When my daughter left her much envied job at one of the big four corporate firms and decided to pursue teaching mathematics in a school, we were appalled, dismayed and puzzled in turn. My father-in-law sitting sagely in his armchair declared, unhappily, “Lecturers and teachers do not get married. What will happen to her?” His dream was to see his favourite grandchild wedded to the proverbial knight in shining armour. Her father, ever the soothsayer and harbinger of doom, tried every trick in the book to get her to change her mind, but to no avail.
Her father sat her down, brought forth a multitude of examples, and unearthed long forgotten stories, reminding her that she had never been particularly fond of small children who can be mulish and difficult to handle, but she was adamant. I too tried, unsuccessfully, to dissuade her from taking this step and venturing into something she was sure to regret later, what with the much lower remuneration and repetitive work.
Now, almost daily, on her way back home from school she calls me cheerfully and is always sounding so enthusiastic and regales me with little anecdotes of her “children” as she insists on calling them. In between wailing, runny noses, bathroom runs, parents, staff meetings, lesson plans, sore feet and noodles spilling all over the desks, she wryly tells me that she is learning to eat her lunch in three-and-a-half minutes, but is loving every minute of her new job.
The hard work pays off in the simplest of gestures. The way the young ones run to hug her around the legs, present her with hand-made cards and flowers or confide in her, makes her forget all her tiredness. I cannot believe the transformation because I was used to listening to a litany of complaints when she was in office, caught up in convoluted audits, number crunching and staring at the computer screen for hours on end.
Teaching is a noble profession, sounds like a cliché and is usually at the bottom of the list of sought after careers. It has actually been the last resort of army officers’ wives who tend to get transferred regularly, girls waiting to get married or bored housewives.
But, today we need good and sincere teachers more than ever. It is they who take our little fingers and lead us towards the path of learning, initiate the process of impressing upon our young minds the importance of right and wrong, the good and the bad. Little wonder that in our lives, we may forget the names of countless people who cross our paths but the names of our school teachers always remain deeply etched in our memories and we always remember them, a little wistfully, and with affection.