October 5, 2018 marks the Teacher’s Appreciation Day and while I am all for appreciating teachers and the difference they make in the lives of our children, I feel that this day (like many other ‘special’ days) has been reduced to exchanging cards, gifts and flowers.
And I’ll tell you why I think so.
Recently my sister moved back to Pakistan from Cape Town with her husband and toddler. Since her daughter had reached school-going age, she decided to enrol her in a pre-school. Once she did that, however, she realised that she had ample amount of time on her hands and instead of wasting it, she decided to use it productively and began to work as a teacher in a school near her home in Clifton, Karachi.
A high salary was not really her goal and neither was the school’s name or ‘brand’ or how posh it and its facilities, faculty, parents and students were. What interested her more was the dignity of the profession itself. Initially, she started off as an assistant teacher in the Pre-primary Section but as she progressed, the school management appointed her as a computer teacher for junior grades.
She was quite satisfied with her job and time passed uneventfully until one day she was asked to substitute for the Senior Section’s computer teacher, who was absent that day. She began the class in the same polite and friendly manner that she always used with her own little Einsteins in the Junior Section. But soon, the boys in the class began to misbehave and that’s when things started to go awry.
Trying to be civil yet firm, she asked one of the troublemakers to maintain the class decorum, fully expecting him to listen and comply. However, sadly, things took an ugly turn, leaving her (and me, when I heard the account from her later) shocked and dismayed.
The boy whom she had asked to behave, said to her, “Ma’am, don’t try to point me out and stay in your limits. Jitni aap ki pay hai na, iss se ziyada tou meray parents iss school mein meri O-Level ki fees bhartay hain!”
I am sure you find it as hard to believe as I did. A teenager in one of the so-called good schools of Karachi had the audacity to speak in such a manner with a teacher and that too, when he was in the wrong!
Not surprisingly, my sister was shocked into silence. But using immense patience, she proceeded to settle the class and continued the lesson. But when the bell rang, she left the class and headed straight to the teachers’ room.
As she entered, all the other teachers noticed her sombre expression and asked her what was wrong. She relayed the incident and as she did, two more teachers agreed that there were budding behavioural issues in the students of the Senior Section. As the incident reached the ears of the management, the student was called, questioned and asked to apologise to my sister. He did do so on the pressure of the school and perhaps, his parents but the damage was already done.
My sister began to think of quitting the teaching profession.
A profession called one of the most noble professions in the world.
A profession, which if you think about it, is the root of all other professions. For what would a student be without someone to teach him/her?
I am sure such incidents are not limited to my sister’s experience alone. Many teachers may have experienced similar situations in their careers; some may have spoken up about it while others must have remained silent due to personal reasons and needs.
But isn’t it sad to think that we may have failed to teach our children that respect is not associated with social and economic status? That coming from an affluent background does not give you the right to look down upon anyone – be it a teacher, a beggar or a friend? That education is not about conversing well in English, going to the poshest schools in town or paying a hefty fee?
Rather, education is about good conduct, tolerance, respect and discipline.
So, on this Teacher’s Appreciation Day, please make sure you sit down with your children and talk to them about the effort that their teachers put in moulding them to be better students and moreover, better human beings. And above all, model respect and good conduct before them. Only if YOU do that, will they learn to respect teachers and the teaching profession.
Please don’t let this Teacher’s Appreciation Day go by in vain. And don’t let it be simply about cards, gifts and words. Make it meaningful. Make a difference.
Respect breeds respect.