Pleasures of teaching | Sunday Observer

Pleasures of teaching

10 January, 2021

Although I was not a professional teacher I always wanted to be one. I unsuccessfully sat the Teachers’ Training College entrance examination a long time ago. However, the teacher in me always forced me to teach what I knew. Then, I took to teaching English and journalism on a part-time basis.

One day, I met one of my classmates. After exchanging pleasantries I asked him what he was doing for a living. He said he was a teacher. His performance in the class was below average, but he managed to pass examinations and became a teacher. I asked him whether he loved teaching. He said, “No, I became a teacher because I could not get any other job.” I felt sorry for him for he was doing a job he did not like.

I asked another teacher, “Why do you teach?” He said he did not want to be considered for an administrative position because he did not have the necessary qualifications. I was puzzled when I realised that there are people who teach without any abiding interest in it. Most of the school leavers expect a big salary or perks when they apply for a job. However, teaching is not a money spinner and it is still a vocation.


Another teacher confessed that he became a teacher because it was an easy job. Probably, he did not know that teaching is the most difficult job in the world. Working as a teacher is more difficult than earning your living as a clerk or a bulldozer mechanic. As one of my favourite teachers told me, “Teaching is a red-eye, sweaty palm sinking -stomach profession.” I asked him to elaborate. He said, “Red-eye because I never feel ready to teach, no matter how late I stay up preparing the night before. Sweaty palm because I’m always nervous before I walk into the classroom. I’m sure that I will be found out by some of the intelligent students. Sinking-stomach because I walk out of the classroom an hour later convinced I was even more boring than usual.”

I like teaching not because I know the answers to questions the students may ask. I am driven to share my knowledge although I do not claim to have a large corpus of information. Sometimes, I am amazed to see students taking down what I say in the classroom. Although I do not have a high opinion of myself, I like the pace of the academic calendar. As teachers I do not work eight or none hours at a stretch. I have long vacations unlike other professionals. I get the opportunity to travel, research and expand my knowledge.

Teaching is one of the professions built on change. Does it really make you happy? I met a university professor who taught history. He confessed that he used the same set of notes for 25 years. However, he added, “Even when the material is the same, I change – and more important, my students change.” That seems to be a valid argument for change.

Free writing

As a part-time teacher of English at a private institute I had the freedom to make my own mistakes, learn my own lessons, and stimulate my students. As a teacher I became my own boss. I urged my students to do free writing before attempting to write full-length essays. I asked them to go beyond the text books and the syllabus and read more on the subject. In a government school I would not have enjoyed such a freedom.

As a teacher I always asked questions that students had to struggle before answering. Sometimes, though the students asked the wrong questions they got the right answers. A good teacher will not answer some questions immediately as he will have to do reference at the library or browse the Internet. That is part of the learning process as well. As long as you teach, you stay alive.

Teaching is sometimes an ivory-tower profession. A good teacher should know how to get himself and his students out of the ivory-tower and enter the real world. Once, I taught literature to a small group of students. They soon started reading Aldous Huxley, R.L. Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Jonathan Swift. They started reading literature voraciously not to pass examinations but to enjoy what they read. As a teacher I only opened the floodgates.

Private libraries

As a teacher I encouraged my students to build their own private libraries. They started buying books and filled their rooms with novels, collections of poetry and anthologies of short stories. Books became their loyal friends. Whenever I visit somebody’s house, I make it a point to see whether there are books and newspapers around. If any house does not have them, it becomes a mini cultural desert.

Today most doctors, lawyers, accountants and surveyors do not read novels, short stories and poems. They read only books pertaining to their field of activity. As a result, they fail to know how people think, react and live. Imaginary characters in novels and short stories teach us many lessons which cannot be learned at schools or university.

A senior lawyer once confided in me that he found himself reading Thoreau’s Walden with fresh eyes than the law books in his library. Now he knows why the protagonist went to the woods, how he built his cabin, and why he felt so good about his experiment that he wanted to tell the world about it. Finally, he leaves the woods after drinking the waters of the Walden Pond.


Teaching helps us to enter many woods and leave, read many fine books, enter many ivory-towers and enjoy the real-world experiences. The variety and challenge found in teaching is not present in other professions. If I had not chosen journalism as my profession, I would have certainly become a full-time teacher. One of my close friends gave up his medical career and became a lawyer. I gave up my law studies and read literature for an arts degree.

Some professionals regret that they did not read literature thinking that it was a waste of time.

Only a teacher can see how people grow and change in front of his eyes. An efficient teacher is not a pauper. He can earn money and enjoy a little bit of power. Above all he can enjoy reading books, talking with people and making discoveries. He has no need to become a super-rich man.

Do not think that a teacher has no power. He can nudge you to read a book, fan the sparks of creativity, ask difficult questions like Socrates, praise those who do well in life and condemn those who spread untruths and show the way to success. What other power does he need?

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