“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” By Steve Jobs
I became a teacher not by choice but by chance. I was a science student, and my father was desirous for me to be a doctor. I aligned my dreams with his desires because in those days children religiously followed their parents’ decisions and directions and they too did not have exposure as they have today.
My circumstances took a turn when I was in the final year of schooling. The Emergency was declared in India, and my father was put in jail for no fault of his but the political clinch, and he had to pay for honesty, sincerity & patriotism. He was in prison for 19 months. He did not pledge for an excuse as he was determined that, he has not committed any mistake, “if doing duty sincerely and serving people is a crime, then I am ok for this punishment”.
We brothers- sisters were too young and faced a tough time. The government terror was so acute that most of our friends and relatives were not interested in meeting in the open. We all were facing a disturbed life; our biggest occupation was going to jail and court. Our upset mode was wholly opposed to my father's calmness and composed look. He took to reading books to understand religions and spirituality, writing his experiences and working for jail reformations.
Amidst all, this chaotic situation, I could not concentrate on my studies and could not prepare adequately for my board exams, This had repercussions on my result, reflected in my mark sheet. I got distinction in Mathematics but failed in Chemistry, and so my dream to be a doctor was shattered into pieces. My father consoled me for being underage advised me to, prepare again for exams. But unfortunately, that could not happen. The reason being 1. My father was still in jail, 2. The school education system changed from 8+3 to 10+2. Anyhow, I wrote my chemistry paper and got through. My adversities put me to be graduate in general studies of commerce. Before I could complete my graduation, I got married. All of us who were born during those times are well aware of India of the '80s where due weight is not given to women's education and career.
The marriage did not bring any positive change in my life, the family was conservative and miser. However I met my passion there too, there were four children in the family, two in elementary and two in high school. My afternoons, sometimes evenings and most of the weekends were dedicated to their education. I think people in the West cannot relate these incidents to their life but of course, Indians can.
My family was educated and affluent and my father a wise man, I didn’t get any answer from him what prompted him to marry me so early. Anyhow, my father had a small school, he observed my hardship and guided me to join the school as a teacher, though I was not a qualified, teacher, but he was confident that I would be an ideal teacher because often in my free days from college, I use to teach less performing children during their remedial classes. My students and I had always proved to be successful. Maybe their achievements and their wait for my non-college days probably gave my father the confidence that I will prove myself to be a good teacher. This was my first leap into the giant world of education. Then there was no looking back.
I gave the best results, happy students and satisfied parents, and got the confidence that a compassionate teacher is better than a qualified teacher.
I am not marginalising the qualification of a teacher; of course, that’s essential, I am just laying emphasis on my point that compassion, concern, patience and belief in children are some of the qualities which can motivate children to perform.
Ultimately, the purpose of education is preparing children for learning how to learn. If that purpose is achieved, they can perform without anyone’s guidance. Show them a dream and visualise the dream yourself, and take them to the melodious self-driven arena for swinging, swaying, dancing and rolling with their confidence in the teacher, that she is with us, available on call, will be there when needed, we can talk any time, that’s it, the only success mantra for a teacher, that's what I learnt and I am consistently following.
I was thinking about my job as a teacher is fulfilled because I have made them have a glimpse of tomorrow.
I always remember Mahatma Gandhi’s saying that “Adversity is the mother of progress.”
Adversity taught me the values of ‘Improvisation & perseverance’, and these values made me capable of managing time. My association with an education taught me the value of ‘Continuous Learning’ and because of which, with my job and my family, I kept on studying. I completed my B. Ed, a necessary formal qualification, the essential degree to be a qualified teacher. When I was pursuing my B.Ed. I learnt so much about the new teaching methods, strategies, the role of teachers, individual differences, philosophies, psychology etc. I after completing my B.Ed felt on top of the world of education. I walked into the school with more confidence & determination. I started implementing my new learnings. My approach to dealing with problems changed. The value of qualification increased in my mind. I realised whatever we study, may be theoretical, has value but only when we put to the application, then we become capable of creating our own theories, that actually adds value to our learning. Both the incidence I have mentioned with a purpose, to make a point that
1. My father’s determination, honesty, unflinching faith in God, the unperturbed attitude in adversity was a great lesson which brought me to where I am now. Parental values are in the home environment, not in the sermons, and only values make one capable to face challenges and adversities.
