Having spent half a decade in teaching profession, I had the opportunity to work and interact with the most unfortunate fraternity of the most powerful, yet the most helpless souls on earth – teachers – and yes, I was one of them.
I am calling teachers the most powerful souls because they shape a country’s future, by nurturing its potential resources – students. But, why am I calling them helpless? You will get to know in the next 3 minutes of reading this post.
Year 2003: A woman, in her early thirties or late forties, wakes up at 4 am. Cooks lunch for her old in-laws, husband, and children. She packs everyone’s lunchbox, including hers. Makes breakfast at 6:30 am and feeds her school going kids and her husband at 8 am; sends them off to work and school. Then, breathlessly gets ready to rush to work (misses her own breakfast in the rush to reach school early, before the school assembly starts, and to avoid the nasty yelling of the school Principal).
Reaches school at 8:45 am, almost discharging all her energies all the way enters the classroom, comprising 45 teenaged students. Tries to calm a noisy class, fearing the Principal and other teachers might consider her incapable of managing a class.
Then, she starts the class. Forgets all her stress she has undergone since morning. She teaches her students with all her efforts and abilities. Tries her best that she communicates well, and her students understand what she is explaining.
She spends all day doing this. In the end of the month, she is paid a meager 2500 to 5000 bucks. But she doesn’t mind! She loves her work of interacting with students – guiding them – being their friend, psychologist, and parent – performing multiple roles.
There is no scope for promotion and no hopes of a good pay. Because there is no performance management process in place. But, she strives hard to do her best.
During this journey of being a teacher, some students leave a mark on her mind and heart, by their abilities to do better – in academics, sports, or cultural activities. She gets closer to these kinds of students. In the process, she never forgets others. She tries to find talent in others – because she believes each student is blessed with a unique quality. At times, she is successful in doing this, at times is not.
But, she never gives up! In Creative Thinking classes, or in proxy classes, she makes her best efforts to interact with as many students as possible. Understand them and their issues – makes efforts to resolve them.
When her students perform well in class, she feels overjoyed. And when they don’t, she works hard to make them do well next time – encourages them to do better day by day.
On occasions, her patience gives way (not to forget that she is a human being after all!!). She slaps a student and tells him what a worthless effort it was to have expectations from him/her.
Gets back home with the burden of slapping a student, whom she is nurturing with all her care, just so she feels proud of his/her achievements, years later. For her, slapping, punishing, or admonishing a student is just like doing the same to her own child.
But the world outside – comprising the school authority, parents, and also her students for that matter, don’t think that way. Their expectations are very high – incommensurable! For them, she is super-human – an epitome of patience, knowledge, and a field of undying energies. They forget that she is a human being who is underpaid and overstressed, yet helps her students graduate from one class to another – learning concepts to concepts – developing them mentally and psychologically, preparing them to step out to the BIGGER world outside.
Imagine a time years later: She takes pride to see her students doing well in life – someone is an IIT alumnus and an engineer; someone is a doctor; someone is a Business Consultant, while someone works with an accountancy firm. For her, all are successful in their own fields. She boasts of laying the early bricks in the foundation of their career.
She is happy and content. Whenever she looks at the mirror, she doesn’t regret growing old or seeing her greying hair. Her heart brims with pride that she spent her youthful days preparing her students for their respective careers.
But, one day she is in tears. She finds a page on social media, with hate speeches against her colleagues, made by her own students. She feels helpless – ruined – devastated. She finds a couple of good comments about her. But, how does that matter?
She told herself: This is what I nurtured them for? This is what I taught them? Did I go wrong somewhere in educating them? Didn’t I tell them not to follow the blinding and injuring principle of “An eye for an eye”?!! Was my love and care – motivation and encouragement not enough that they started expecting the same from all?
I taught them to be good in all circumstances – I taught them to be kind.
Tear drops go gliding down her aging cheeks. She buries her face under her wrinkled arms, and weeps for hours.
For the first time, in years of teaching, she realizes the thanklessness of the profession. She feels forgotten and lost. She feels broken from within.