"Oh, so you're a teacher?"
"Do you really like being a teacher?"
"You chose this profession or was it circumstantial?"
"I've heard teachers get peanuts, how do you feel about it?"
"Isn't it funny that you are back to school after passing out of school?"
These are some questions that I have come across a number of times in the past 8 years of my journey as a teacher. Be it at getting together, social gatherings, family functions or just meeting old contacts at a mall, people have often asked me "What do you do?" and I have always confidently and very cheerfully answered, "Well, I am a teacher". I have always enjoyed observing their reactions on my answer to their question. Sometimes, they have shown concern, sometimes it seemed as if they are making fun and sometimes as if I am being treated with sympathy for my decision to be a teacher. I fail to understand why? This category of people that I am talking about are those who chose to go for IT jobs after graduating from college, or who want to study abroad, or those who chose to stay in India and prepare for the rat race of getting a perfect CAT score so that they can get into the most elite B-schools of the country. Their reactions on my "I am a teacher" answer have always left me wondering if teaching is such a grotesque profession or that getting into a corporate job after graduation is the only real success mantra in life. I guess in order to understand this, we need to first understand what real success is all about. As Google defines it, Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. I guess for most of the people out there, the definition translates to Success is getting a high paying job, living in a comfortable and luxurious villa, driving an SUV, spending vacations on a oh-so-clean-and-blue-water beach at a foreign location, post pictures of my very-successful life on FB and then keep doing this until i die one day with satisfaction that yes, i have accomplished my purpose. It leads to another confusion in my mind as to what is the real purpose of this life? Being in the rat race of earning money and spending it all on myself my real purpose and is that why God created me in the first place?
Having spent 8 years in the teaching career, I have never felt incomplete. Life has been a satisfying fun ride so far. Stepping into the classroom every morning and interacting with my loving bunch has kept my happiness levels at an all time high. Dealing with their day to day issues, as simple as losing locker keys, forgetting their planners at home or as big as going through serious emotional heartbreaks, I have tried to reach out to them in the most comforting ways. Celebrating birthdays, going for community service, accompanying them for adventure camps and turning into a little child in their company, I feel I have been able to 'accomplish my purpose' and I would continue to 'aim for success', the way I perceive success. Those who ask me "Why are you a teacher?", I feel I will never be able to answer you guys because you are busy accomplishing your purpose in life, you are busy travelling, getting stuck in traffic jams, sitting in your little cubicles amongst thousands of others who are like you, busy preparing presentations, busy getting bullied by your managers and still continuing in the same jobs in the luck of getting an onsite opportunity, you are too busy working for someone else's dream and passion who makes you happy with a hefty pay check and you go back home all tired and exhausted wondering how to find happiness in that pay check. My counter question to all of you would be "What have you achieved in your life?". I am not interested in knowing about your possession of materialistic treasures as an achievement but your real achievement, which made you a super duper happy. Before questioning me on my choice of career, I guess you need to self-reflect on a lot of things and have a real meaningful definition of 'happiness' and 'success' in life.
Looking at the current state of India, i guess the plight of a teacher is same everywhere. We know we are on the right path and doing the right thing which is meaningful and purposeful but our dear friends fail to see that purpose. Who is to blame? and Who is to make people see the beauty of this profession? Is it even important for others to understand and respect us or is self-motivation enough for a teacher to get going? These are some questions we keep asking ourselves and I know every teacher goes through this on a daily basis. Well, I believe that external validation is not important as compared to self-motivation but making others see the purpose in our profession is extremely important, not to gain acceptance from others but because educating and empowering our surroundings runs in our veins and we love to do that in all ways possible. Only if we come together, start sharing and voicing our thoughts on a larger platform, we will surely be able to communicate the right purpose of our lives and give people an insight into what all we do. An educator is someone who wears multiple hats, a counsellor, a mentor, a guide, a leader, a mother, a guardian, a role model, a strong pillar and someone who can make a real difference to someone's life. He can do all of this sitting in a happy and positive classroom full of kids who admire him in multiple ways. The rewards of doing all this are to see smile on our kids' faces, those colourful Happy Teachers Day cards, sharing Lunch along with their childish stories and much more which can never be defined in words. I wonder, what all can a corporate professional do sitting in his own tiny cubicle and what are the rewards? I am yet to find that out.
To all my dear corporate friends, yes, we chose to differ from your choice of career not because we are any less in terms of our capabilities or intelligence but because we chose to 'teach' and because we chose happiness and self-content over materialistic pleasures. We understood the real purpose of our lives, have you? Never ask a teacher "Why did you choose to do this?"
- Shelly Sachdev is a tech in learning enthusiast and a passionate educator, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org