2. The importance of qualification cannot be underestimated, but it is worth just if it is put to the application, otherwise gradually it becomes a corpse.
Addiction is a condition where you are attached to a particular substance, thing or activity. Where you have no control over yourself. Now I had become addicted to learning, knowing more and more and applying the acquired knowledge for the welfare of students. I continued and continued and continued with my studies in spite of thousands of obstacles. I joined MA English, took few exams and left in between, joined again but could not complete. There was no discouragement because I had tasted the flavour and enjoyed the aroma of learning and acquiring an educational degree, I joined again for post-graduation in commerce, but that too was left incomplete, just a few papers of the final semister, as my second daughter was born and I ultimately got engrossed in the smiles of my angel. She became the world for me. I fulfilled all my unfulfilled materialistic desires as a mother what I wanted to do and could not do for my elder daughter, the apple of my eye and the recipient of my oceanic love. Since I was independent financially now, so all was at my will & wish.
Once she grew up a little, I completed my Masters in English and in Education. There was another hurdle in my Educational accomplishments. I joined for both the courses simultaneously from two different universities, and later got to know that I can pursue only one degree, the second will be wasted. Without verifying and questioning any further, I applied for M.Ed again and completed it successfully.
‘The most significant benefit I reap from the continuous study, besides being knowledgeable is that my chronological age has increased, but I am still a child at heart, inquisitive, curious, thirst to know, fight to resolve problems, accept challenges and so on.’
Since my all the knowledge was put in action in alignment to my aim of improving upon children and of bringing change in society, I became desirous to explore more. And finally, I completed my Doctorate in Education.
My research also remained a unique experience for me. When I enrolled and prepared my proposal, I was thinking as if I am preparing for an exam which was on a higher scale than the exams I had taken so far. But the fact was it was as if someone has made you blindfolded in a thick jungle where you know nothing, and for the sake of survival you are given a small sharp tool, use all your skills and intelligence and come out of it safely. In this jungle of research, I just had my passion, education and the values I had inherited & acquired as a tool. The most motivating factor behind was my mom’s dream of me being a doctor. By now the passion of my father to see me as a doctor was transferred to my mother. Mother and Mentors both are critical in the success in life.
“Sun rises everywhere but crop grows only where the farmer has worked hard. Similarly, GOD is everywhere but his grace is for the one who works hard”.
Dr Raj Bhardwaj who was visiting our schools for Teachers’ Training and Motivating children for better results. He persuaded me to do PhD. He saw a spark in me and prompted me to apply for PhD, and took me to meet Professor K. G. Rastogi. He was a retired professor from NCERT and had worked in Jamia Millia Islamia University. This iron-willed man was the epitome of Human values and knowledge. on my first meeting with him, I decided that I will be working under his guidance. Same was his feelings, he decided to take me as his student. Then a day in and day out, discussions started, every day was a new day for me, a new lesson on education, a layer after the layers of school education, defects of the education system, teachers role, human values as the true meaning of education, endless discussions. He made me meet many more professors. He was my associate professor, and the research guide was Prof. R.S Khan, a very calm and humble man who had a very different way of putting up things. Whatever work he used to explain, I was doing it sincerely, but every time he used to raise a new point. I thought to myself, "What a professor! He forgets what he has assigned". I got frustrated, and I told him that I want to withdraw, I cannot do more work. I was just at writing the first chapter. He saw me frustrated and helpless. His words still echo in my ear, he said, “You are not writing exam, you are researching, means something new that is not known, this is not my mind, your mind has to work, I will be guiding for format, you are practising to research, real research will begin after PhD, and if you have no patience, no devotion, stop it right away and if you can work on the same thing even after many failures you are welcome to come to me again”
These words were harsh but eye-openers, I got to know that I am at the first phase of the 10% of the research. I shared the same with Prof. Rastogi, he vetoed the same and advised me to keep on reading, spend a good amount of time in reading, read the same thing again and again, he gave me few books on education and research. I learnt to share my feelings and doubts with every professor, whomsoever I was meeting. I always had many questions, and I realised, no professor was minding answering the questions. They were all were all supportive, knowledgeable. I had the desire to complete my research in three years, but with my family and work, it was not possible. In my fourth year, when I was compiling the findings and was giving shape, I got a severe allergy from paint and that attacked on my vocal cord, I was not able to speak, I got diagnosed that my vocal cord is paralysed.
