Friday, April 15, 2011

Teachers should act as triggers

This is an old post.I was reminded of my school days friend Chellappa and an incident in the class.He was from Kerala and born on Vishu day.He became an auditor and commanded a large practice.

Our former President Dr.Kalam always exhorts students to dream, hoping that dreams may ignite their minds to accomplish great things. This wasn’t so five decades ago for back then, a dream was associated with slumber and I still remember getting whacked for yawning in class. Yawn, I did not know then, is a prelude to sleep often induced by boring subjects or people.

No one explained why the paper planes that fly in the classroom glide effortlessly at times but nose-dive most often. Nobody ever asked such questions as minds were not encouraged to be inquisitive. It would be presumptuous to interrupt the class with questions and riskier if they turned out to be foolish.

I was in class VIII when the English teacher asked us to write an essay on what we would like to be when we grew up. As a child, I fancied being a steam engine driver with the thrill of driving the engine in the dead of night across the fields accompanied by the rhythm of the wheels and occasional long whistle, watching the stars and stopping at stations to drink coffee from the IR restaurants without the risk of ever missing the train. But afraid of being reprimanded, I wrote about some mundane ambition.

My friend Chellappa, more imaginative and bolder, refused to divulge the subject he wrote about. In the last hour of the day, the English teacher walked in. From his ominous look, we could smell that something untoward was about to happen. “Chellappa,” he bellowed, “Come here.” Chellapa walked up with trepidation towards the table.

“So, you want to be a scientist,” he roared and laughed hysterically like Gabbar Singh in Sholay. The entire class joined the laughter only to be stopped abruptly by the tight slap my friend got. “What is your optional subject,” the teacher asked.

Chellappa mumbled, “Book-keeping.”

“How dare you want to be a scientist, having chosen book-keeping,” he demanded.

My pal replied meekly, “Sir, you asked us to write what we would like to be and not what we would be.” Rebuffed, the teacher dismissed him from the class with the words"Chellappa,veliyae sellappa".

The teacher also ridiculed a boy who had a squeaky voice and wished to be a play back singer and another who took part only in the lemon-and-spoon race but wished to excel as an Olympic runner. Then, there was the boy who opted for Tamil medium on account of his poor scores in English, but wished to be a playwright like Shakespeare. The unimaginative teacher, who had neither vision nor compassion, smothered all the harmless instincts of the children. The young minds, peculiarly sensitive to ridicule, never recovered from the shock.

Luckily, this teacher was an exception. I have known several scholarly teachers who responded to their calling with sincerity and passion despite the pittance they received. They shaped minds and stoked fires that lay latent in young hearts. They would discover talent-academic, aesthetic and technical-and stimulate and guide the children to become proficient in their chosen skills. The teacher should act as a trigger, letting children roam free in their minds and seek answers to their unresolved questions. He should rejoice at the discovery of kindled spirits and provide the answers wherever he can.


  1. My pal replied meekly, “Sir, you asked us to write what we would like to be and not what we would be.” Rebuffed, the teacher dismissed him from the class with the words"Chellappa,veliyae sellappa".

    ...... We can see the creative and promising side of "Chellappa" - but dampened by the teacher's negative approach. :-(

  2. Dear Partha,
    Good Morning!
    It's nice that you wrote this story on Vishu Day!Chellappa answered very well.
    I am really surprised to know about your dream as the student!What an imagination.....The train running between the fileds of villages and the driver stopping by for a hot cup of coffee.....the driver enjoys the stars in the sky.......
    Just not the teachers.....parents,elders,friends......everyone should be the cause to dream higher....
    This is a lovely post....

  3. I have also written about this in my blog titled 'Teachers Who Flunked'. There is no dearth of such teachers whose sole calling seems to be snuff out dream from young minds. Then there are those rare ones that encourage you to dream and aspire. And I suppose they are ones who still make teaching a noble profession.

  4. nice one...
    i liked this post for the simple reason that this doesnt sound like a story and we all can associate ourselves with it...

    all of us must have had such classroom experiences, and expectations as students...and teachers play their role to help us realize these dreams we nurture...
    thanks for this one...

  5. I loved this.

    It was such a positive n delightful post which narrated the not so delightful reality.

    Today the situation has changed a bit but not much ..but even fire begins from a spark...
    So all of us can be hopeful that students today and in the coming years taste such teaching.

  6. Hats off, simply..

    Memories make life beautiful..:)

  7. Memories can be so wonderful and touching ;)
    Very nice story !!!!

  8. good post.. reminds me of my school days too..
    teachers are our second parents..they have so much to mould the psyche of students..
    happy week ahead.

  9. this is a post with a great message. i hope many teachers would read this. instead of igniting the curiosity i have seen many teachers killing it. we need teachers who are passionate about teaching, who would help to mould the youngsters mind.

  10. That was not a Teacher worth remembering even...uhm...I myself had gone thru such teachers...Insensitive and not worthy to be called a Teacher..hmm...

  11. Indeed, we have all had our share of such thoughtless, insensitive teachers. Thank God that they are a rarity. I think they chose the teaching profession only so that they can dole out punishments, and treat kids like crap. Or maybe all the inadequacies of their life are reflected in their behavior towards their wards.
    excellent story.. eye opener for many such teachers.