History has witnessed some great student-teacher duos, like Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya, JJ Thomson and Ernst Rutherford, Guru Dronacharya and Eklavya. Teachers have been given a special stature in all the different religions of the world. That is because teaching is a great responsibility. A teacher is someone who makes a human being. It has been rightly said that a teacher shapes a society. Islam has paid great attention to teachers for their being the first brick in the structure of social development. We can understand the highest rank of teachers from the statement of Hazrat Ali (RA): “If a person teaches me one single word, he has made me his servant for a lifetime.
Similarly, Hinduism also pays great tribute to teachers, who are referred to as gurus in Sanskrit and Hindi. The importance of a guru is extolled in the ancient texts of Hinduism. The Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.23) emphasises the importance of reverence for a guru, stating that reverence for God should be similar to that for the Guru. In the Taittiriya Upanishad (1.11.2), students are urged to treat their teacher as a god himself (acharya devobhava). The Guru Gita from the Skanda Purana equates a guru to Shiva himself.
That is history. Though if we only go a few decades back to our parents’ generation we see an entirely different teacher-student relationship. A relationship still filled with respect, but the conversation was rather stunted. There was a communication gap between the student and teacher that wasn’t addressed properly, which in turn affected the learning process of students. Teachers somewhat failed to understand the mental capacity and requirement of the student. There were also certain cases where teachers took to violence in order to instill fear in the students to make them learn and behave properly. Though the decorum of teacher was not compromised but we saw that it was very rare for a child to develop any questions or queries; he/she would just absorb it all in order to avoid a beating. However, the teachers were respected during those times.
As times progressed, teaching became more complicated for the teacher and learning became easier for the child. A teacher now has more available resources but has very limited ways to go straight to the mind of the child that is already preoccupied by other things. Beatings and mental punishments are off the chart if the teacher wants to avoid a night out at the local jail. Students have mostly developed a know-it-all mentality. As a college teacher, I often come across children who raise questions not to get their answers but to check where my concepts stand. Being a college teacher, I find students having their own academic and life issues going on and trying to get an easy way out by putting things on teachers all the time. In these times a college teacher has a greater responsibility to help the students academically as well as to get them ready for the world outside.
Every child is different. I as a teacher have to make sure if a student is relying on me for something, it’s my responsibility to make sure that he gets what his or her parents are paying for. I’ve to nurture and mentor them in such a way that they will be able to help others tomorrow. I owe it to them and to the society.
Every year we see new batches of students getting inducted in college for various courses. I am an alumnus of the same college and have been here for years. One thing that I have observed is that every new batch has a different level of frankness with the teachers that the previous batch didn’t have. Though it’s not completely wrong but I have to point out that it doesn’t matter how hard a teacher tries not to prioritise any particular student, we see that certain students with excellent communication skills get closer to the teachers, and usually get certain benefits that differentiates them from the various other students which in the long run becomes unfair to other students. As much as I dislike it, I can’t just turn a blind eye towards the favouritism I witness everyday. We as teachers need to strike a balance such that our students can approach us without any fears but at the same time we need to maintain that gap where the student has to think twice while asking undue favors from us.
I conclude by adding that teaching is a beautiful job where we get to shape lives everyday. We are a significant part of many people’s lives. We shape careers and this statement is as scary as it’s beautiful. Teaching commands respect but at the same time it demands care, sacrifice and selflessness. I pray that I can be a teacher that a student prays to have, who can motivate creativity, instill hope and ignite imagination.
The writer is Assistant Professor at Department of Civil Engineering, SSM College of Engineering, Baramulla