My research work was left in doldrums, and I was running from one hospital to another for treatment and the year rolled by. My professor also got retired. Prof. Khan helped me a lot and got me permission for one year to submit my research.
Nothing came to me with ease, don’t know what the god’s plan was. My new guide Prof. Shanker had a different opinion about my research, he rejected my work and gave me new reference points. It became tough for me to convince that what work I have done, he was not ready to listen. It was with my husband's consistent efforts, I could work with him. One full year I worked as per him on his instructions. I had gone through so many adversities that by now nothing was complicated for me to modify, my one research was more than three researches, but finally, all went very well with a lot of praises. My observers commented that after a long such insightful research in education is seen. These words were my biggest reward. I finally thanked God, conveyed my gratitude to my professors and learned that if we want to do something, we cannot learn without being humble to our teachers because they want to give their knowledge to us and also want us to add to that knowledge with self-inquiry.
As I said earlier that I became addicted to learning, I want every child, every elder should be made addicted to learning. How we can make children addicted to education? By giving them a lot of opportunities to reading. I remember Professor Rastogi used to say, "One reading does not increase knowledge, with one reading, the text does not become yours. Read, Read & Read, when you read for the first time, you read the lines, when you read the second time, you read between the lines and the third time, you read beyond the lines, you read the mind of the writer. That's why read again and again". How very true!
My reading mania states that we have to develop reading societies, we have to make books available for children, everywhere. Reading homes, reading schools & reading societies. Then the culture of reading will develop otherwise people just talk, gossip and create rumours. Because they speak it is a hear-say, from where it started, no one knows, how accurate that is, no one has made efforts to validate. Such societies promote negativity and cause slumber in growth.
When I visited the USA for the first time, people asked what I like the most there? My reply was community libraries, every town has its own library, parents take children there, from childhood books become their friends, they read a lot instead of wasting time in gossip, that's why they are knowledgeable. Why can't India have libraries? I took membership of the British Council Library during my MA study. I was to spend two hours and sometimes more on travelling, I used to think what a waste of time. Why can't there be libraries in every city? Education ministers travel abroad to understand the education system of foreign countries, why could they not see community libraries, which are urgently needed for the societies.
My education took me by leaps and bounds in my job. I taught for 8 years, then became teacher-in-charge, then Vice Principal then Principal and finally Director. Our school started progressing from one school to three senior schools and ten pre-schools. Our schools are known for quality education to masses and have earned a name for itself in the area.
I was fortunate to get a chance to be closely associated with every aspect of education as a parent, teacher, administrator, as trainee, trainer, and a researcher. I got ample opportunities to see the ins and outs of the education system close to every nook and corner.
When I was doing my research, I read in depth about commissions, committees, five-year plans and National curriculum framework, I have all the regards for the scholar’s chairmen who headed them. How wisely these documents are written, unequivocally amalgamated with the national needs, the changes and the modification that are essential for domestic growth. I read Delors Commission Report & the sayings of the great men, educationist and philosopher of India and of the world. I visited many schools, many libraries, NCERT many time, met many educators & professors, listened & talked to them. I found many professors are disturbed by the defects in the present education system, had written many books for the problems with the suggestion of improving and many had adjusted with the circumstances and did not bother.
I realised that every educational document written in India is even ahead of the papers printed in developed countries, but the painful story is that in spite of the scholarly and competent work is done but the implementation is not made rigorously & systematically. Who is stopping? Where are the restrictions? Is there anyone who is not willing? No. If everyone is ready to bring the change, as they claim, then who is the culprit? I think it is just a weak mechanism. There is no coordination between the political body and the administrative body. There is no mind match between the two. If this is not then there are several success stories of the countries, they would have learned from them. There is no dearth of intellectual genius in our country. The way they have implemented and modified education with time for dealing with the national and global issues. Education is used as a tool by them for managing change. Why can’t we learn from them?
I am still pursuing my post-graduation in psychology. Besides formal education, informally I kept on attending educational workshops, training and conferences and now as an educationist, I am writing books and giving instruction to the teachers and parents.