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|by Pramod Khilery|
Every time I judged, formally, I could sense a tinge of discomfiture. Students would consider me an apt choice to judge debate competitions. In the beginning I took up the job professionally but soon the sense of the job being not as simple as it seemed on surface began to prevail over me.
I remember having said judging is inhuman to one of my fellow judges in a competition. And then over the course of time came a moment when I found teaching too as it came to me to be equally inhuman. I teach technical subjects. I had once ended up saying in our meeting with the principal of the college only a few days into my first profession teaching is not telling two and two equal to four when I was yet to formally start the vocation in terms of standing before a class and deliver a lecture.
I understood teaching to be nothing short of a sacrosanct job, a sort of mission than merely a profession. It gives one a direct and designed opportunity to press others especially impressionable minds way beyond the realms of discipline which set up the meeting in the directions rationally and humanly worth treading for the sake of oneself as well as the world at large. When I say sacrosanct I don’t allude to teacher’s personal disposition (I don’t have any problem if teacher happens to fall in love with one of the students. Actually it is non issue.) but its independence from the drudgery which a job might fall victim to.
How far can one wrench this exercise from plodding rests upon myriad factors like the teacher himself, the students, the subject being discussed and of course the ambience within which all three operate. These four factors may also thin out the distinction between teaching and preaching and inspiring. The best inspiration could be uncompromising teaching even at the cost of inviting animus from students which the genuineness and earnestness of teacher is bound to deal with most probably with positive results.
A teacher should never give himself over to a didactic disposition but quite contrarily it is his very degree of involvement with the students, not a bad thing, which sometimes might shove him across the line. What happens across the line again owes to the four aforementioned factors. Inevitable is the judgment conscious or subconscious implicit in didactics which soon might fall over to preaching. It weighs heavily over the teacher upon realization that he had ceased to be a teacher and became a preacher perched up the pulpit of morality and lapsed into pontification. To a great deal now it all boils down to how this lapse, sometimes unavoidable, is handled.
This high moral ground needles the teacher as to on what grounds did he think himself fit to station himself on it notwithstanding his genuine despair owing either to illaudable performance of students or his sense of being stuck amidst wrong audience. This high moral ground standing and pontification snipes on the studentship of the teacher as well as the inward living. Even the best of the teachers if engulfed in adverse ambience fall victim to this monster.
I caught glimpse of preaching even in the Robin Williams’s John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society.’ Not to say that one can never advise, suggest or push the students up a path they ought to be but that’s where the challenge lies. This whole idea of teacher being inspirational is riddled with moral and ethical minefields. And a teacher must walk these minefields adroitly and sensibly putting always the right foot.
I have always had the problem with the employment of the word ‘teacher’. It is too great a word to be used in general parlance. Today it seems spread out like a carpet to be trodden by everybody walking in a building that has something to do with syllabi and certificates. The word should be nothing short of an award to be conferred upon someone (not by State but head of the institution) who has proved his credentials as one. The definition of the teacher should be divorced from the conventional morality in terms of disposition. Till then one should be content with honorifics like teller, instructor, lecturer, professor, reader or something else.
All these things came back to me when I read the phrase Judge-Penitent in Robin Buss’s introduction to Albert Camus’s The Fall. Doesn’t a teacher in professional sense or teller as I would put it risk becoming one everyday inside or outside of the class?
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