself, because the fun is in the journey. A good teacher knows that his students will learn only when they do it. Quite like what Dumbledore did at Hogwarts, no?

– Prateek Singh, copywriter and visiting faculty at various city colleges

Learning every step of the way

To be honest, the decision to become a teacher wasn’t purely because of a single teacher; it was due to a combination of factors. It wasn’t until my Masters that I wanted to teach. Certain experiences in the industry, combined with the influence of a few teachers, led to the decision. It impressed me how the teachers at my college back in Delhi University were extremely well read. More importantly, each had their own point of view and perspective. Also, the kind of influence they had on us, in terms of bringing discipline, adhering to deadlines and pushing us out of our comfort zone, made me feel that this is one profession through which a person can shape another’s life, and that’s such an empowering thing.

– Dr. Rommani Sen Shitak, assistant professor at a city college

Goodness personified

The teacher who changed my life was, serendipitously, my science teacher, Mrs. Amla Stanley. She had this unexplained faith in me that galvanised me as a student. She taught me how to look at even the smallest thing and learn from it. What she taught me stuck with me through high school and beyond. At a point in my life when I didn’t have a lot of guidance or positive role models, she taught me a lot more than science; she taught me the power of simplicity and discipline. I learned so much from her and got a more personalised experience due to her lively and helpful nature. I consider myself lucky to have had such an inspiring teacher who encouraged me and made me feel special.

– Amrit Kaur Bansal, secondary school teacher at DAV Public school

Kindness of manner

I am of the firm belief that if there’s anyone who is in a position to bring positive change into the world every day, it is a teacher. In the classroom, when the teacher asked a question, I would never raise my hand because I would worry that I was wrong. All this changed in college when I met Dr. Indira Ghosh, who was my professor at Daulta Ram College, at Delhi University. I still don’t know how she did it, but in the kindness of her manner — she would ask a question and then look directly at me as if to say, “Go on, speak up. If you’re wrong, that’s fine.” — she made me feel confident. It’s not that I started to believe I always had the right answers; instead I came to see that not knowing the right answers wasn’t such a bad thing. From Dr. Ghosh, I learnt to feel more confident and comfortable. It was due to her guidance and support that I received the Best Student Award. Even now, 23 years after I have graduated from the college, she is a pillar of strength and her appreciation gives me fuel to inspire my own students.

– Vibha Singh, journalist, social worker and visiting faculty at various city colleges

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