The school that I studied in was run by a convent of unsmiling nuns. They made it their mission to not only guarantee outstanding results but ensure that every student who entered their gates would maintain the decorum that they upheld. The arched corridors, the stone-walled auditorium, the expansive ground and library was every student’s dream, but this package came at a not-so-modest price. Father, a bank employee, must have harbored high hopes in his tantrum-throwing first born for he insisted on securing an admission into this school.
My first school years are a blur but Ms. Pansy and her 12-foot ruler stands out in the haze. She almost never wielded her weapon but used it as a silent warning for the lot of us who spent our days crying or relentlessly talking than getting any learning done.
I must have eased into school routine in Mrs. Rego class and turned the perpetual frown into a smile for it is here that I made my first friend. Mrs. Rego was past her retirement age but her patience in handling little children with the perfect blend of warmth that bordered firmness when required was commendable. She spent her lunch breaks ensuring that we ate and afterschool hours coaching those in need of extra help.
Over the years, as text books got heavier and our ability to bend the rules got better, teachers who took their teaching to passionate heights came into picture. Ms. Philo’s stern rebukes were better than her hissing threats but her angry spells were forgotten when she transformed into the magician who took us on a magical journey to her country during Geography lessons as we dived into the Great Barrier Reef to watch life under the clear waters, we tasted the richness of the finest milk chocolates and jumped alongside a kangaroo.
Ms. Hyacinth chose the time of the day and her mood to decide on how she chose to discipline her students. Her firm hand even extended to Mathematics for her techniques got us to have numbers talking to us as we tamed one problem after the other with astounding ease.
Joy of escaping into other lands
Ms. Shama, our English teacher, could light up any day with her smile. Either life had been very good to her or she chose to be good to life. She got everybody’s attention effortlessly and we were all under her magical spell. Being in her class had its perks for she would read to us twice a week – first The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and then the Secret Seven series. It was she who guided us into the joy of escaping into lands that the author brought to life.
Every teacher, from Ms. Pansy and her ruler to Ms. Shama gave up a little of themselves for us, their students, to imbibe. They were the beacon who directed our ambitions and future because they exuded the humility in knowing that they served a purpose larger than themselves and that their lessons go deeper than the ones they teach from a text book.
Over the last few months, teachers have been as strong and persistent as the heroes in the front line of this pandemic, spending long days learning, unlearning and relearning to keep the learning journey alive from the safety of their homes. The glitches at the start have been overcome and the fight is on to tackle new ones while keeping abreast of children who are virtually smarter in utilizing these loopholes to their advantage as they continue to keep them on the path of learning even as the virus disrupts all sense of normalcy.
Dear teachers, you are the guiding light that keep the candle of hope burning for the world’s greatest resource – children, even during the darkest hours of this pandemic. You remind us that we can never cease to be a student.
— Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @MenonPranitha