I can still picture her at just 20, fresh from college and teachers’ training with no clear idea of what she wanted to achieve in life. With a lot of anticipation and some trepidation she joined the then 3000–pupil Army Public School in New Delhi to teach standards 6-9. In the first 3 years she dressed only in sarees with elevated footwear to look older and taller than her high-school students. However after her early realisation that life on the other side of the class was going to be very different and not as carefree, she plunged into teaching and school life with enthusiasm and energy. Eight and a half years went by as a science teacher-cum-School Magazine Editor-cum-general dogs-body! in the same school. As surely as her students grew, she did too – teaching , travelling the country and parts of the world and learning.
I guess I gave most of my youthful twenties to teaching. But it was time to move on – marriage and an all-new work opportunity came by. The subsequent hectic seven and a half years outside school and inside a large newspaper organisation, still involved working with schools, teachers and students. But, it also gave me a taste of frenetic corporate as well as journalistic life, accompanied by some indirect brushes with marketing hype and glamour thrown in as a bonus. That should certainly have ensured an effective break with my teaching past – those mounds of corrections, nature trails under the hot Delhi sun, chalk-dust-laden classrooms, board-exam bound classes, books to mark, syllabuses to complete!
But there was all the while an urge to get back into mainstream education. So armed with a master’s degree in Educational Management from Leicester University I embarked on a new career in teacher development. But why on earth did I want to get back into this profession? It’s not glamorous, it’s certainly not very well-paying, it isn’t even a sought-after career.
Is it the memory of a young 11 year-old who on his way to school got into a scrap with one of his mates on the bus and consequently presented me with a battered stalk-less rose at School Assembly, twenty years ago? Is it the recollection of a 14 year-old who in the height of Delhi summer wore her winter woollen skirt, for an important exam, just because she considered it lucky? Or is it the 15 year-old who went on to do medicine and who wrote wonderful poetry being spurred by a book of verse by John Updike, that I had taken to Biology class one day ? Is it that quiet intense 13 year-old who 10 years later turned up at my doorstep as a Naval Pilot with a gift for my then infant daughter? Is it the bright young lawyer who dropped by a few years ago with her fiance, still living up to many of the ideals she had as a student in Std. 9 and 10 ?
It is all these and so many more enriching experiences that left me with a sense of ‘pleasure’, a sense of ‘rightness’. And I realise that I am not exclusive in experiencing this. Many teachers day after day, year after year, the world over, remain in this underpaid profession for precisely the ‘good feelings’ they experience at school, particularly in the classroom ( the feelings that make them look forward to going to school every morning).
Undeniably amidst all the perceived drabness and drudgery of teaching, there is a sunny side, a warm glowing ‘smiley’ side. And I have chosen to stay on that side of my work…..
(I wrote the first version of this piece way back in 1996 ! Other writings that will appear on my blog may be similarly dated - but I would like my blog to be also a repository of articles I have written - sometimes in the distant past)