Teachers’ Day is celebrated on September 5 every year, since 1962, to honour Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. It is said that on his birthday, his students had fondly asked him if they could celebrate it, to which he had replied: “Instead of celebrating my birthday, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers’ Day”.
The birthday of Bharat Ratna Dr Radhakrishnan — a philosopher, academic, and a statesman, who served as the first Vice President (1952 – 1962) and the second President of independent India (1962 – 1967) — has since been celebrated by students and educational institutions as a day to honour teachers.
This year, however, the spirit is low.
Children cannot sing and dance, or put up posters and skits. They cannot sheepishly hand over flowers and cards to their teachers on this special day. Teachers will find themselves buried in work — with every concept to be converted into an online module, training and re-learning new ways of teaching and communicating, adjusting to new norms of online education, etc. It is sad that some of them have lost their jobs, too.
Many Indian academicians and teachers have made history in this high-pressure job.
Teachers find themselves at the receiving end of children’s misdirected energy, pressure from curriculum and calendar, scrutiny and non-acceptance from parents, and criticism on the family front for prioritising work over family.
This is not a 7-to-3 day job, as is popularly assumed. The backlog eats into family and sleep time. This, having been compounded by the pandemic and online schooling; not specifying teachers with their kids in schools who need attention, guidance and support.
What better day than today to quote and be inspired by Dr Radhakrishnan.
“It is the intense spirituality of India, and not any great political structure or social organisation that it has developed, that has enabled it to resist the ravages of time and the accidents of history.”
To seek and find strength in spirituality is a gift. It is not new to you. And, in fact, if you have been beating yourself over procrastinating or imagining the day when you will have the time to do things that can help your health, allow me to enlighten you: teaching is the deepest spiritual practice.
You don’t just interact or spend time with kids, you act in service to teach. So you have already got this one in your pocket!
Spirituality is a globally-acknowledged concept.
As you fulfil an honourable purpose, add meaning to lives and connect to the universe via your teachings, allow the process to give you the deepest sense of peace and happiness. See spirituality as you may. Both the experience and the results are subjective. Spirituality can result in qualities such as love, self-awareness, patience, frustration, tolerance, compassion, boundless energy, a sense of detachment, faith, health and hope.
“When we think we know we cease to learn.”– Dr Radhakrishnan
Teachers are constantly learning. For anyone who thinks teachers know it all or should know it all, is most ignorant. The reading, exploring, persistence and tolerance that are required on the job are constantly teaching us. There you go, another one in the bag!
A part of my passion involves teaching and mentoring young and budding psychologists, and I understand the preparation that goes into tutoring others. The way I have understood the aforementioned wise words of Dr Radhakrishnan is that I love to let the interns and students lead me, teach me. Students love to give and connect and every conversation I have with young kids — whether in tutoring or therapy — is a learning experience for me.
“The end-product of education should be a free creative man, who can battle against historical circumstances and adversities of nature.”— Dr Radhakrishnan
Now, here is an opportunity we have.
Freedom, creativity and courage can amalgamate to make a potent mixture of resilience, something the world needs most right now. We agree that this may not be the last ‘historical circumstance’ or ‘adversity of nature’. While many adults are struggling to tolerate and overcome steady lashes of periodic challenges, you have the exposure to young minds that can explore and practise grit, and be better prepared. There is no better teacher than you, and no better time than today to teach them survival, compassion and duty towards community.
Teachers find themselves in a sticky struggle with a severe strain that might be here to stay. But then, haven’t you gently-yet-firmly set stubbornness right, multiple times over?
(The author is a Mumbai-based psychologist and psychotherapist)
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