The Joy of Teaching

Not too long ago when I started teaching in primary school as part of my fellowship program, I was as apprehensive and intimidated as I possibly could be. Intimidated mostly because I lacked prior experience of teaching, and apprehensive about whether or not the students would easily accept me as their new teacher. The first few days evoked in me a myriad emotions such as fear, anxiety, nervousness, disappointment, and there were also moments of happiness when we would break the barrier and engage in meaningful conversations. Without a shadow of doubt, children are very perceptive and make an impression of the new teacher in a matter of days!
My initial challenges were having to spend a significant portion of my time managing the class and focus on the individual needs of students. Coming to the major points of discussion seemed like an uphill climb, especially in classes with drastic variations in the learning levels of students. The energy and zeal these children possess, is impossible to match up to. I would often find myself spent and exhausted trying to keep up with them. However, in a matter of weeks, we were slowly but steadily able to establish a strong personal connection and create a conducive environment in class, which enabled each of us to share experiences or ideas without any inhibitions or fear of judgment! Classroom management didn’t seem as difficult as it used to be up until recently. As if a magical wand was suddenly in my possession! 
Come to think of it, several sleepless nights and uncountable days observing other teachers take classes and learn from them, went into preparing the first lesson plan on Diversity and Unity. And while I maintain that all those efforts were worthwhile, I also firmly believe that one cannot use someone else’s experience in his class. 
My own experiences, challenges and success stories would be my biggest source of learning, and I realized I simply had to start teaching in order to understand what it is! Books would simply give me perspective, but the only way to learn the ropes was to start teaching all by myself! Every day in class would offer unique experiences and as a teacher, I had to be prepared to take on different opinions and questions coming from each student and push them to think beyond the conventions. In the entire process, I was as much a student in class, hearing new ideas and looking at the world through new lens, as rest of them! 
In my opinion, the true joy of teaching is seeing the results in form of the impact we make in the student’s life. For a teacher, success is not just delivering content and preparing the right lesson plans, but the knowledge that students acquire over a period of time, and how they use it in their lives. That moment is truly priceless, when the light bulb comes on and children connect the dots themselves and arrive at conclusions on their own, despite numerous failed attempts. Its more than just academic enrichment, and the impact can be seen in the way they think, learn, behave and look at the world around them! 
One of the students in Standard 6, is usually very restless in class, and her behavior has been a concern for me. I would generally dismiss her attempts to cause disturbance, and encourage her to stay with the class. One fine day while we were discussing unity, she unexpectedly volunteered to share an experience from her neighborhood: How the tube-well in her locality was fixed, when more people joined and distributed the task among themselves. Not only that, she also raised questions such as: ‘Is it possible for one man alone to complete such a task all by himself’? ‘Is it fair to expect one person take all the pains in scorching summer heat, so that we get water on time?’ She went on to say that it was the result of the combined efforts put in by so many people which ensured the timely completion of this mammoth task. I was beginning to realize that inspiring students is integral to ensuring their growth and continuous encouragement helps them reach their potential. Yes, by now, I had started enjoying what I was doing!

Teaching goes beyond classrooms, in form of values that we exhibit and help children imbibe; it is also forgiving their mistakes and making them see good from bad, as they are yet incapable of discerning the difference between the two. Teaching is encouraging them to stay on the right path, no matter how tempting the other options may be. Nothing compares to the happiness on seeing children learn and grow. Teaching is a life changing experience indeed!

Shreya Bhattacharjee is presently working as a Research Fellow in Sirohi, Rajasthan; a District Institute of Azim Premji Foundation. She has a background in Economics & Finance, and previously worked as a Business Analyst in Equities Strategy & Management, at Goldman Sachs, Bangalore.
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