Do teachers hold the key to social transformation?

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Close your eyes for a moment and think of a few teachers who had the greatest impact on your life. I am sure a few faces glide through your thoughts. We always remember a few teachers for their exceptional character, inspiration they provided and demeanour with which they conducted themselves. There are also a few teachers that we remember for lack of the same. There are also many we do not remember except through some rigorous mental exercise. But we forget that our first teacher was our own mother. She taught us the basics of life including how to talk, recite our daily prayers, eat, walk, bathe, button our shirts, comb hair and properly clothe ourselves. She spent days, months and years with us until we got ready for our dads to talk to us and guide us further. Dads trained us to get ready for the school. They taught us some primary math and alphabet. Finally we were taken to the school and put in front of the teacher.  It is from Thaitiriya Upanishad that we learn the sanskrit verse – mAthru dEvo bhava, pitru dEvo bhava, Acharya dEvo bhava, athithi dEvo bhava. If you notice the sequence, it is the mother, father, teacher and finally the guest, in that order, that must be treated as equivalent to God.

There is a very high expectation from the teaching community that it can take children to new realms of learning. From the time of joining the Kindergarten, and assuming they go all the way to graduation levels, kids spend anywhere between 16 and 18 years of their life under the direct influence of their teachers. Under the care of the teachers and the good institutions, parents hope that their kids will carve out a special place for themselves in the society.

Kids encounter many teachers at each stage of their student life. The teachers who complain and work just for a paycheck. Then those teachers who are good at explaining the subject carefully and meticulously. They help in passing the exam with exclusive focus on what to study to get by. And finally there are those who inspire. It is this last group that people remember all their lives. In some way or the other people remain indebted to these inspiring teachers. Something  a teacher says or does becomes a turning point. Some special teaching or experience is forever etched on their hearts.

While it is one thing to note that teachers can play such a positive role, it is very disheartening to note that this profession is not much sought after. Parents seek best teachers for their kids, but do not want any of their children to take up teaching profession. Even teachers themselves do not encourage their pupils to consider teaching career. A physics teacher trains her students to be top notch physicists and a history teacher expects her students to become top class historians, but rarely do we have teachers who wish them to be a very good physics or history teacher!. This situation is understandable to some extent as teachers want the best for their students. It is very tragic that the noble teaching profession is not considered the best option.

A teacher touches many lives during the entire teaching life. More so than any other profession. I know this from personal experience as well. My dad who was in teaching profession all his life recounts his experiences very fondly. He is 86 now. Many of his students still visit him. Several of his students held key positions in government and retired recently. Even though they were his students several decades back, they still visit him as a mark of respect for the man who inspired them. Wherever he goes he encounters someone who introduces himself as his student from so and so college and so and so batch. When I went to visit SV temple in Pittsburg, I talked to an elder gentlemen for a few minutes and it turned out that he was my dad’s student!

If every student enters life with these values firmly etched in their hearts – will there ever be another war? Will there ever be another terrorist act?

It is needless to say that if there is any hope of transforming this world, the key to transformation lies in the hands of teachers across the world. Let me dream about this transformation for a few minutes.  Let’s say for the next twenty years every teacher in the world teaches his or her own subject with utmost integrity and honesty. In addition to this let’s say they teach each and every student how to love all with no reservation, to serve all with no distinction, to help everyone who is in need and to never hurt anyone no matter what. If every student enters life with these values firmly etched in their hearts – will there ever be another war? Will there ever be another terrorist act? If we were to change the world for better it should start with the teachers, one teacher at a time and in turn for every teacher one transformed student at a time.

If one teacher helped you transform your life with one experience, one class or even one sentence uttered at an appropriate place and time, imagine what it would be like if you really liked all your teachers for their nobility and the inpiration they provided. Imagine what it would be like for everyone else!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sai leela swaminathan December 17, 2012 at 7:36 am

Dear Sahadev Brother,

Let me first congratulate you on your blogging. You write so well. I am impressed with the way your thoughts flow explicitly through your key pad. I also liked the topics you’ve chosen. Kudos to your writing. You should be in the SSSVV LP module making team.
Any way how & why TEACHERS can make a difference is also my favorite topic. No one other than a teacher can imprint ideas, opinions, insights and motivate a child to greater cognitive abilities. She or He can which ever method — intellectual or through her own integrity and value systems can mould a student.


Sahadev Komaragiri December 18, 2012 at 1:43 am

Dear Sai Leela Sister,
Thanks for your kind words of support and encouragement.

The role of the teacher, when it comes to social transformation, can never be overstated. You being a teacher and mentor know this better than anyone else. Thanks for going through my blog and writing your valuable comments.


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