There is a quote which has always echoed in my head. It goes as follows: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
Teaching is not just a career, it is a passion. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to teach – not because I wanted to help facilitate learning, but also because there was so much to learn in reciprocity. The humdrum of life was kind to me, and did provide me brief spells of teaching opportunities. The varied target audiences, and the involvement of the mind in the preparation of the respective, creative lesson plans, saved me from the monotony of a mundane professional life. People often questioned me what motivated me to teach. It certainly could not be attributed to the monetary aspects. My answer has always been the same: the exchange of energy – the energy to motivate, and in return be recharged to motivate, time and again.
They say “practice makes perfect”. Indeed, as the years flew by, the whitening of the side locks did see confidence creeping in, irrespective of the challenges life would throw at me. I still remember the first day of each new session at one of the vocational training institutes I taught in - the butterflies still fluttered in my belly, each time, wondering what kind of class it would turn out to be (my first one had been quite a ‘nightmare’!). It, usually, always turned out to be alright, and I chided myself for being unnecessarily nervous – after all, I, almost always, did a pretty good job at my ‘craft’. However, there was also a good lesson I learnt over time: be open to re-learn, unlearn and learn during your journey as a teacher – a lesson that serves well in the battles of life.
I write this page, however, to recall one special experience, among many, that left a lasting impact on me: It was the beginning of a new session. During the introductory class, the clucking sound of his stick, which preceded his verbal introduction, broke the otherwise routine round of introductions. His name meant brightness, and though the physical gift of sight was strange to him, he was, indeed, the emotional and spiritual light for many of his class mates, including his teacher (read ‘me’) – something I realized during the course of my journey with him.
I had never ‘taught’ a visually challenged person before, but he made it easier for me to grapple with the ‘challenge’ – not, merely, through didactics, but precious learning through experiences and interactions.
On his part, he recorded all the sessions, besides having a wonderful knack of recapitulating almost all that he listened too, not only on a short-term basis, but also on a long-term basis, emphasizing, thereby, the difference between hearing and listening. The power of navigating through cluttered physical and mental spaces, the fine sense of interpreting emotion based on the tone of the voice, and the courage to remain true to the meaning of his name, no matter what, were just some of the examples he led us by.
As time flew by, I understood the importance of communicating more in less, and the power of simplicity, especially while delivering instructions pertaining to assignments. I understood the meaning of sensitivity and inclusiveness in approach. Most importantly, I understood the relevance of patience, not only with others, but, vitally, with the self.
Loving the self is one offshoot of patience with the self. It is simple to understand but difficult to apply. I started off the session by being a teacher, but at the end of it, as is mostly the case with me, I turn out to be an enriched student. He, on the other hand, may have embarked on the journey of being a radio jockey, serving as an inspiration, not only through the power of voice, but through the power of resilience, come what may.
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