“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams.
I believe the words above express wonderfully the extent of influence a teacher can have on his/her students. It is the influence of our teachers, deep down at the root of our education and development, that we are where we are right now.
In fact, the influence of our teachers starts working on us from the day we walk into school, and then it just goes on working on us for the rest of our lives.
I remember the first smile of my teacher, Mrs. Horn, on my first day of school. It told me, “You are going to have a very happy time here, with me to take care of all of you.” That set the tune for the rest of the day – and all following days, at school.
I remember a teacher patting the dust off a boy’s arms and legs as he was crying for having fallen on the playground. The teacher patiently waited for him to stop for breath, and then, smiling, said gently, “This is just part of growing up, son. Shake the dust off, check for wounds, get the medicines and get back to life!” The boy stopped crying, stared, smiled, and checked for wounds. Finding none, he said a heartfelt, “Thank you, Sir!” and ran back to the playground, never to be scared of falling, again. For as long as I was there in that school, I had never seen him cry again.
It was our English Literature teacher who explained Shakespeare so well to us that even the naughtiest students forgot to talk and get distracted, and would listen to him in rapt attention as he recited quotes from ‘Macbeth’. By the end of the first term, all of us knew almost all of ‘Macbeth’ by heart – not because we spent hours at home every night memorizing the play, but because our teacher read it out and explained it so well that we just HAD to study it more and deeper to re-live his classes at home, and in the process, all of us had almost learnt the play by heart! Needless to say, we scored excellent marks in the final examination.
A student who wrote extremely flat, boring and serious essays changed her style of writing, gently inspired by her teacher – not through advice, but through examples. The teacher had a unique way of inspiring his students. He would have essays and answers read out in class, leaving it for the students to decide which style/s they would like to emulate. Various essays and answers of their classmates were read out, without the names of the writers mentioned. It was left for the students to get inspired, choose a style, follow it, or not. In the process, the writing skills of many students improved significantly, and the student who once wrote those flat, boring, serious essays went on to become a writer and columnist known for her sharp wit and wordplay.
Teachers can influence students to move mountains and achieve the impossible, so to say. They can inspire students to find and realize themselves and become what they could have never dreamt they could.
The right teacher can remove the fear of a subject from a student’s consciousness simply by explaining the subject well and not blaming him/her for not “getting it.” The right teacher would take it upon himself/herself to have every student in the class understand every lesson thoroughly, respond to all kinds of questions associated with it correctly and develop so much of interest in the subject and the topic as to pursue it further, to know it deeper and share the inferences with the class and the teacher.
Teachers can discover talents and help them develop further. Teachers can even introduce interests to their students. A child who had never ever thought of singing was made to sing as a part of a group in class, and that was when he discovered that not only could he carry a tune well, but he actually enjoyed singing and had a voice that impressed his audience! That one little exposure to music and singing had given the boy Music to love and pursue, for a lifetime.
A teacher of Geography noticed several students drawing near-perfect maps in class, and advised them to pursue drawing and painting. They did. A lifetime hobby was found and cherished.
On the other hand, there was this child who seemed very angry with everything and everybody, and it was only this teacher of his who had a calming effect on him. She was the one in the presence of whom the little boy would calm down, sit still and concentrate on studies. One gentle look from this teacher would be enough to inspire him to control his tantrums and anger and get back to behaving like a student adhering to discipline. All through the time, this boy was in the school, the teacher stayed as his calming effect, his mother figure in school. The boy gradually developed into a very ethical, well-mannered, well-educated individual, eternally indebted to his teacher who had understood his heart and inspired him to become the sort of success he deserved to become.
Teachers influence students in ways they know, and ways they don’t. Years after leaving school, when I know my teacher cannot be watching me say that loving “No!” and shaking her finger at me, I still resist biting my pencil while thinking hard. The careless boy I knew in school, who would get a gentle reminder from his teacher every day to “Polish your shoes and tuck that shirt in properly” is a doctor today, immaculately attired. He still remembers his teacher’s words, “You CAN become what you want to – all you need is to WANT to.”
We have so much to thank teachers endlessly for!