Teaching: Job or calling?

If one ponders about the difference between the terms job and calling, as applied to the teachers, the outcome may throw some light on the activity of teachers, many among whom may see it as a means to make a living, obviously for earning wages, while a select section among them see it as a profession with unlimited scope to render service. Old timers of Mysuru who chose the calling of a teacher, given their unattractive pay package, could be heard saying “Teaching is a noble profession but a mean trade.” Having raised the issue of pursuing the teaching profession either as a job or a calling, tracing it to the times of the land’s epics dating back to the undated pre-historic era can be both fascinating and amazing. Dronacharya’s name stands out as a teacher par excellence on two counts. His student Arjuna is featured as an ace in archery with none to outperform him. The other ace, Ekalavya, learning the nuances of archery with Dronacharya’s symbolic idol guiding him speaks volumes about this distinguished teacher, who rejected the self-learning warrior to be his student.

The annual occasion of Teachers’ Day on September 5, given its observation sans glitz and glamour, is bound to please the soul of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who taught Philosophy at Maharaja’s College, Mysuru, for a short period of three years exactly 100 years ago for more reason than birthday event. For Mysureans, the name of Venkatakrishnaiah, lovingly addressed as Thathaiah, is closer to their heart. If one were to record names of teachers in schools and colleges who live in the hearts of their students in Mysuru, the effort can be immensely rewarding.

One is obliged not to stereotype the teachers in order to avoid tarnishing the image of their profession. However, while some teachers are the source of only information flowing through the black board as it were, some teachers impart knowledge that serves to understand all that awakens their students and some teachers are the fountain of wisdom needed to sail through life and in turn achieve immortality by virtue of their teachings. Many examples of the third type of teacher-student connect are featured in the land’s history, out of which Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) and his mentor Ramakrishna Paramahamsa stand out. Remembering one’s teachers for moulding one’s sterling character with a sense of gratitude is the hallmark of culture, the factor that drives a teacher to bestow love and care to the student.

Celebration of Teachers’ Day is an occasion for the student fraternity to resolve on accepting the responsibility of continuing the legacy of teaching for the benefit of gen next. In sum, taking over the duty of teaching is the litmus test of learning from one’s teacher. That is the best tribute that a student can pay to the teacher.