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It's important to be silly, to be serious, to be strong, to be frail...for what is life if we only shared a mask?

Monday, April 26, 2010

On Starfish, Teachers and Appreciation

This note is dedicated to my beautiful aunt whose fight with the deadly cancer ended today.  May her soul rest in peace.  She was a wonderful mother, a devoted wife, a considerate aunt and along with the family she loved, she was a teacher for 30 years.  As was my grand mother and my grand aunt.  Women who taught and left an impression in so many hearts. "Do we ever die, if we can touch one life, change one destiny, inspire one verse."

This post is about celebrating the legacy left behind by these teachers who have spent their lives throwing so many starfish back into the sea.

Coincidently, next week is Teacher’s Appreciation week at my daughters’ schools. A wonderful concept and so well deserved. PTAs have spent time pulling together a schedule to show their teachers that they are truly loved. We will have flowers, lunches, handmade cards and other little tokens.  

As I see my girls in their different stages of growth, I can remember the teacher who told me not to worry that my eldest was so shy. “She will find her way” she reassured. “And I will be there to make things better.” I remember my second one crying when her favorite teacher, Ms Plevich, left school and my little girl was so angry that “she had to get married and move away”. I remember the youngest naming two pillows after Ms Lana and Ms Maribel and talking to them at night.

I can also go down memory lane and like Dumbledore taking a wisp out of his Pensieve, see Ms Carter igniting the love of literature in my heart. Of course, I wince when I think of Mr Delaney’s tiring Math classes on Monday mornings but there was drama and debate and Pierette Spetz’s passionate French classes that kept me spellbound. Indian teachers, American teachers, British teachers…the good ones left footprints in my heart. Some would push us to reach for the stars.  Like beacons and in Gandhi’s words, they helped “turn the spotlight inward.”

If you were paying attention and listening to the clues, some very apparent and some subtle, you experienced an “aha”. Seeing talent and potential that we couldn't yet grasp. The good teachers would take time to write in your report cards. Little notes on your strengths and areas you could improve upon. I didn’t appreciate those notes when I was younger. I would get irritated that someone dared find fault. Oh, the arrogance and impatience of youth. As Jacques Barzun so aptly puts it “In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Or more… 

In India, the role of the teacher used to be sacred. Highly revered, teachers or gurus held sway even over kings. And in the order of the universe, they occupied a place of prominence. Mata, Pita, Guru, Deivam…Mother, Father, Teacher, God. Gurus demanded complete faith and obedience in return for knowledge and enlightenment.

Many of us have been mentored or been "guru-ed" at some stage or another. People who have come into our lives. To teach, to guide, to ignite and to lead by example. You can immediately recognize a mentor at an instinctual level. There is a keen desire to listen, to absorb like a sponge, whatever you can. 

Of course, the opposite is true as well where unhealthy relationships are characterized by an over dependence on a mentor. Here you feel paralyzed, unable to take decisions without their express approval.

When you strike gold, you find good mentors who are there to untap potential and provide a feedback loop so critical for development. And when their work is done, they move on naturally.

So here’s to teachers and mentors…may your clan increase. And may we close the loop by passing it forward. Salutations!

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.” Kahlil Gibran

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. Teachers can have such a profound affect on you and the really good ones can spark passions the student never knew he/she had.