What makes a teacher great ?

[ Apilang Apum ]

We all know that every year, 5th September is celebrated as Teachers’ Day to honour the great philosopher Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.
As I begin to reflect, my memories go down the lane. In the earlier days, Teachers’ Day used to be commonly associated with schools, and hence the celebrations were confined within that sphere. I can recall that 10 years back, when I was in college, we did not celebrate Teachers’ Day and it was our batch which initiated the Teachers’ day celebration in the department of economics in JN College Pasighat (I do not know whether they continue to keep the tradition now or not).
However, in the recent years a new trend has emerged. We find that in most of the colleges and universities in Arunachal, and also across the nation, Teachers’ Day is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. A few memories are still fresh in my mind. When I was in primary school, we celebrated the day by collecting donation from all the well-wishers. We used to go to all the shops in the market, carrying a donation box, and shouting “Teachers’ Day, Teachers’ Day”. Shopkeepers used to give one rupee, two rupees or ten or twenty or hundred rupees. Though I did not reflect much on the purpose of the collection, I did believe it was for a good cause.
As time progresses, the celebrations seem to take different colours. Now, at the scene of a simple Teachers’ Day celebration, one can find the hall well decorated; there is cake cutting and cultural items and gifts. All the expenses are mostly borne by the students themselves. As a teacher, I feel truly happy to receive such love and care from the student community. It is also blissful to see the Facebook news feeds flooded with the celebration pictures.
However, I think what is more important is that it is a time to reflect on some basic questions: What does a teacher or professor mean? What makes a teacher great?
In general, we understand teachers and professors as people who teach. Now the more pertinent questions are: What do we teach? Why do we teach? And why do we think it is important?
A saying often quoted on Teachers’ Day is, “Teachers are the builders of the society and the nation.” But I feel it’s time we paused and asked ourselves: Are we really building the society?
It is said that education is the tool to change the society, but it is also seen that educated persons are some of the most corrupt persons in the society. It is the educated politicians, student leaders and civil servants who are corrupted. It is also the ‘educated’ teacher who is failing in his/her duty.
Isn’t it an irony? Then can we really say that education brings change in the society? Yes, it is true that education can bring amazing changes in the society, but only if a teacher can teach human values and moral ethics to the students. Teaching theories, concepts, reading and writing are significant only if they ultimately serve to make our students more human.
The greatest gift a student can gift to the teacher is not simply becoming a civil servant, a doctor or an engineer, entrepreneur, etc, but by becoming a good citizen of the state and the nation. I think only then can we say that teachers are the builders of the society and a nation.
While there is a lot of demand placed on the teachers to teach well, to be sincere in their duty, to help students think critically and ask difficult questions, we should not forget that without the cooperation of the students, parents and the society the institutions cannot run smoothly.
Therefore, I think on every Teacher’s Day celebration, all the sections of the society should take a pledge to help each other, working alongside the teachers in truly building the future citizens. For better citizens means a better tomorrow!