THE BOOTS OF A TEACHER








Today, I had been to one of the reputed colleges in the city to conduct a programme. Though the programme was meant for teachers, I agreed with the Principal madam, when she suggested that even the students, who desired to attend it, could get the benefit of it. That was a good suggestion when I reflect on it… After all, there is a teacher in all of us… and, we should be too arrogant and ignorant to claim, that we, as teachers, have nothing to learn…

I loved being with the teachers and students, today. My emphasis was as usual: “Do whatever you do… but, do with your heart. Full heart!”

Hope, the message was taken home by teachers and students alike…

There was this one teacher… An affectionate and unassuming soul. I was told, that she was the senior-most teacher… What I immediately loved about this teacher was her sincerity and attentiveness. You can make out when you teach or talk to any group… there will always be some in the audience, young or old, who see you with kindness, affection and, above all, gratitude… That brings the best out of you as a teacher or a speaker… Also, there was humility oozing out of this senior teacher’s and many other teachers’ eyes… You know, when you feel that, ‘a teacher has appeared for the student’!

“Nobody can teach you,” I quote OSHO, “yet, you can learn.” Yes, it’s all about being available… being ready… being teachable!

After the session, while talking to this affectionate senior teacher, I casually asked her if she had any specific plans after two years when she would retire from the teaching profession. “Sir, I believe a teacher never retires,” ma’am said gently, “I have got some plans to write on my subject… which will help me continue to be a teacher. Age will not stop us from being teachers.”

I had spoken about three of my teachers, who had impacted my life,  and done it silently without they knowing they were doing it. One of them had come in my life when I was a little boy of second standard… another had come when I was a teenager, in my tenth standard… and, the third one had come when I entered my degree college (and taught me for all the three years)… Now, their inspiration had been very private and invisible… It had helped me bloom at the right time.

So, while talking to our senior ma’am, I remembered another teacher from our high school, Monteiro Sir. He had not taught me… But, I used to hear a lot from my elder brother… He made learning Mathematics easy for so many students. Ours was a village and in those days, going for ‘extra coaching’ was for the weakest lot… There was a stigma attached to that. So, Monteiro Sir, because of his simple way of teaching, had been flooded with requests to teach the weak students, which he did at his house. What was inspiring was this: Sir suffered from  ‘Filariasis’ also know as ‘Elephantaiasis’…  This desease was so rampant in those days… that, we used to call it ‘elephant leg’… Sir’s leg was so huge, so heavy and so scary to look at… It used to smell and puss and water used to often ooze out… Probably, the school authorities might have asked him to quit… I really do not know. But, Sir continued to teach in his house… It was a long hall room… Dozens of students sat on two sides of the hall… Tables and chairs were laid out like you would see in a traditional dining-hall during functions… Sir was unable to stand and walk… He taught lying on his bed… a couple of pillows tucking behind his back for support and rest… He wrote on the board next to him from that position… And, he was as effective as he was in the school… For, he taught from his heart with all his passion… with a missionary zeal!

As it is said, “Monteiro Sir died with his boots on!” Yes, even though he spent almost all his life unable to wear the ‘boots’… He did wear the ‘Boots of a Teacher’ so well and for so long!

Today, in my session, I had not mentioned Monteiro sir as I had not been his student in the school. But, ma’am, the senior-most teacher, had reminded me of him… “Sir, I believe a teacher never retires,” she had told me, “Age will not stop us from being teachers.”

Yes ma’am, nor sickness… Nor our daily frustrations… Let’s pray, the teacher doesn’t die in our hearts till the last breath!


GERALD D’CUNHA


Pic.: Arundhati Sen

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