“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” –Socrates
Teaching as a profession is majorly misunderstood as a one way traffic opportunity. In changing times what conquers the learning space is a learner centric attitude in schools. Where ideas are exchanged between individuals with different abilities, intellectual capacities, experience and wisdom earned in years. A teacher as a frightening figure is a thing of the past, today a teacher or an educator is a facilitating figure who lays stones on puddles of confusion and shows a path of rescue to the students. They open doors to new realms of knowledge for children to reflect and explore independently.
Being a larger than life responsibility in crafting a nation through better societies and better citizens, teaching as an occupation has not received its due respect and appreciation in our society. For that matter, teaching has become the last job preference that a middle class Indian seeks these days. In the wildest of imaginations it occurs to me that a teacher is a Promethean figure. In spite of bringing light and fire in human beings, the larger teaching community is credited with disrespect and abhorrence. Delving into the antithetical realities of it would push us into the verge of a binary, where the social conditioning has done its part well in making the situation worse for every stake holder in the game. The teachers, students, parents as well as the society. Teachers are not given enough appreciation in words or payment on one hand from the state as well as the society, on the other, the social conditioning has darkened the path for the young generation of our country to take up the job and make slight changes in our reality. As capitalism took over the world, people rushed along with time in modern society coveting vocations that provide a pocket full and a life less, competing against each other selfishly. In this rat race, what as a society we left behind was values that strengthened us as an individual. Foundations were left unappreciated and it’s importance remained in oblivion while time moved forward looking ahead not bothered to mend the breaches left behind.
Society owes a lot to the teaching community in moulding a complete individual, in its literal sense acquiring independence in economic, emotional and social aspects. Teachers are the torch bearers for the children. When they are caught young, for good in the hands of a promising moulder, there is hope for a better social life. Considering the social reality of India, there is a need for inclusivity in education. Without an unprejudiced mind in a teacher, it’s impossible to achieve that goal in the domain of education in the country. Where schools stand for a microcosm of a society itself, a teacher largely deals with a conglomeration of beliefs, ideas and customs through children every day. When the job is not done right with an open mind that accommodates differences without judgement, lays the ground for a fertile soil for empathy and compassion to grow in children with a space to accept the differences in others. The well debated topics of society need a space to settle down to reason, which is possible through the right guidance. A child is like a white canvas board. Or rather a sponge. We can fill it with bright colours or it would absorb whatever we spill over it. Those eyes have not seen the darkness of the world and what we share becomes their light for the rest of their life. A good teacher is in power to fill it with values, joy, art literature, science and faith, and a faith that allows them to reason and dissent. A teacher is an embodiment of love, care and empathy, which could act as a great medicine to many evils that prevail in society itself. When it’s done through children it’s more like planting trees for a life tomorrow. As they provide shades for a better social life in future, a hope is born for a society where the rights and equality is assured for people, limits are known, where respect is earned, justice provided and peace sustained.
India is resplendent in its diversity. Yet there are nooks and corners along the length and breadth of the country where darkness prevails. Those who live amidst poverty, illiteracy and superstitions. Those who don’t have basic amenities to sustain life. Those who have access to education don’t have access to good teachers. Thus widens the gulf of grey areas in the educational sector. All these adversely affect the social life conditions in various ways. As social, economic disparities push away opportunities for better education to children, it is creating a hazardous and unpredictable future to them. Education and quality of life have a very good connection. As we can see in the government data, (Human Development Index 2018, Census 2011) quality of life is better in high literacy states. Good education has a hand in providing a good social life. Having said that education is not a time bound process. It happens throughout life through different spheres. When the foundation is done well by the master craftsmen/women, there is hardly anything that could hamper the process. Teachers cater to this function in children so selflessly.
“Those who know do. Those who understand, teach.”
A good teacher is not born but made with continuous efforts to build knowledge and remain updated. This wisdom comes out in humble gestures towards society. The education system itself has a hand in creating a space for upcoming minds to take part in the process. A teacher is a mentor and a role model to coming generations. When materiality takes up the lion share in whetting people for most sought jobs, teaching often fails to do that. It could only be explained through the abysmal number of inspiring minds in the educational sector. For a better world, what we need is better education without a tinge of inequality. Change begins through better educators.
Neeraja Anupama is pursuing her Masters in Education from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.