Tribute to teachers who groom life-long learners

SPICE OF LIFE: Teachers like Sister Joyce are rare. They don’t force students to learn; they make them fall in love with learning
Such teachers are rare. They don’t force students to learn; they don’t try to educate students; they make their students fall in love with learning and education, thereby converting them into life-long learners. (Representational image)
Such teachers are rare. They don’t force students to learn; they don’t try to educate students; they make their students fall in love with learning and education, thereby converting them into life-long learners. (Representational image)
Published on Sep 02, 2021 04:17 PM IST
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By Sonika Sethi

Sister Joyce didn’t walk; she glided through the corridors in her white habit that included her spotless white tunic, a white headgear and the silver cross dangling from a silver chain around her neck.

History and I could never see eye to eye. I chastised it for being static, morbid and theoretic. I could barely keep my eyes open when the teacher read the chapter in class or summon up the names and dates of birth or death of the monarchs. Despite best efforts, I could rarely score good marks in history as I would fail to satisfactorily describe the various civilisations, or the realms spread across the surface of the earth over a span of not one but numerous centuries.

God in His Heaven must have witnessed my conundrum, for in answer to my prayers, he sent Sister Joyce to teach us history as we started the ninth grade. Sister Joyce was a bundle of energy bursting with knowledge and information. As a thumb rule, she never picked up the book to teach in class. Whether it was the First World War, French Revolution or Russian Revolution, the dates, the facts, the outcomes, they were all on her fingertips.

She would clothe the bare bones of history with flesh and blood by bringing every character alive in the classroom through her teaching. Whenever in doubt, she would retrieve minuscule slips out of her tunic pockets to check the facts.

I still remember the day the Treaty of Versailles was to be signed after an armistice was established between the Allies and the Central Powers post World War I. There was palpable tension in the classroom, which was evident from the pin-drop silence among a class of 40 students. All eyes and ears were riveted to Sister Joyce’s face as she laid out the terms and conditions of the treaty, while also adding the guilt clause along with the already burdensome and humiliating contract. I could imagine myself entering the awe-inspiring Baroque style Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles along with other dignitaries assembled to witness the historical treaty. With every clause that Sister laid out in front of us that was signed by German representatives, I dawdled between a sense of remorse, bitterness, revenge and compunction at the fate of the Germans in particular and the world in general. I wondered if the belligerent parties would stick to their commitments and give a thought to world peace or would they backtrack it all to thwart any attempts of establishing peace. Of course, my latter conjecture turned out to be more potent than the former.

Teachers like Sister Joyce are rare. They don’t force students to learn; they don’t try to educate students; they make their students fall in love with learning and education, thereby converting them into life-long learners.

Sister Joyce did not stay in our school for long for the very next year she was transferred to another. I was not sad for by that time I had already fallen in love with learning and realised that Sister Joyce needed to touch many more lives like she did mine. The only regret I nurture to this day, is, that I could not stay connected with her. sonrok15@gmail.com

The writer is an associate professor at SD College, Ambala Cantt

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Sunday, October 24, 2021