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I Am Proud To Be A Teacher Because...

Lakshmi Madhusoodanan, Retired teacher

Lakshmi is a retired teacher who taught English for classes 3 to 12. She has taught in different cities of India – Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. She is the founder-Principal of an IB International school in Ahmedabad. After retirement, she continues to consult for upcoming schools and is also a teacher trainer.  


 

The word teacher always reminds me of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, whom she called the 'miracle worker'. Anne changed Helen’s life forever by holding the little one’s hands under the water pump and spelling the word w-a-t-e-r. She turned the reluctant learner into a voracious absorber of knowledge and in later years, to become a beacon of hope for the many sightless. 


Another teacher that comes to my mind is Miss Dove – the central character of Frances Gray Patton’s book ‘Good Morning, Miss Dove, made into a movie. Miss Dove comes into the profession due to sudden changes in her situation and continues to teach geography at the same school for over 30 years. It starts with her collapsing with pain – the policeman who helps her, the bank manager that helps with finances for medical care, the surgeon operating on her and several others around her are all her students. As she lies on the hospital bed, each one reminisces about their school days with her and the one thing that stands out is that more than just teaching Geography, Miss Dove had taught the valuable lessons of life and cared for each one. 


Today, more and more people are contributing to the thought that education begins where school ends. Success in life comes more to children who have been schooled with the very important new 3Rs in mind - Respect, Responsibility and Relationships. And this is where my pride in having been a teacher for over 30 years, teaching at all levels from kindergarten to grade 12, comes from. One of the very first lessons I learnt as a teacher was to teach the child and care for the child rather than a subject.  


My first day as a teacher at the school in Chennai (Madras then in 1984) was a revelation of this – to care for the children in my care. The school had one main building that housed the older children. The younger ones in the kindergarten section sat in classes that were sheds, with roofs made dried of coconut palm leaves. They just had one entrance and some slits between the leaves – no windows, no fans. In the sweltering June heat, the children sat on the floor like wilting flowers. When I walked in to teach them to recite Sanskrit shlokas, they were in no mood to listen – they set up a chorus of ‘water, water’. For a moment, I stood there – helpless. How was I even going to teach them anything? Soon, my mind was made up. I quickly gathered as many water bottles as I could and filled them up at the cooler and then went around distributing water to the thirsty little ones. Thirst quenched and a little attentive, they were ready to listen, follow and chant the Sanskrit shlokas I recited for them. The next day when I walked in, there was good cheer and joy on their faces on seeing me. We started with the water routine and then the chanting. This went on for a week and the little ones were well settled in this routine.  

  

Unfortunately, my daughter fell ill and I had to take time off for almost a fortnight. When I resumed work and went to meet the Principal, a little one hurled himself at me chanting ‘teacher, teacher’. The Principal looked at me with a quizzical smile and then told me that a little one had come to her office quite often during those days asking for a ‘white, soft teacher’! Looking at me she just realised that it was a reference to my plump figure and fair skin (by Chennai standards). It seems that the child also told her the reason for the demand! In all my years as a teacher, I have remembered this lesson that the little one taught me – to care for the child.  


A lot many of my students have gone on to achieve name and fame in various fields – sports, films, medicine, law and so on, but the one thing they have always written about me is that I cared. At the end of my career – I became the head of a school and then went on to work in the capacity of teacher trainer and consultant for upcoming schools. I was known to be a stern disciplinarian and enforcer of rules. B,ut at the same time even my grown up children, the teachers, always appreciated the fact that I was caring. Needless to say, I am proud of that achievement. 


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