If the question asked was, ‘what did we learn?’ then ‘what would the answer be? An average person would talk about being a good or bad student and a subject or two that they must have tremendously enjoyed. Ask them if the subject teacher was a good educator and the answer would be the same. ‘Yes!’ It is 'aptitude' that ensures our success not our education. So how much does the teacher's ability could teach a factor into our capacity to understand the subject or even topic? The capital question is not 'what are we being taught’ and rather it is 'how are we being taught? If that question is answered with passion, then every lesson we learn as a student is meaningful no matter what it is about. Nonetheless, it is a haunting question to be asked, what did I learn? In all of the years of being constantly taught or rather being constantly blasted with information, what is it that I learned? It is not an easy question to answer until we reflect at our past and the people who have moulded us, be it professional teachers or anyone else.
Teachers by occupation have to ensure that the students do well in life, whereas teachers by passion ensure a student's education. Teaching goes beyond books, notes and the internet. They are only tools of information and not of education. Mother Teresa did not even have a classroom but that did not stop her from teaching poverty stricken children. Then again teachers in the past played an important part in the hierarchy of a civilized society, it was even considered to be a privilege to be an educator. Teachers took it up as a life mission to mould the leaders of tomorrow. Today teaching is considered a last resort career choice with terrible pay and worse workload. Pay cheques, deadlines, college recommendations, PTA meetings, Class rankings and various other dogmas followed by the modern schooling system internationally have incapacitated the ability to teach in a teacher, which in turn has murdered education.
We are drilled with knowledge religiously as children, young adults and sometimes even as grown-ups. Aristotle did not sit and drill Alexander the Great with Philosophy. He educated him in medicine, morals, logic and art along with philosophy. Unlike my education which revolved around, making notes, then to rote them and finally write them in examinations. It is student’s grades that determine a teacher or tutor's capability, not his passion to teach. Whereas it should have been student’s success that should have been the true result of a teacher's passion to teach. If Alexander's education had not been undertaken by Aristotle, would he achieve greatness? The more pressing question is, if Alexander had been exposed to modern education system would he have turned into a corporate stooge like many of us? If many of us have turned into robots with similar interests, lifestyle and future options it is probably because we are being taught by robots. In the constant whirlwind of classes, notes, examinations and results, what is it truly that we are learning?
I have had the luck of being taught by some exceptional teachers, but did their lessons turn me into the person I am today? I am sure they all had their impact, although the best lesson of my entire life was given to me by a nun who was only a visiting lecturer at my college one day. She travelled place to place helping the Churches with the needy and on a rare occasion even took a class or two with students studying at various educational institutions run by the Churches. This enigmatic woman was introduced to the class and she decided to take up Keats with us. It was not a part of our semester's syllabus, yet we could not help but hang on to every word she said. At the end she told us that she never studied Keats but she just loved poetry. I was astounded after years of suffering through poetry as if it were a compulsion, suddenly it was a brave new world for me. I stopped finding poetry mundane that very day as if it had resurrected from a dead form of literature to become a newly found passion of mine. A week later I found myself reading the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.
That day our guest lecturer said many things that had an impact on me. She said poetry need not be taught to us, we can take an initiation and learn for ourselves, look beyond the textbooks and ask ourselves what we think the poem is trying to tell us and same applies to various other forms of literature. Finally she said something that would change my perception in life. She said “ Meaning and Perception of Poetry or any other form of Art or Literature does not have a fixed meaning and is not limited to the author or a particular genre. It changes according to the understanding of the reader as well.” What she taught me that day is a principle I live with for the years to follow, that there is no wrong interpretation, only a different one. One lesson in my life has left such a lasting impact. That is what teaching with passion can do to a person. So if I were to ask the question again’ what have I learned? I would give the Nun's answer about Poetry, Literature, Art and Life, that the author may be the creator of the work, but it is the audience that brings it to life. Today if I write, I do it from my heart and leave it to my readers to look for their own answers in my writings. It is how I carry out the legacy of the most important lesson I learnt in my life.