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Teachers who taught me Life: A Tribute

By Debaroopa Bhattacharyya

Ms. Dina Lekharu (In Centre wearing blue saree and white sweater)

Ms. Dina Lekharu

Teacher of English and Social Sciences

Holy Child Convent

Guwahati, Assam

I was all of 8 years, when on my first day in class III B , my new class teacher Ms. Dina Lekharu walked into the room with a broad grin and a twinkle in her eyes, welcoming the class to the new term with a warmth that made the bitter January chill metamorphose that morning into a cozy blanket of affection and kindness that never left us for the whole of 1989, thanks to her.

Ms. Dina was the woman from whom I learnt how patience and kindness could work wonders. Instead of being harsh to students who were lacking on various counts, she chose to empathise  with them and slow down her pace for them. Discipline, academics and decorum were paramount for her, but to enforce them, she never lost her temper or raised her voice or humiliated any student unlike many teachers of that time, who did.

I was a top ranker in my class but often also ostracized by many teachers as a talkative child. Ms. Dina turned my shame around for me and taught me to take pride in being talkative FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. She began recommending me for elocutions, quizzes, announcements at functions, debates etc. and by the time I was in the VI th standard I was a State Champion in Debate and Declamation.

Ms. Dina taught me that love and kindness are the keys to a person’s heart and Education will never make a difference to a life, until it reaches the heart.

Dr. Rakhee Kalita Moral

Associate Professor, Dept. of English

Head, Centre of Women’s Studies

Cotton University

Guwahati , Assam

Dr. Rakhee Kalita Moral to me is an ideal- as a woman, as a teacher, as a scholar and as a potent feminine voice of North East India. I, like every other student of my class, was star struck from the very moment I saw Dr. Moral – every thing about her was so “literary” so to say – nothing colloquial , nothing mundane or crass could even hover around in the vicinity. And as luck would have it, I turned out to be one of her favourite students giving me a fair opportunity of learning from her first hand not only inside the classroom but outside as well.

Dr. Moral apart from being a brilliant scholar and diligent teacher, is a visionary in the sense that her lectures were never about what’s in the syllabus alone. Rather they ignited sparks and unleashed our minds for greater purposes. Being my mentor for Literary Theory and guiding me in several of my seminar submissions, Dr. Moral taught me that mediocracy is never acceptable and that there can never ever be an excuse for failure. She is the one who taught me that the “easy way out” is not for winners. If you want to make a mark you have to find it in you to aim for the Everest , not for the hill next door ( Guwahati being a serene , sublime valley surrounded by them). And that hard work does not absolve you of the responsibility of working on yourself as a person and a potential market force, whichever field you may choose to be in- no wonder hence, in all these years, however tough, demanding or hectic the schedule may be , personally and professionally for her, whether an academic forum, an extracurricular event or a routine class, Dr. Moral would never be out of sync  in so far as her attire or overall disposition was concerned. As much as she marvelled you with her  scholarly knowledge and gift of the gab , there was no taking away from the fact that her grace and sense of style added  the cherry on the cake.

She would always be aptly turned out for the occasion,  perfectly adorned in the most classy yet enviable ensemble, her shoulder-length tresses tamed in flowing cascades, and the visage already an asset due to her chiselled features, highlighted just to the right illumination to complete that awesome and unmistakable ” Rakhee” aura ( forgive me for using your name Ma’am….couldn’t find an alternative “mot juste”). These little things spoke volumes about the character and the perfectionist attitude of Dr Moral and with great care, I tried my best to pick up a little bit of her not only from lessons imparted in the classrooms but also from her dealings with students and staff, from her organisational skills when putting together events and seminars and from her personal sense of style. Now how well I have learnt from her only time will tell. But the fact that I have an Everest to look up to and emulate every single day in Rakhee Madam, is an invaluable inspiration for me.

Mr. Krishnanjan Chanda

Principal

South Point School

Guwahati, Assam

Mr. Krishnanjanjan Chanda was my first Boss, my first employer but beyond that he was my teacher in more ways than one. Some of the most essential life skills in man- management, multitasking, delegation, organizational ability, administrative dexterity and above all humility, are things I still try to emulate from him. Mr. Chanda inspires not just by his words but by his deeds as well; very often in his rounds around the school campus you would find him picking up chocolate wrappers from grounds and dropping them in designated bins instead of barking at children or junior staff to do it. That’s the way he leads and teaches- by example , and that’s what sets him apart. I remember how he was among the visionary School Principals in Guwahati to set up a well equipped crèche in the school campus for the female staff with children from 6 months to 4 years so that they could work in peace while attending to the nursing needs of their infants and toddlers during working hours. No wonder, Sir is the most beloved Boss you will ever come across and to me he is more like a father figure who pulled me out of one of the most depressing phases of my life with his constant encouragement and the creative freedom he gave me to channelize my energies and emotions towards building the Debate and Symposium Section of South Point School in 2005-2006, organizing the House Week Festival 2006 and organizing several Elocution, Performing Arts and Literary Events apart from teaching in the Senior Secondary level during those years, the memories of which still bring such a warm smile onto my face.

