It was during my junior year in high school. I was leading a class as a monitor—one of the activities of our high achievers. And I did not have their full support—in maintaining silence; even I wasn’t silent! One day our class-teacher who passed that way stopped by and asked for the list of students whom I have “observed” to have-spoken during that period, and I presented one. As the teacher was ordering out punishments for the students in the list, he was astounded to see my name as one in it. When he enquired, I politely said even I had spoken to a couple of friends even though they were only murmurs! Then the teacher hugged me and said, “You know, you’d become a great human being. I think you'd make a very good teacher. In fact, I think you'd be better than the teacher.”
The Decision To Teach
So when I was in standard eight, I decided to become a teacher. I think I can make the greatest difference that way, by helping students make the transition from simple to a great human being. I think I can help these students by instilling positive values and by helping them to set (and achieve) their goals.
Every time my students get excited about learning something new, I see sparks shooting from their eyes. And though I could fill a book with everything I have to say about the rewards of teaching, and the chance to do something meaningful and fulfilling with my life, whenever I'm asked why I became a teacher, that's always the first and best thing that comes to mind. The sparks.
Passion For Learning
Even though I did not start out to be a teacher, I have always had some affinity for teaching and a passion for learning. In the schools where I began my schooling, I had excellent teachers—wonderful individuals who loved to teach and challenge as they passed the torch of knowledge to us, their students. To this day, any time a teacher in that school enters a classroom, all of the students stand up, out of respect for el maestro. I knew, back then, that someday I would become one too.
Although my grandfather had served as a teacher, all I heard were words of discouragement. My father often quote, "Those who can, does, those who can't, teach," and "...but Ramjee, you can do better than that." The little flame, which loves for sharing, didn't die, but it burned like an ember in the background. I felt like an island, totally disconnected, fearful and yet hopeful that someday I would have the courage to go for it, no matter what anyone said or thought.
On To Teaching
One evening after a dreadful, boring day at work, I was reading a newspaper and saw an advertisement from a School in Gujarat, called Recruiting New Teachers flash on bold. An inner voice asked me to "reach for the power to wake up young minds. Teach!" I know it sounds crazy, but from that moment on I knew what to do.
Teaching is the best job I've ever had. As one of just few environmental biologist in the school, I created niche of my own for the out-door education programmes in the school, and organized more three-dozen out-door camps and tours, that were as rewarding for me as it was for my students.
The Best of Both Worlds
I truly have had the best of both worlds: a good school system that supports its teachers (at least those who stand up for what they need in order to teach well), and a chance to make a difference in the lives of young people. I have had the opportunity to return to education what I received from my own teachers and mentors.
It's not easy work. In fact, I will say that it is the most challenging work I have ever done. I have to be there with my students in body and soul, day in and day out. It can be draining, and it can sometimes seem like a battleground.
But how do I feel at the end of each day? I feel proud of my students. I feel more knowledgeable about living, teaching, and learning. I feel lucky to be a teacher. I feel...full of sparks.
Today, I walk with a plan to initiate a series of schools that will serve as a prototype—to lay a foundation for change in our Country’s Education Philosophy.
A sad news story, on the State of Indian School Education that I got to read recently!