Remembering 10 School Teachers and Lessons on Teacher’s Day

It took a couple of not-so-subtle reminders from my Mom this morning for me to take notice of the date – 5th September – celebrated as Teacher’s day in India. After 5 years spent away from home, I must admit the significance didn’t jump out. Thanks Mom, for the reminders.

I found myself walking down memory lane for a little while and remembering some truly fantastic teachers who taught me. The list of teachers who made a difference is endless.. and on this very special day, I thought I’d remember 10 special teachers from my 14 years of schooling in India and one defining learning/incident that I remember.

1. RCS Sir: I’ve blogged about RCS sir before. I had the privilege of being a student of Sanskrit under RCS sir for 3 years. I learnt more about my Indian roots from him than I have from anyone. He inspired me to invest in a 759 page book (!) on the Mahabharata (one of the 2 main epics!) and having read and re-read that story and learnt so much from it, I am thankful for his advice..

The other simple fact is that I remember more from RCS sir’s classes than I remember from any other class in school simply because he used to share many many fascinating stories. Talking in stories is an invaluable skill and I experienced it’s effectiveness with him..

2. Vanaja Vimal Ma’am: Vanaja Vimal Ma’am has had immense impact on my life by being the driving force behind  1 thing – My Handwriting. She inspired me to pay close attention to handwriting and presentation of my work. She converted diagrams in science from ‘art’ to ‘science’ by showing me how simple principles of structure can be applied everywhere. 

Most importantly, she drove me to keep working on my handwriting and I am thankful, for I have received many a positive remark since. It is an invaluable asset to have  – especially as a young Associate/Analyst level employee who has to frequently be a scribe during meetings – often on a white board! :) 

3. M Rajeshwari Miss: I worked closely with M Rajeshwari Miss for 4 whole months – She took an enthusiastic bunch of 12 year olds and lead us through a process of executing on a project to improve the handwriting of a 160 student test group and then present our work with a 100+ slide presentation at a National Convention for Quality Circles in Education.

During the process, she was very open to our ideas i.e. ‘she let us play’  and come up with creative visuals and slides and after she had patiently ‘listened’ and watched us execute, she also took matters in her own hands, changed our jazzy template to a much more professional looking one and replaced our bad charts with proper ones. 

This was pretty amazing – by listening to us and ‘letting us play’, we bought into her as our ‘boss.’ And even if we were upset when she threw most of our ‘cool’ work away, we still didn’t object too much because she had listened. (And we couldn’t either.. but as kids, that didn’t cross our minds!) And finally, her experience was vindicated when we won 3rd place in the convention! Learnt a lot from that!

4. Radha Miss: I’ve blogged about the ‘world is my family‘ concept. And Radha Miss was probably the first person on this planet who taught me that. She was my mom in school during her 3 years as my class teacher. What more can I say? 

5. Malarvizhi Ma’am: I spent a big part of my last year in school sitting practically a couple of feet away from Malarvizhi Ma’am. As our Class teacher and Physics teacher, she spent a lot of time with us and in our enthusiasm to get my grades on track, 4 friends had decided we were relocating from the last bench to the first. 

Probably the best thing that came out of the move was the time we got in close proximity to Malarvizhi Ma’am. She is probably the calmest person I have known. She was like a sea of calm amidst an incredible amount of chaos. (Boys school!) And I learnt a great deal from her response to everything.. one of absolute calm. She was amongst the best proponents of the ‘Don’t react. Respond.’ learning..

6. Sampath Sir: For pure passion, there are few teachers who could match Sampath Sir. He lived Chemistry. And in an environment where learning was focused on grades, Sampath Sir ensured we actually learnt something from it. 

Watching him teach was a sight. He hardly ever touched his book but he was ‘on show’ for the 40 minutes he spent with us. Nobody talked.. and that was not the norm. It felt a bit like we were under the spell of the man for 40 whole minutes. Quite amazing! He took teaching Chemistry to a (‘justu’..) whole new level..  

7. Shanta Vijaykumar Ma’am: My memories of Shanta Ma’am are as a tough task master. But a very lovable one. She had a simple objective – She wanted us to each get a 100/100 in Math in our Board exam. 

Now, her approach was the ‘my way or highway’. She was notorious for taking away our P.T (i.e. Games) periods.. and such moves typically put you in the ‘black list’ in your student eyes. But somehow, with Shanta Ma’am, I think we all loved her.. because, at the end of the day, it felt worth it! 

8. PT Department: I learnt a lot from my PT teachers (Sam Kutty Sir, Balaguru Sir, Subramaniam Sir and co.). And I had to group them all together. Thanks to training for the Table Tennis team, I used to stay far beyond school hours and generally play sports for a while with the PT teachers, and talk as well. I learnt many things from these men – the importance of wearing the right shoes, how playing sports helps us mentally and just how important staying fit is. 

Most importantly, I had tons of fun thanks to them. They used to help drag us out of classes to practice for the inter school meets and keep us in great spirits. A lot of my best memories from school come from times with them..

9. Sathish Sir: Sathish Sir was my Principal in my last 2 years of school. He was quite the personality and I have many an incident thanks to having interacted with him a fair bit during those years for various reasons. 

My best Sathish Sir memory came a few days before our Board exams. He was a wonderful public speaker and had his own trademark style. We were used to listening to memorable anecdotes every time he took up the mic. But this time, he chose to take a different approach. Quite a few of us were nervous about the upcoming exams and I remember him look at us with a grin and say ‘Boys, when you are writing the exam and you come to a question to which you don’t know the answer. Don’t worry! .. Because if you don’t know it, the whole country probably doesn’t know it.’  (Yes, our school was rather elitist.. :)) 

It became a bit of a standing joke among us for the next few days.. but the point was made  and that line did wonders for us confidence. He had tremendous faith in the system he lead..

10. Mom :): I had the privilege of being my mom’s student for an entire year. And that year was nightmare-ish.. in every sense of the word. In fact, I can think of very few teacher’s who treated me the way she did – in her attempt to be partial. It makes for a wonderful wonderful memory now because I probably spent more time punished (and hence, outside the class) when she taught me than I did ever. 

The good news is that we got past that. And I’ve had the fortune of being her son for 21 other very memorable years. There is a nice quote on education that says ‘The purpose of education is to take empty minds and make them open’. My mom lives that quote with all of her characteristic passion and zest for life. An incredible human being..

And with that, I’d like to take this moment to send a thank you wish to these 10 special people.. and many many others who made the proverbial difference. This blogger can never express how much what you have done for him means.. for there are some feelings of gratitude that can’t be expressed in words. And thank god for that.. because words would never do them justice anyway..

Happy Teacher’s Day to all teachers. You ARE the real leaders and hope of the world..

To all readers who couldn’t relate/get through my essay.. Sorry, but this one is a special edition. :)