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In the good old days

In the good old days
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First Published: Sat, Aug 30 2008. 12 09 AM IST

Updated: Sat, Aug 30 2008. 12 09 AM IST
All through school in Renukoot, Uttar Pradesh, math evoked a groan, except for that brief, all too evanescent moment when I scored a 93/100 in the class X board exams. I was not alone in my class in doing unexpectedly well. Somehow “Singh sir” (S.N. Singh), our math teacher, made algebra, geometry and trigonometry easy. He could be hectoring, sarcastic and wasn’t averse to “punishment” — all to ensure that we put in our best. “Impossible is nothing,” proclaim billboards featuring sporting idols in a nifty inversion of an old cliché. Many of Singh sir’s students would agree.
We all cherish memories of a favourite sir or ma’am — who made a lasting impression on us, brightening our childhood or youth. With Teacher’s Day a week away, Lounge asked some educationists to talk about their favourite teacher.
Siddharth Mallavarapu (click here for Siddharth’s picture)
Assistant professor, Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Moving to Kendriya Vidyalaya Malleswaram in Bangalore after class X from a convent school was a welcome change for me. For the next two years, S. Venkatalakshmi or SVL was my economics teacher. In the classroom her passion for economics was infectious — I strive to convey that excitement about ideas to my students now — but her interest in moulding our personality went far beyond how we fared in her subject. I can only now appreciate what it must take to teach a large class in India where the system does not necessarily support you if you try and work beyond the call of duty.
Lata Vaidyanathan (click here for Lata’s picture)
Principal, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi
Ms Bose (Nilima Bose) taught us English when I was in Class IX and X at the Carmel Convent in Mangalore. She had a beautiful voice and I still recall the way she would recite poems in our class. We were always free to ask her questions, even the obvious ones, and this encouraged us to think for and believe in ourselves. When she was around I knew that what I said counted.
Writer and former professor of English, Mysore University
I attended high school in Tirthahalli, a small village in the Sahyadri mountain range and the headmaster there, Sri Yoganarasimhan, was my favourite teacher. He’d make us recite the sthithaprajna description in the Bhagavad Gita, which was dear to Mahatma Gandhi. What was fascinating was that the same man also introduced us to Shakespeare, and the writings of Jawaharlal Nehru and other freedom fighters.
I remember the day Mahatma Gandhi died. We had no newspapers delivered to our village back then and Sri Yoganarasimhan asked all the students to assemble to announce the news. I saw our stern looking headmaster, in his formal petha (turban) and close-collared coat, choking with tears. My deepest ethical and spiritual feelings were aroused by his tears.
Director, Vasant Valley School, New Delhi
Suhas Chakravarty, who taught us modern Indian history at St Stephen’s College in Delhi, stressed rigour in research. And, he had a zany sense of humour. As a result, rigour was never a dirty word; it went hand in hand with fun. He made history — Gandhiji, the freedom struggle — come alive for us. We lived through the Emergency together and one day he walked to the vice-chancellor’s office and tore the prime minister’s photo hanging there. Nothing happened, but he had to make that gesture. I learnt from him to never lower my standards for my students just because they are younger than I am. They always rise to your expectations.
Principal, Doon School, Dehradun
As a nine-year-old, I attended the Hampden Gurney School in London where Miss Ellis taught us all the subjects. She told us many stories; having worked as an ambulance driver and nurse in both the World Wars she had an ample fund of them. They made for an excellent education in values for us. She must have been in her late 50s or early 60s, and often took us for nature walks to Hyde Park, pointing out leaves, acorns, twigs and birds. Her classes were so much fun that we had no time to be naughty. I too try and use examples from my own life when teaching to illustrate a point because I find it very effective.
Pavitra Jayaraman in Bangalore contributed to this story.
To tell us who your favourite teacher is and why, email us at lounge@livemint.com. The best stories will be published on www.livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Aug 30 2008. 12 09 AM IST