Who is a good teacher?

Who is a good teacher?

Celebrating the birthday of late Sarve Palli Radhakrishnan as the Teachers' Day (September 5th)has become a habit with us. Honouring a few teachers...

Celebrating the birthday of late Sarve Palli Radhakrishnan as the Teachers' Day (September 5th)has become a habit with us. Honouring a few teachers with 'Best Teacher Awards' on this day has also become a matter of routine with the governments.

But in this age of IT, digital class rooms, online teaching courses, colleges, and universities, deciding who is a good or best teacher has become a tricky proposition. These developments have also added some new dimensions to the traditional meaning and role of a teacher.

There are hundreds of thousands of sayings and pithy quotations, defining and highlighting the term 'teacher', his ethical and professional traits, duties, social roles and responsibilities.

In simple terms, a teacher plays a vital and decisive role in the lives of his students as he/she imparts some bookish and technical knowledge and skills to his taught which is more or less useful for them in finding out a job or a wherewithal.

Most teachers, if not all, carry out these activities in their own and personalized ways. What draws out then a line between an ordinary teacher and a good teacher? In other words, who is an ordinary teacher and who is a good or best teacher?

An ordinary teacher is one who does his duties routinely in a grumbling and half-hearted manner without even an iota of interest in extra-curricular activities or in maintaining a personal rapport with his students.

In a tongue- in- cheek manner, I call him 'a bell and bill' teacher, that means as long as he is in a class, he waits for the bell to be rung, signalling the end of the period and he is always interested in his salary bill. Such teachers we find in good numbers in every school, college, and university.

A good teacher, on the other hand, is one who is not an ordinary teacher. Experts and great thinkers have attributed many virtues, abilities and personal traits for a person to be called "The Best Teacher".

According to William Arthur Ward, "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." As per Albert Einstein,"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

For former Governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry,"A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite imagination and instil a love of learning." Finally, American writer Maggie Gallagher says that "Of all hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher."

For a government, there are many parameters to be kept in mind before selecting teachers for state awards. A teacher's curriculum, extracurricular, academic and research activities and personal relations with students and society are the things that decide the eligibility and desirability of teachers for the awards.

As Maggie says, why is it hard to be a good teacher? No doubt there are many well-informed, knowledgeable teachers around us who can mesmerize their students with their matchless teaching skills. But as Williams Arthur Ward says, a great teacher inspires not only with his teachings but also with his spotless behaviour which teaches life lessons to his students.

Good teachers inspire us with their lessons and lives and they are not for awards and rewards. My mother was a teacher for 30 years. Her parents and her four sisters were also teachers. She worked with dedication and commitment and won the respect and love of her students and their parents.

Even years after her retirement, some of the students with their children used to come to her for blessings and advice. No awards for my mother. However years later my elder sister became a PET in a ZP High school, followed my mother's path and won a Best Teacher Award. So awards, or no awards, a good teacher always works to develop his or her students' hand, head, and heart.

(The author retired as HOD, Department of English)

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