There was an iconic advertisement by Raymonds that played frequently on television in the ’90s. It showed a principal who was retiring, regretfully leaving his school for the very last time. All his students crowded around him to give him a gift to which was attached a tag which said, ‘To the Man Who Taught Us Everything’. Simply put, yet so very profound. No better phrase to sum the role of a teacher/guide/mentor in our lives. They are our everything, an inseparable part of us. We are but a reflection of the myriad teachers in our life.
As a child, we learn how to speak the word ‘teacher’ when we enter school in Grade 1. We may learn to spell and write it by Grade 4. But when we do actually understand the meaning and weight this calling carries? Perhaps, in its entirety, never ever completely throughout life. The power, the influence, and the imprint of a teacher on a student’s life are much beyond our limited human understanding. Maybe because we meet our very first teachers in infancy before our mind has begun to even comprehend the intricacies of the world in which we are born.
Who are they? Our parents of course, without whom we wouldn’t experience the gift of life. They teach us not just about what is necessary for survival, but also how to live and thrive. Our likes, dislikes, our core beliefs, and our very essence is shaped by their influence throughout life. They set us free to craft our own flights at each crossroad of our lives, be it school, college or work; yet when we crash, it is they whom we limp back to for comfort and reassurance before we refuel ourselves and take off for yet another flight.
However, school is where we first encounter teachers in a more formal learning environment. But years later, the Maths, Science may turn to fluff, but life lessons embedded in memories always stay clear in our minds– the teacher who appreciated students who came and told her that she had given them extra marks in their final exams underlining the value of honesty; or the teacher who always conducted surprise tests, teaching us that life tests us in different ways every day, we must be prepared at all times; even the teacher who tied us to our desks for running in the class, without who, we would not appreciate that great ideas germinate only in a mind that knows to stay quiet; and who can forget the teacher who put those wretched red late marks in our diaries which yet haunt us and ensure that today we always enter our offices/clinics on time. Childish memories laughed or sulked over then, make whose importance we realise only now.
Post-school college beckoned and enthralled at the thought of freedom, we hastily rushed towards it, only to realise we would miss the safety of our school grounds. The morning seemed bereft without the customary prayer we recited in school before the start of study hour. School demanded uniformity among its students, college demanded you to stand apart, discover just who you are. Set sail on a journey of self-discovery, without a firm destination in mind but always with strong anchors, your college teachers at your side. We could undertake this journey only because of the teachers we met, who helped us along. From them we received the gift of belief and trust, the trust they showed was many a time greater than our own. They proded us to push self-doubts away and swap well-travelled roads for undiscovered paths. To stand up, be an adult. Yet, when the demands of adulthood weighed heavily on your shoulders and you felt you were going to crack, the same teachers are the ones who offered a safe harbour, to vent our frustrations out.
In the medical profession, the bond between a teacher and student is especially strong. As training students, we learn to treat patients only because we know and trust without hesitation that our teachers and seniors always have our back. When mistakes happen, we can handle the guilt because there is someone, we can unabashedly confess to on the spot. Someone who teaches us to handle it and stand strong.
We are so used to this protective shelter that our parents and teachers have always cast around us, as freshly minted graduates we found it difficult to get our bearings and be independent. Yet wherever we went, guides always found us in various forms, be it senior colleagues or fellow workers who shared the gift of experience with us and here too a bond was forged.
Our bond with every teacher we have met will always be for life. No matter where we may be, every incident in our personal and professional life will always trigger a memory and with it bring a smile. We will treasure the memory, remember the lesson and do what we were taught is right. Life is nothing but a classroom, just a different teacher each time!
And humbling is the thought for all that they do, thanking them and honouring their word is the only tangible thing we can for our teachers, our entire lives. As the singer, Lulu says in this famous song, who is a teacher but a friend who showed me the right from wrong, in return for this precious gift, no amount of gratitude can ever be just right!
Dedicated to all teachers, mine and yours,
A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn
What, what can I give you in return?
If you wanted the moon
I would try to make a start
But I would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, with love.