Heart of a Teacher

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day I wish you all a very Happy Teacher’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the most enriching profession. It is a day when we feel proud that we are teachers. It is a day for soul searching, as a teacher.

Teaching is a truly inward human activity. Teaching is pouring out your soul to the students. More than the mind, it is the heart that makes a teacher. It is a way to be together with the students. A good teacher knows about his students as much as she/he knows about her/his subjects. Teaching is not merely an intellectual, or emotional, or spiritual pursuit. It is a combination of all the three. A mere intellectual teacher is a cold abstraction of facts. A mere emotional teacher is a narcissist. A mere spiritual teacher doesn’t have any anchor to the real world. A combination of the three, when interwoven into the fabric of the self, makes a teacher.

Teaching is not mere technique; it requires identity and integrity. We say, ‘Miss Such-an-Such’ is not only ‘present’, she is with the students in the class.

There is no prescribed description of a good teacher. Every teacher is good in her/his way. All bad teachers are alike. A good teacher invokes in her/his students a capacity for connectedness. Methods don’t dictate connectedness, heart can; heart where intellect, emotion, and spirit converge. A good teacher encourages questions; she/he may or may not know the answer. A good connectedness among the teacher and students may help in resolving unresolved questions. No teacher knows all, and to accept this fact needs a different kind of maturity on the part of teachers. Shadows and limits are as much a part of us as strengths and potentials are.

Just think of a craft teacher. She knows her job. She is aware of the details of her craft. She respects the material she uses. She can connect ideas and can give a product of the desired finesse, and convey it to the students with the generosity of a teacher. What more you expect from a teacher.

Teaching opens the heart. Don’t be disheartened if students can’t see the big picture, instead they care about short-term outcomes. It is the teachers that are training students to ask only short-term questions, where there is immediate pay-off. As a teacher we have to make the students aware of their inner reality. Students want to see the big picture. A teacher can help them to see the big picture. We have to tell them that subjective self is not irrelevant.

Teaching is not merely an image building exercise. If I am ever asked, what is the most flattering description of a teacher — a Hero, or a Role Model — I would go for Hero. A role model impacts our life for a shorter period. Once his role is over, he disappears from the scene. Hero remains with us for a long time.

We all know that drawing is different from tracing. When we draw, we encounter discontinuities. These discontinuities disappear when we trace. But many of us like to live with a few discontinuities. A teacher tells us that discontinuities are normal. Discontinuities help us to form the driving force to take us to our destination. Only a good teacher has the authority to teach. Authority is not power. It is the capacity to stand on the ground when faced with the challenges of the classroom and own life. Authority comes from a teacher’s inner self. A teacher is a friend. He gives a feeling of trust. A teacher turns a mirror into a window.

I feel proud that I am a teacher. For me the most joyous moments are when I am in the classroom. I feel good when we explore uncharted territories together. I feel good that my students are now my teachers.