Guest Column: For helping a girl believe in herself, happy Teacher’s Day, Amrita Ma’am!
More than two decades ago, there was a reticent girl studying in junior school. She loved to read not just course books, but also novels and comics. She was particularly fascinated with the collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica at her friend’s house. Each time she visited, she would bring one home to read, devouring it from cover to cover before returning it.
One fine day, the girl joined her new class. She seemed a little forlorn as her best friend was allotted a different section. Her class teacher walked in wearing a bright Chanderi sari and sporting an even brighter smile. She looked around the classroom at her new students with the excitement of a five-year old who had received the gift of her dreams. “Good morning girls! Welcome to Class IV,” she said. The energy in the class was infectious.
This teacher was different from others. While asking questions, she would specifically seek out those who purposely didn’t meet her eye. “I know you know the answer,” she would call out to the shy girl. Her reassuring smile made everything easier. And gradually, the reserved student began opening up. She even began quoting answers from her favourite Encyclopaedia Britannica. On those days, the teacher’s smile would reach her kind eyes. “I knew you knew,” she would say softly.
One fine day, the teacher walked in and handed the keys of the coveted classroom cupboard to the shy student. For a ten-year old, it was a matter of great pride to collect test papers and put them in the hallowed cupboard, take out the chalk and duster each morning, negotiate with those who had submitted their papers late and so on. The teacher had laid a foundation for the little girl to gradually come out of her shell, learn responsibility, make new friends, and be comfortable being in the forefront.
By the end of the year, the teacher had enrolled that student for an inter-school “two-minute” extempore speech contest. The stage was bigger, and the audience was overwhelming. The bashful student spent an entire minute in stunned silence. She managed to speak a few lines at the last minute, but was unable to win a position. Flushed, the student got off the stage to be embraced by the teacher, “You looked so good on stage,” she said with a tight hug. That day, the student learnt another lesson – the only way to outgrow your fear was to go through it, irrespective of the result. This incident set the ground for many extemporaneous speeches, writing competitions, conferences, first-times, in the future.
This may be an ordinary story of an ordinary child, but the hero of the story is the extraordinary teacher who helped the shy little girl to come out of her shell in her own time, at her own pace.
As Henry Brooks Adams says, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” For me, every single day is Teacher’s Day, when I am able to face my fears. Thank you, dear Amrita Ma’am, for all the lessons, love, patience, and for helping me out of the shell – without damaging it.