Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Teacher's Day

I've been out of India for far too long, or so it seems. I had to be reminded by this article that Sep 5, Wednesday, is Teacher's Day in India. This day was chosen for its co-incidence with the birthday of India's second president, S. Radhakrishnan, a statesman and politician famous for his erudition and learning. According to Wikipedia, only 21 countries have an official celebration of Teacher's Day. Much to my surprise, the US is among them, with the day being part of a week called Teacher Appreciation Week.

Teacher's day in my school was always a big event; teachers did not teach that day, and came to school mainly to be entertained and feted in an assembly with variety shows/skits/gentle mockery. Senior students would mind the junior classes. when I was younger, this meant a day of partying in school. When I became one of the seniors, this meant I was able to come to school in "civilian clothing" (most schools in Delhi had strict uniform policies) to boss over the younger students. Good times...

Now I'm a teacher myself (after a fashion), and find it both easy (and fashionable) to grumble about the lack of respect shown by students in the US, as compared to students in India. The truth of course is far more complicated than that. Schools in Delhi appear to have acquired many of the "bad traits" of the worst high schools here; my mother has taught in Delhi schools for nearly 20 years and has seen them acquire more "western" habits (which is a shorthand for more boy-girl interaction, less "studiousness", less fear/reverence for the teachers, take your pick). And ultimately, as a university professor, I'm not even on the frontlines of education here in the US, and have no business complaining about the largely excellent students I teach.

In any case, here's a cheer for the teachers I had; the ones who tolerated my brashness, general arrogance, and constant questions, and helped me reach the teaching pedestal I find myself at today. And here's hoping that one day there'll be some student who might think as fondly of me as I think of all my teachers long past.
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