A Role Reversal


“Child is the father of man”
–William Wordsworth

On the eve of Children’s day, I want to dedicate this piece to those of my students from whom I have learnt much more than what I may have possibly ‘taught’ them. It is from these students that I have learnt the greatest lessons in humility, power of positivity and the strength of convictions as reflected in all their actions.

To me it seems that some children in their guileless and artless manner give the corrupted adults some profound lessons if only they are willing to pay heed!

Of late I have been learning and taking life lessons from –you would find it hard to believe, but yes, from a fourteen year old! But really why should it surprise us at all? Didn’t the great masters whom we revere and hold in high esteem show signs of greatness while they were quite young?

One of the rare privileges of being a teacher is the opportunity to engage with unfettered minds through the teaching –learning process and the availability of the required resources to launch into an enquiry of the workings of the human mind by close observation and study of behavioural patterns through constant interaction with them.

Children in being their authentic self tend to teach us, the adults- who have mastered artful masquerade, the value of freedom one can enjoy in just being oneself. The complications and discrepancies arising out of contradictions between inner and outer selves are all too well known. The unity/ integrity of thought, word and action still eludes us! At times all one needs is just a living example in the form of a child who by virtue of being himself/ herself negates the need to put on a façade or cultivating a dual personality. If we observe, everywhere we look, we come across people with carefully cultivated dual personalities. Why look elsewhere, our own personalities offer a perfect model for studying this characteristic. Haven’t we carefully groomed ourselves into a version of ourselves that would fit a certain image we want to project? By acting in accordance to a set of guidelines that govern our social conduct and presentation, aren’t we suppressing our individuality from manifesting?

Just like there are exemplary teachers, there are exemplary students too! Students who add value to the teachers’ lives and make the teaching-learning process a truly ennobling and enriching experience for the teacher and the taught. A popular Chinese saying goes ‘When a student is ready, the teacher arrives’. Consequently, it is the presence of an earnest student that makes the teacher’s role purposeful. It impels the teachers to go beyond the diktats of the framed curriculum and share life experiences that have the potential to transform the mechanical transaction to life affirming interactions.

Without the kind of receptivity that intrinsically motivated and highly curious minds who are eager to learn, teaching would be just another chore –a non- rewarding and an unproductive exercise! But thanks to students who persist to flout the norm of mediocrity and make earnest efforts to get the most out of their education, teachers continue to have faith in the nobility of their vocation.

Some students in particular from among the different groups of students that I have taught over the years have left an indelible mark on my mind. It is especially to these students that I owe a lot in terms of the rewarding and enriching experiences that they have given me- priceless moments of sublimity, connectedness and strange affinity I have been incapable of establishing with any of my adult peers so far! They have given me reasons to celebrate the teacher in me letting me partake in their beautiful journeys.

These students hold a very special place in my heart. They have enriched my life in more ways than one. I can’t claim to have taught them anything (which they already did not know, by virtue of their extensive reading). Being a language teacher, I facilitate skills acquisition. Even here I cannot gauge the extent of my contribution. When I began teaching them, they had already acquired the level of proficiency deemed necessary for their age. I have had the privilege of witnessing first- hand how the intellect flowers through these gems. It isn’t their academic accomplishments that make them special but their ability to remain untouched by the extraneous influences and retaining their childlike innocence in spite of being tried and tested by hostile conditions detrimental to flowering of the being.

I am indeed very grateful to these children and many more I will come across in the coming years who by virtue of being who they are make the inconsequential lives of teachers like me seem consequential by the privilege of allowing us to be a co-traveler in the journey of their remarkable lives.

THANK YOU, Children. May all teachers be blessed to have such children under their tutelage!
Dedicated to all my students.

P Ajitha is a teaching practitioner who has been advocating for ‘liberating’ the education process to accommodate change and give true freedom that enables the teacher to create, innovate and experiment with notions of learning; a votary of teachers’ rights to empower them to become the catalysts of change in building a national force of informed men and women with sound value system and integrity of character; a staunch believer in the transformational nature of education imparted with true commitment to the larger objectives of this noble endeavour. The author presently teaches at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore and can be reached at ajithapaladugu@gmail.com.