Text of the speech of Professor R.K. Singh as Chief
Guest at Indian School of Learning, ISM
Annexe, Dhanbad on 5 Sept 2014
Thanks for inviting me and associating me with
celebration of Teachers Day in your esteemed school for the second time. First
time it was in 2007. I don’t remember what I said seven years ago, but today,
as I near my retirement, I would like to
share with you some thoughts about our own professional role as teachers.
I have no experience of teaching in school, but I have
not forgotten my years in school. Teachers have great responsibility—to make
students creative. None helped me in a way
I could remember one with respect or gratitude. Perhaps, that’s why I am
not very fond of worshipping ‘Guru’ even if we may feel flattered by
celebrating “Guru Parva”.
But occasion like this should be viewed as time for
self-reflection: what are we doing? How? And how can we change ourselves,
besides making our students creative?
It hurts me deeply to read reports of physical torture
and punishment to students. By beating our kids, we show our own lack of
sensitivity. We close the doors of creativity and sow the seeds of negativity
and frustration. It turns young learners
hostile, maybe violent, and harms them on a long term basis.
When I recall my days in school, the only inerasable
childhood memory I have is the heavy
beating I suffered from my teachers.
Some of them impulsively and impudently caned and punched me. The
result: I lost interest in studies, yet survived, and ironically, became a
teacher myself. Perhaps because I couldn’t become anything else! Honestly, I lost respect for teachers, and
later even wrote articles and letters to the editor condemning them for their
behavior, attitude and activism in the 1960s. But, that is a different story.
What matters is the teachers’ own sense of responsibility
in making their students creative, which is
possible only when teachers display personal attributes that will make them as models to emulate – a cheerful
disposition, friendliness, emotional maturity, sincerity, and caring about
students as individuals as well as
learners. They need to display affection, sympathy, compassion, love for
students, and be attentive to their smaller needs and emotions.
Expression of anger, aggression, or non-academic pastime
serve no learning purpose. As teachers we need to communicate and interact with
them, facilitating thoughtful discourse, discussion, debate, exchange, and
relating to their experiences, stimulating their intellectual and emotional
development through meaningful activities and social participation, encouraging
tolerance, appreciating differences and promoting mutual understanding.
As teachers we are creating human assets for the
future. We are instrumental in shaping their character. We need to experience
the human face of education from
early years, so that men and women become more men and women, become satyam,
shivam, and sundaram – the true, the good and the beautiful.
We can bring about creative changes by sowing seeds for
positive thinking, originality, innovation; by enabling young children’s growth
in terms of their natural talent, with values that affect individual, social,
and national development. We need to discover and value their innate abilities,
qualities, and desire to pursue what suits their natural talent; help them
discover what they are most interested in, and find out what they want to do,
and then to see if it is worth doing.
We should not treat education as mere commodity, or
business enterprise, or means of dividing the society further with denial of
its availability. The rural, the poor, the deprived need our attention as much
as the well-offs and the urban. We can, in our own limited way, contribute to
the very basis of education as the great equalizer in order to move forward
towards a just social order our leaders
have been talking about for the last more than six decades.
If we trust them and if we wish to transform the present
into better future, we can’t be
short-sighted, mechanical, or routine. We can’t achieve excellence by being
superficial, or by ignoring the human capital we are supposed to nurture at school level.
Teachers, as also the parents, not only need to create
conducive learning environment but also to
nurture young children for living richly and fully without conflict so
that their life doesn’t become a battle field. It is rather learning to work,
to build, to create together, to be able to live life without fear. When there
is no fear, there will be freedom, freedom to learn, to inquire, to discover,
to find out. That freedom of the mind Tagore talks about in one of his
celebrated poems (“Where the mind is
without fear and the head is held high/ where knowledge is free/ where the
world has not been broken up, into fragments by narrow domestic walls;/ where
words come out from the depth of truth;/… into that heaven of freedom/my
father, let my country awake.”)
In the exploration is learning. Not in conformity,
imitation, memorization, absorption of information, but in learning to live
without being brutal, violent, selfish, superstitious, prejudiced, or
frightened; in learning to live without suffering insecurity, anxiety, misery, confusion, or uncertainty, and all
Perhaps, we have to educate ourselves to be able to help
our little students be free and mature and to flower in love and goodness.
With these few random thoughts, I thank you once again
for inviting me to your function and giving me an opportunity to talk to you.
Wish you all the best in your celebration of the Teachers
--Professor R.K. Singh, ISM