The conversation took place in the kitchen while we were giving finishing touches to a weekend lunch, more than a year ago. My tiny kitchen was bursting with us, four substantial women with substantial opinions on all things big and small. From discussing the amazing collection of clothes we saw in a shop in our hometown, we moved on to other more interesting topics like family gossip.
“…But I thought she’s a teacher!” my aunt said. I told her that the ‘she’ under discussion – one of my many nieces – is about to change her profession, and gave her the details that had been revealed to me. After the due round of exclamations, my niece, (this is a different one, not the ‘she’) concluded, “….anyway, it’s better than being a teacher!”
I gave her the look, but didn’t have the heart to pursue further as I saw her literally biting her tongue. She confessed that she had forgotten for a moment who she was talking to, and would have taken back the words if she could.
Being older and larger-hearted (:D), I could understand her point of view – especially as she is an executive in the best and profoundest sense of the word. She has majored in Business Administration, enjoys her job, and is obviously good at what she does. It would be too much to expect her to understand the attraction that an over-worked and severely underpaid teaching job holds.
Admittedly, there are instances when I find myself wondering why I’m still sticking to this so-called ‘noble profession’ – which is turning out to be not much better than bonded labour as days go by. Many a time, I have felt that to survive as a teacher in this part of the world, teaching is the last thing one needs to know. Yet, every so often, I am reminded of what it means to be a teacher. While battling with Verb Tenses, while trying to find a solution to the Facebook crisis of a thirteen-year-old, while listening to a parent who seems as lost as I am at times… While gazing proudly at an old student who has come to show me the certificate that she has recently won for creative writing, while sharing the story of my childhood follies with a bunch of gleeful adolescents who sincerely believe they have diverted me from that day’s lesson… And that keeps me going despite – well, despite.
I am a teacher by choice. I had started out my career more than two decades ago as a temporary statistical assistant in a consultancy service, moved on to becoming an office assistant, an errands-person in an advertising firm, and then a clerk-typist in a bank. I had even run a small-time dress-making unit for some years. It was after all this that I became a teacher – that too, purely by chance. And it took me all of three days to realise that I’d never enjoyed anything as much as I enjoyed teaching English.
And I remain a teacher still.
This one is for all my students – thank you for pulling me through each day, good or bad.