The journey of a boarding school master

[ A S Huidrom ]

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

The North East of India is like the forbidden paradise in the country. It is the Amazon of the sub- continent water by the massive perennial river called the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Hailing from this part of the world, my love for this land is beyond description.

I had my school education in a boarding school situated in Nainital, now in Uttarakhand. During my schooling, I desired that my part of the world should have a school wherein a person is taught not just subjects but life skills as well. The boarding school nurtured my physical and mental faculties. I was groomed into becoming a person who could influence people and create immeasurable impact. A boarding school is a place where there are many facilities and unparalleled opportunities both for the students and housemasters.

After my college and university studies, I decided to serve as a teacher as that is where I felt I could influence the people of my land. Being a teacher was exciting and I had the innate passion to walk the proverbial extra mile in whatever I did. But working in a day school became tiresome as one could not do much beyond a certain limit.

I wanted to groom the boys and girls of my land into individuals who could make an impact beyond the boundaries of the North East.

Therefore, I resigned from the job even though it was a government position and joined the boarding school, Donyi Polo Vidya Bhawan, Itanagar (Member of IPSC) in Arunachal Pradesh. Though the job was a private one, I had the quenching satisfaction which could not be granted by the day school. Here, I was giving my all as a boarding school master in every form- as a physics teacher, as a tutor, on the sports field, in the dining hall and everywhere. I was actually a part of every child’s life on the campus. Rather than just teaching them values, I was trying to be an example to them in everything I do, as I believe that students learn better by observing than by merely listening to what one has to say.

One of my students at the school served as the chief minister of the state after he grew up. Some of them are in administrative services (IRS and IAS), engineers and doctors and social workers.

My life as a boarding school teacher took a greater and a brighter turn when The Assam Valley School, a mammoth boarding school opened in the middle of the tea gardens in Assam in the 90s. I was enthusiastic to join the school as it was established in my part of the land. I knew I could do more in this gigantic institution.

It has now been more than three decades and I feel that I can still do more as a boarding school master in this institution. I always gave more than usual to whatever role I was given to play-head of admissions, head of department, head of E-learning, round square representative, tennis and hockey coach etc.

As a physics teacher, I desired to enlighten the students on how science has advance and has made man’s life easier. As most of the students were first generation learners, I had to really make them realise the influence of physics in human’s lives in various forms. I walked an additional mile by taking students every year to NASA in the USA. Students have workshops at the JF Kennedy Space Centre, Florida and space camp at Johnson Space at Huston, USA wherein they learn some aspects of space science. The trekking and camping expeditions in Darjeeling, North East India and Bhutan taught me the social behaviour of the students outside the four walls of the classroom.

I also served the school as a Round Square representative. One knows the kind of influence a Round Square has on the student body. International conferences in Singapore, presentation of students’ engagement in Aiglon College, Switzerland and South Africa engage the students in discovery framework of Round Square pillars which eventually will impact their life.

As a housemaster, I am in the position like that of a potter wherein I can mould them. I become more than a mere teacher and more than a parent when I am in the shoes of a housemaster. One must have that burning passion to be in that position wherein a student finds one trustworthy enough to open up his heart and confide in.

Every year, students with different temperaments enter the campus and every student is a unique challenge for me as the housemaster. No matter how difficult it may be to make a gentleman out of that boy, I do still find a way to make a fine person who would serve as a ray of hope to the planet out of him.

After becoming the senior master for the boys department, I am glad to leave a legacy behind because when I retire the student community will continue to have passionate housemasters to nurture them.

Learning is a continuous process and I have always had the passion to learn from my mentors, such as Dr Vidhukesh Vimal, headmaster of The Assam Valley School.

I buy his beautiful ideas and some of the proven effective practices from him and apply them in our day-to-day functioning of the school.

The greatest satisfaction lies when graduated students enter the threshold of the campus not as students but as people who serve the human civilization in some constructive way- an IAS officer, IRS officer, a chief minister, an entrepreneur, a law and enforcement officer, a defense officer, a pilot and the like.

That very moment of seeing the once- upon- a- time child standing in front of me as a responsible adult, who is greater than his teacher in every aspect, immediately makes me feel proud of my profession as a boarding school housemaster. To me, every single individual is a living success story and I have the joy of being a character in their life’s story as I was the child’s potter, a sculptor or his maker -in a way.

(The contributor is a senior master of the Assam Valley School, Balipara, Assam.)