Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Dear Teacher

Happy Teacher's Day!!!

I missed you so much these past few months. I went back to Chennai for a vacation with my parents. And as I always do, I went back to school to see all my teachers. Well, almost all, I definitely missed you. I wished you were there so I could tell you first hand that I teach Physics, just like how you taught me. I would have loved to talk to you about how to be the best physics teacher in the world!

Something unexpected happened though. The new Principal of the school asked me to address the school assembly, so the kids could hear first hand, an alumnus of that very school who chose a path different from becoming a Doctor or an Engineer. I agreed to this, but only for one reason, a reason of my own. I knew that addressing the assembly was the best way to reach all my teachers and tell them that they made me who I am today.

So I stood up on that stage, conquered my fear of public speaking, and spoke my heart out. Everything that would have otherwise remained a secret in my "Dear Teacher" posts came out. I told the kids to be brave and follow their dreams, even if it rubbed society the wrong way, because at the end of the day, they have to be able to live with themselves.

Then I told my teachers, that I understand how difficult their job is. I understand now, from first hand experience, how much effort goes into being a teacher. I understand how frustrating it is to balance everything, from planning, grading, administrative work to even family life. I told them that I know, at some point in their career, they must have seriously contemplated quitting the profession altogether. The pay isn't as good as it should be, the kids can be extremely frustrating, administration can be frustrating, too many hours and too few rewards. I understand why quitting seems so much more attractive.

But you know what? There exists a human being, me, who is so eternally grateful that her teachers fought through those frustrations, never gave up, never quit and always came back to school to inspire another day. My life has changed so much because of my teachers, that I am dedicating this new career path to them. I have never been so proud in my life to have a career like this, one that is difficult, but one with a purpose. I wanted all my teachers to know that if there ever was a time they wondered whether or not they made a difference, I am living proof that they did. They shaped my life into something very beautiful.

After the talk, all my teachers, well, almost all, you weren't there, came to me in tears. We all shared a moment together, silently standing in a circle behind the stage, with tears in our eyes, too overwhelmed with emotions to say anything, yet understanding what we were trying to say. I never in my life imagined that I would get to be this honest with my teachers and share this moment. And I know that we were all wishing that you were there with us. I told the whole school about you, your story, OUR story. And you know what? Kids and young teachers who didn't even know you, missed you that day.

Later on, I got to talk to my old Chemistry teacher. She told me what a perfectionist you were. Why didn't that surprise me?! She admires you very deeply. But do you know what she told me? She said she had met you in the final weeks of your life. She told me, that your advice to her was "don't stress out! None of it matters, none of it makes a difference, nobody is going to care or remember anything!"

How could you say that? I remember, and I always will, it mattered to me that you were there for me, it has made me who I am today. Society tells me that I have taken a step "back" in my career by becoming a teacher, but you know what? I am proud to be walking in your footsteps. 

I miss you today, on Teachers Day. I have all this technology with me, smart phone, laptop, iPads, none of them are useful to me today. There isn't an app that can let me communicate with you to tell you that you were wrong and that I cared, I still do. All I can do is look helplessly at all the facilities at my disposal, feeling frustrated that I can't talk to you one last time.

Here is another Dear Teacher post. For as long as I live, I will carry on your story. Because you know what? If I tell your story often enough, maybe one of these times, you will be listening in on me. And you will know....

You made all the difference in the world to me.

I miss you. 

Your loving student,


Mike said...

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The fear in the public, so a lot of people and I hope that the choices you can get rid of it.

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