A letter from class VII teacher to her students, on the occasion of Children’s Day 2017.
Your first day of class II was my first day of being a teacher.
As I write this, I am about to complete my sixth year in Levelfield. But funnily, I never wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to do something real, something that could make lives better. I did not think working in a school fit the bill.
Teachers giving mind-numbingly boring lectures, students whispering between themselves, calling teachers by funny names, memorizing books full of useless stuff to pass exams – my own school experience haunted me enough not to think of going back to schools ever again.
Luckily for me, Levelfield was the first place I came for a job interview. From what I read about the school before applying, it seemed very different from most average schools. All it took to change my mind completely about the teaching profession was the Big Question booklet that I saw on my day of interview.
Should we eat animals?
Why are some countries rich and some others poor?
Is greed good?
I was bowled over. Can education be like this? Can schools really teach kids sensible stuff?
I was more than eager to join.
On the first day of my job, I entered the class with a mix of apprehension and excitement. What I was here to do was much more than teaching Math and English.
When I asked Sir about what the milestones for my class would be, I was left stunned by his response.
I was told that the final milestone that I must achieve is that the students as a group must be interesting and fun to be with. The objective of every lesson taught would be to finally make them intelligent, rational, sensible people – the kind you can go to dinner with and enjoy the conversation.
Taking a bunch of kids out for dinner and enjoying the conversation, now that was a far more difficult target compared to getting them to pass an exam.
So there I was, first day on that work target.
You came in, one by one, gave inquisitive smiles, said good morning, whispered between each other – “new teacher?”, your curious eyes wanted to judge how this one was going to be? Strict? Friendly? Indifferent? Boring? Entertaining?
I tried to get familiar with your names, asked you to be a little patient with me. I would be able to tell which one of you was Sharmin and which one was Sabnam in a week’s time.
As the day proceeded, followed by weeks and months, I got to know all of you a little better – not only by your names, but by your naughtiness, your concentration, your conversations, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and weaknesses. Yes, all of you were unique but all of you were similar too. Soumyabrata was the brat, Sounak – the weirdo, Aritra – the serious one, Sharmin – the nice one, Shreya – the nervous one.
But when I told you a story, when I taught you a new puzzle, when I tried to make you familiar with this world in which you have to struggle and survive one day, you all listened with rapt attention, eyes fixed on me, devouring every sentence I say, eagerly learning whatever I could teach you.
You did accept me as your teacher and as your friend.
I taught you to write grammatically correct sentences and do multiplication and division. I explained to you the meanings of new words from the stories that you read. I explained the world around as simply as possible, asked the boys and girls to be friends with each other, play together, have tiffin together.
I told you – friendship is important. In this class, all of you must be friends with each other. You must not form smaller groups. You must not whisper to each other’s ears, there shouldn’t be secrets between yourselves. Girls must not talk only to girls. Boys must not refuse to take the girls in the games of football or cricket. You all must be together. Always.
Six years have passed since the time I first entered your classroom. Now you are no longer cute babies, no longer as naïve and as innocent as you used to be. Bordering on adolescence, you are growing up to be mature and responsible people. And you amaze me.
I am amazed to see Sharmin unfazed by the questions of the Leaders of Tomorrow contest, winning the appreciation of a hundred parents with every answer she gives.
I am amazed to see Aritra, being so earnest and so humble in spite of being the smartest in the whole school. I can see that his questioning mind and zeal for learning is going to stay with him throughout his life.
I am amazed to see Abhranil’s dedication in making a conversation interesting, his desire to entertain his audience, his responsibility towards the school and his friends. I can see what a good-hearted person he is going to be.
I am amazed to see Mahek’s confidence and no-nonsense approach. The whole world, with all its strength, will never be able to bully her.
I am amazed by all of you – by your tweets, by your screenplays, by your arguments, by your questions.
I am amazed when I see you expressing opinions about the evils of the society.
When you don’t buy into the prejudices about skin colour, gender, religion that the society may have tried to teach you.
When you display your sense of humour with witty jokes.
When you can connect the movies that I showed you and the stories I taught you with real experiences, news, and politics and see the patterns in the world for yourself.
When you are excited by your friends’ achievements, which shows that you have not grown up to be selfish individuals, competing to get ahead at the expense of others.
My heart fills with pride seeing your capabilities, your potential, your goodness.
Every passing day is one day less that you and I have together. But I don’t worry about it much. I know my job is almost done. You all have shaped up to be responsible and sensible people who are going to make this world a slightly better place. The lessons that I could teach you are not going to be forgotten after you write your exams. They are going to be with you, they are going to make each one of you a better person.
I think I am ready to go out for dinner with you now.