Teaching is not an occupation but a passion

— Prof. Dr. Rameeza.A.Rasheed

My travel as a college teacher is for 30 years. It is a travel full of challenges, hard work, brickbats and invisible incentives. The teaching profession has provided me an opportunity to act as a ladder to the students through which they can achieve the goals of their lives and to play a role in character building activity of the youth.

I am not a born teacher. I became a college teacher accidentally without any idea about that career. On the day of my appointment in a women’s college, at 11 am I entered the class room with anxiety, fear and utter lack of confidence about my communication ability, since the class allotted to me had a strength of 110 students. The whole class stood up till I reached the chair and wished me “Good morning.”

With shivering legs and controlled emotion I wished them back. I was warned by my seniors that they were the most mischievous lot and may rag me. Hence, without allowing any time gap for them to rag, I did the self introduction, talked about the subject allotted to me, made them copy the syllabus for it and gave them a list of reference books, In the remaining time I asked them to state their goals in life. They enthusiastically shared their ambitions. Thus, without any trouble I completed my first hour of my teaching career. The daily greetings from the students inside and outside the class room made me feel that it is a very respectable job. In my first year of service I confined strictly to the syllabus allotted, evaluated their performance through tests and prepared course material in a standard format. That means I was performing as an ordinary teacher.

Before starting the second year of my service, I came across an article on “teaching not as only as career but as a ladder to future leaders.” The content of the article was very inspiring and motivational and made me understand the magnitude of the teaching job and the society’s expectations from the teachers. The article, stated that, “No body is a born teacher, but, every teacher should take conscious efforts to become outstanding and excellent teacher in course of time, not only to command the respect of the students but, also to play a role in character building activity of the society. ” This description of the teacher’s role stuck in my mind solidly and from that day it became my Mantra.

I started thinking about the various strategies I have to follow to convert myself from an “ordinary teacher” into an “outstanding teacher” in the first phase of my career. I realised that, only when, teaching becomes a passion for me I will be able to workout those strategies.

It indeed became a passion in the next few years after starting to enjoy the rewards of good teaching in the form of respect and recognition for the work done; especially when I saw students faces light up with understanding of complex theories or concepts and their good performance in the examinations.

During that phase of my career I took extra efforts to prepare brilliant lectures through collecting additional points from subject related magazines, news papers, television debates and use of internet. I started making power point presentation for complicated topics for better understanding of the concepts taught. These extra efforts helped me improve the quality of my lectures and course materials. I could also relate the theories to practical situations with ease due to improvement in my communication skill. I decided that I will not resort to teacher-centric method of teaching but rely more on participative learning in which students will also participate with vibrancy in the class room discussions.

My inspiration in this method was Swami Vivekananda who stated that, “education is the manifestation of perfection already present in a man.” That means the teachers have to only act as catalysts to induce the questioning minds of the youth to explore more and more in the subject of their specialisation. That also means that, the teacher should have more knowledge in the subject taught with up-to-date information which would be possible only if they become constant learners. In a way it even helps the teacher in academic brilliance and quality enhancement. Only then a teacher can organise and guide class-room discussions with confidence. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates and Plato went on teaching the world with passion. This passion helped them to engage in effective dissemination of knowledge which brought forth development of ones innate qualities. For such passionate teachers, teaching is a way of life and not a job.

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In the third phase of my teaching career I decided, that I should strive hard to become an excellent teacher. Hence I formulated certain strategies to achieve that goal.

They are as follows:
• I should help the students not only in academic excellence but also, in personality development through identifying their skills in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and encourage them to participate in such events.
• I will allot 7 minutes of my class hour for open discussion on any news they have come to know from the media pertaining to global, national and regional matters, so that they can use the class room, as a training ground for improving their communication skill.
• I will tell them about the need to become economically independent, since they are women students and their total dependency on others would render them helpless during crises in life.
• I would motivate them about the need to develop positive attitude in life so that, they will face the challenges of life with confidence.
• I will educate them about the need to learn time management skills and apply ethical values in their life.
• I will din into their minds that higher education is a powerful tool to empower themselves, because education gives knowledge, knowledge gives confidence and the confidence helps them to face the challenges of life.
• I will identify disinterested students, talk to them privately to find the root cause of their disinterest in learning and reach out to their parents to improve home environment.
• If they have financial difficulty in paying the fees, I will strive hard to get trust scholarship for them. I will tell such students that education is the only tool with which they can climb up in the social and economic ladders.
• I will go beyond teaching the subject and give them guidance in career choice or higher studies up to research level.
• I will go beyond class room to earn their confidence and will become their guide, friend and philosopher so that, I can give a helping hand to climb up the ladder slowly and steadily, so that they will shine in their future life.

I truly started adopting these strategies to the best of my ability. I always used to maintain strict discipline in the class but, became warm hearted when they approached me privately with their problems. This approach helped in commanding their acceptance as a caring and friendly teacher Even after a decade of retirement when my students run towards me wherever they come across me, introduce me to their family members as “my teacher” with broad smiles on their faces, I feel that I am duly rewarded for all my hard work during my professional period. This profession has given me dignity in society, a place in the hearts of students, a good income and decent pension and a purpose in life.

Teachers are in the privileged position to make a mark in the youngster’s lives. They should realise the seriousness of their job and understand that, teaching will become a passion only when the teachers realise that, they are entrusted with the task of knowledge and character building responsibilities. These are very crucial and challenging responsibilities. To exercise these responsibilities perfectly, it is not sufficient to engage in intellectual discourse and it is human aspect of teaching that will convert an ordinary teacher into an excellent teacher. It is unfortunate that, the tribe of passionate teachers in India is fast dwindling and the number of burned out, frustrated and exhausted teachers is increasing because they have entered into the teaching profession not out of their choice but as a lender of last resort.


About the Author
Dr. Prof. Rameeza Rasheed is a retired Professor of Economics with 30 years of teaching in JBAS college for women (formerly SIET college)-Chennai.

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