Our Teachers – The Guiding North Star

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The birthday of India’s first Vice President, Dr. Radhakrishnan on 5th September is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India and in Indian schools across the United Arab Emirates

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Despite the many roles he played, the late President of India wished that everyone remembered him as a teacher

One of the ways to understand a teacher’s role is to explore a metaphor in their favourite tool – the blackboard. They’ve been replaced with the white board, I know, and they may soon be out-teched by the smartboard, I guess. But to celebrate the timeless values of education and the tireless dedication of teachers, let’s assume the blackboard never ceased to form the backdrop. Parallel to a child’s precarious mind, the blackboard receives nourishing knowledge through painstaking scrawling of the chalk. There’s much to be seen and learnt if only someone converts the nonchalance into a glance, a glance into a stare, the stare into a thought, and a thought into deep contemplation.

There’s a reason why the metaphor lies in a blackboard and not paper. The journey of life entails new chapters and stories, at times necessitating that old tales be erased. Change takes in its folds information and knowledge too, endlessly evolving over time and travelling to the board without succumbing to the permanence of ink on paper. The chalk illuminates the blackboard, letter by letter, stroke by stroke, until not an inch remains untouched by the wonders of knowledge. The script of this knowledge transcends language – here alphabets dance with numbers and words embrace arithmetic.

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UAE-based writer Khalid Al Ameri volunteered to take unpaid leave from work to teach in schools

The entire journey is thoughtfully composed by the guiding north star – our teachers. Without their services, a blackboard collects dust just as a child’s mind wanders into the oblivion of inactivity. They help them navigate through the maze and unexpected turns, all along spilling seeds of wisdom that germinate and flourish for a lifetime. Though invaluable and splendid, education exposes our weaknesses and highlights our limitation. Our teachers are not only aware of the fears that reside in the deep recesses of our mind, but also help us find the spark that would otherwise dim-out in the absence of an observant figure. In a world without teachers, these weaknesses could define our lives and limitations would consume the potential that was never spotted. In their absence, the spark would turn to untamed fire, its flames dousing our spirits and ambitions of contributing towards a better world.

Teachers hold an enviable position – few can be so certain of their legacy outliving themselves. The pages of lessons may wear out and desks may be replaced with computers, but the voice of a teacher resonates with students, their teachings make a home in their heart. They’re a fond reminiscence of the past, grown-ups who revisit their childhood often do so through the eyes of their bespectacled teachers.

A revered educationist reminded me that education is a liberating force, and we agreed that it expands the mind of an individual to think beyond the trivialities of life. In the world marked by much violence and intolerance, these trivialities are perverted into thoughts and actions far graver than they’ve ever been. An idle mind without the lead of a loving teacher is a ticking explosive, wired by the evils of society that we so desperately insulate our young minds from. While parents provide comfort at home, teachers provide intellectual nourishment at school – excellence at both places spilling into each other.

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Malala Yousafzai – the girl who took a bullet for education

The importance of a teacher has never been more pronounced than it is in today’s tumultuous times. If a girl can take a bullet for education and the President of a country wishes to be remembered as a teacher, surely our society can do more justice to our teachers. Our modern economy rewards bankers handsomely and undervalues our teachers. Yet, when the fragile economy gives in, it is the teachers who continue to strive at the call of their duty while bankers go into hiding.

Education, unlike banking, does not toe the line of an economy’s boom and bust cycle. Students stream in at times of global optimism and in times of gloom. To ensure a steady flow of motivated teachers, we need to incentivize the discipline so that the brightest minds can marry their passion with stability in career. Modern societies thrive on creativity, and a well-rewarded teacher does not just exhibit dedication, but also looks for ways to improve teaching and widen the scope of learning. In order to understand people who spend hours inspiring minds and moulding personalities, it’s time we channelled resources for the teachers of our times.

Whether or not the blackboard gives way to its digitized renditions, young minds will always await a teacher who guides them through the rough terrains of life and helps appreciate the glory of education. The north star, in the form of our teachers, illuminates our little blackboards.

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