Mrs. Sangeeta Tandon

Principal

Shri Shikshayatan School

Kolkata

Mrs. Sangeeta Tandon and I met as colleagues albeit me being the junior counterpart of course, for the first time in the year 2015 when I joined the Birla High School for Boys as English Faculty for Senior Section. She was the Academic Co ordinator for the same section and my first impression of her was that of a leader who knows and adores her pack, holds its together in times of both laurels  and crisis and doesn’t shy away from sharing challenging responsibilities and opportunities of glory with team members. That’s the Mrs. Tandon I instantly fell in reverence with and owing to her peerless character, that reverence has only grown with time as I watched her professional journey from Co-ordinator BHS to  Vice- Principal  to Principal of Shri Shikshayatan School Kolkata, one of the best in the city, and her personal transition from mother to mother-in-law, with great pride and adulation.  Mrs. Tandon and I worked together for only a few months but in those few months what I learnt from her as a teacher and administrator are invaluable . Her uncompromising stance on discipline and quality of academics was her strength as a leader. The way she fused a motherly understanding of juvenile idea of fun with a strict threshold of decorum and decency communicated  through carefully curated sober yet firm messages delivered  in the morning assembly, bore a trademark of the “Sangeeta Smartness” ( sorry for that aphorism Ma’m but nothing else quite made the cut) which I am still trying to learn the ropes of. She is no longer my co- ordinator but continues to mentor and guide me not only as a professional and senior but also as someone who can see the truth in my dreams, hear the voice of my ambitions, feel the depth of my deepest emotions and above all as someone who has faith  in the promise of my vision. As a teacher and a leader, Mrs. Sangeeta Tandon is a class apart.

Rachel Kirsch

Partner and Consultant Teacher Trainer, London Language Consultants

CELTA Teacher Trainer, British Council

Materials Writer and Resource Person, MacMillan

London, U.K.

CELTA ( Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) has been a life changing experience and the biggest reason behind that has been my trainer Rachel Kirsch. Rachel had this uncanny habit of throwing you out of your comfort zone in the eleventh hour, and she did that to me not once but thrice. Every time I prepared to deliver a lesson, laboriously worked through the activities and exercises and teaching plans and everything else, suddenly just a few hours before the delivery of the TP ( TEACHING PRACTICE session ) Rachel would have an epiphany and with a raise of an eye brow here and a twitch of an eye there, she would rubbish the whole plan and set me up for a whole new lesson. AND I WOULD HAVE TO DO IT. By the third time she made me do it, I had learnt to be prepared for the ambush. For my fourth and FINAL TP by far the toughest and duration wise longest one, it was she who threw the challenge at me of doing a Skills Lesson with an intermix of All Tenses in real time situations. I took up the challenge at her behest and I think she was the happiest that I lived up to it.

Rachel not only taught me the most updated  tricks of the trade in teaching skills she brought about in me  a paradigmatic shift in my perspective as a teacher and person. Today , I consider things and arrive at their merit from the view point of the receiver and reader first, as an editor, as a columnist, as an author and trainer, thanks to her.

Today , thanks to Rachel’s propensity of pushing me off the precipice , I have developed the habit of keeping my parachute on and in perfect shape, you never know when you might have  to take that flight off the cliff.

Another thing that I admire about Rachel and am still working on imbibing is her knack for innovation in education and her keen eye for details. Her meticulously prepared reports and lessons were both a delight and learning experience at the same time. I hope a bit of her precision and perfection has rubbed off on me.

It’s been my honour to have been honed by these great minds, hands and hearts in different stages of my life both personally and professionally and Tribe Tomorrow Network is a reflection in many ways of the values I have imbibed from these spectacular individuals, who have indeed taught me “life”.
On behalf of TTN which is celebrating Teachers Week from 31Aug onwards, culminating in the Tug of War Season 1 on 6 September 2020, I dedicate this tribute to these special teachers and hope they continue to spread the light of knowledge and empowerment far and wide.

HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY!!

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