My father was a civil servant and we lived in a bungalow at Lodhi Estate. Irrespective of family status, I learned that only struggle leads to success. My parents were my icons and they taught me to work hard and enjoy whatever is given to us.
Today, young people have a silly habit of wanting more than what they should justifiably get. This ‘dil maange more’ culture is horrid.
The youth should learn to take pleasure in what they are blessed with, rather than pursuing something mindlessly.
A job well done
Though I was conferred the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards, I measure my success by the achievements of my students. If they make it big in life, it makes me feel that I did my job well.
Passion is the key
Your success lies in your passion for work. I always liked my job as a school teacher, as it builds not only the careers of students but also helps in nation-building. After teaching at five colleges for nearly 10 years (through the 1960s), I realised that teaching college students was not my calling. Moreover, my innovative techniques did not find many takers at the university level.
Finally, I joined Delhi Public School, RK Puram, as a senior English teacher in 1975. Even after teaching there for 34 years, not a single day felt repetitive or tedious. Every time, it was a new experience. I taught even on my last working day, retiring in August this year.
Sweet fruit of labour
The real test of a teacher is whether students stay in touch with them even after finishing school. I have been lucky in this — my house is often full of my former-students. I always believed in giving personal attention to each student. After assessing each person, I helped them reinforce their strengths and weed out the weaknesses. The onus of a student’s performance lies on a teacher. If a student cannot understand a topic, it is the teacher who has failed to explain.
Students in school will certainly respect their teachers, but a student can also play guru to the teacher. By asking questions, a student opens a new window of understanding for the teacher. Learning is, in fact, a two-way process where inputs should come from both sides.
I have always dared to think differently. To explain a topic, a teacher normally relies on a book or any other printed text, but I believe that the text should be left till the last. In DPS, I introduced the concept of ‘learning by doing’, where students learn through experiences, audio-visual presentations, discussions and also through books.
This method caters to everyone’s needs, not merely to sharper students (which is a major flaw of conventional teaching). I started smart classrooms where interesting visuals on the subject are displayed, allowing young students to break down a complex topic into bits that are easier to remember. Every teacher should ensure that the joy of learning is not killed.
Miles to go
Having received 54 awards in the education sector, I still believe I have miles to go. I want Tamana (a school for special kids) to succeed in reaching out to the maximum number possible. My daughter Tamana (a girl with special needs) made me look hard at the plight of such kids. It is unfortunate that parents shy away from sending special children to school. I want every such child in India to get schooling.
Dr Shyama Chona As told to Vimal Chander Joshi