We may not realize it but there are times when all we need is that knowing look, a gentle smile or an encouraging prod that enables us to reach for the skies. I have had the pleasure of knowing many, many souls who have encouraged, motivated and mentored me. Some of them were my teachers. My Maths Sir who called me his 6-star student. Acing that Maths paper and maxing it were not only a personal quest for perfection but a wait to see his delighted smile and “I knew it” look. My English teacher who pulled up a top student (me) just because I had used funky pet names in a letter. Somewhere my love for English is a tribute to her unfailing standards — just the correct pronunciation, spelling and method would suffice even as we groaned and grumbled studying Shakespeare in class.
The benevolent Chemistry professor, just a few years older than all of us youngsters in our undergraduate class; his warm smile and friendly chatter could make the worst of students study. I can still recall the Principal of my Lucknow school who on a random visit to class glanced at my Hindi book. She quickly corrected the curve of ha for me. I have always written that letter perfectly subsequently. All tiny examples of the huge impact that a teacher with compassion, knowledge and vision can make to our hearts and minds. They may move on but they live on in my memories as a source of inspiration even to this day.
Yet, these days I am encountering the other kind of teachers way too often. Some of them are not technically teachers, more like bored homemakers filling their time. This is not to demean homemakers but anyone who takes upon a profession without being trained in it. With schools mushrooming, trained teachers are hard to come by. And sometimes even the trained ones lack empathy, vision and an ability to mold as they are stuck with cobwebs of old thinking and methods. And well some are just bad teachers.
The incident I am narrating here will show you this type. My elder son, who likes to save his time from lunch break and read in the library, was disturbed since the past few days. His school librarians who used to nurture his reading habit had quit. In their place were two new librarians who wanted the place run differently. The children could no longer read in the lunch breaks. The children were only encouraged to read in the library period that they got once a week not even in free periods. And they were discouraged from borrowing more than a book per week even if they had read the one borrowed.
Well, rules are rules! So one has to abide by them. But the strange part is that the rules were something they created out of their errr hats. In the last Parent Teacher Interaction, we requested the librarian to allow my son to read as he enjoyed referencing and even reading encyclopedias. For some reason, this ticked off the librarian. She felt that the son had “complained” about her. After he had taken a Chemistry book higher than his grade to read, she even picked up the book and asked him questions to satisfy herself that he had actually read the book! She made a sour comment every time he went to borrow a book and refused to take a book back even when he had read it. She wanted him to keep it for a week. As he was preparing for a quiz, he wanted to borrow some academic books for reference. But this lady was just being rather nasty and mean to him.
After suffering enough, my husband and I decided to pay this lady a visit. I was extremely polite to her explaining that my son really enjoyed reading. I don’t see how a librarian could see some harm in a child reading more (what was more anyway?). I wanted to hear her side of the story. She said that she felt that the child could be troubling her by borrowing books on his whim and fancies. She did not want him reading reference books of 9th and 10th standards. What we failed to understand was the problem in that? Shouldn’t she be nurturing his interests in the subjects he was interested in instead of laying roadblocks for him? I even suggested that she could have discussed about his reading habit with his teachers to assure herself. My husband even told her that he did not see any harm in a child picking any subject book for reference even if they did not really understand it. Shouldn’t we all endeavor to read on things we know nothing about?
Well, she had no answers for us. She just assumed that my son was a mischief maker. That he was borrowing books to trouble her. But after our little chat, she agreed to allow him to borrow and read books.
This entire incident left me baffled. A librarian who hates children reading books and actively discourages them from reading? It is like having a beautifully kept house and not letting your children play for the fear of upsetting your perfectly kept cushions. Or not letting the child ask pesky (perceived) questions in class to satisfy his curiosity so that the chapter can be completed in time. This is a very parochial view of imparting education.
It scares me what these teachers are forcing the kids to become — passive receptors and not independent thinkers.
Are you also noticing this trend among teachers?
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