“A teacher?” Praveena repeated unbelieving. She had never thought of becoming a teacher. She had spent all of her student life hating teachers in general — except a handful, like Ms Marrie and James. Her prejudice had prevented the idea of becoming one. But now that Ms Marrie had mentioned it, Praveena began to wonder if teaching would be the profession for her.
Ms Marrie was looking at her, waiting for a response.
“Er –” began Praveena. This was confusing. She hadn’t expected this. “I’ve never considered it, Miss” she admitted. She didn’t want to sound like she was declining Ms Marrie’s idea, but she wanted to convey her thoughts properly as well.
“Why not?” Ms Marrie asked surprised. She rested her right hand on her folded left one, waiting for Praveena to explain her mind.
Praveena hesitated. This was tougher than she had anticipated. “Er – because – I don’t like most teachers.” she smiled apologetically.
Ms Marrie laughed silently. “So did all teachers when they were students. But what exactly is it that stops you from considering it?” ‘Damn,’ thought Praveena. Ms Marrie had always had the right words to extract anything out of her mind. Praveena smiled widely. She had decided to surrender.
“I’m scared my students would hate me.” She said, ‘there I said it. That’s what you wanted, right?’ her inner voice piped up.
“Exactly!” Ms Marrie said victoriously. “so, don’t be the kind of teacher you would hate.” she said simply, shrugging.
Praveena stared at Ms Marrie, completely lost. “Think about it, Praveena. You wanted a break. I’m saying teaching could give you that and would also teach you a lot. Think about it and then decide. But please don’t feel forced or influenced,” she finished gently. Praveena remained silent as they paid for their cappuccinos.
Bidding goodbye to Ms Marrie, Praveena took the bus that went in the opposite direction from Ms Marrie’s place. When she got home it was a late in the evening. Wandering into the kitchen wondering about dinner, she planned to make chapattis, her father’s favourite.
As she folded the flour into water, Ms Marrie’s advice kept bothering her. Ms Marrie seemed to think that she’d make a good teacher. Why had she never thought of it herself? ‘ ou always thought teaching was not for you without even understanding why,’ She nodded in approval at her inner voice.
Now that she thought about it, she began to consider teaching. What would she teach? She was only a psychology graduate. ‘Alright,’ she thought. ‘Even if I were to teach psychology in some school, would they accept an undergraduate? Aren’t teachers supposed to be highly qualified?’ She stopped mixing the dough and crossed her arms across her chest. She couldn’t possibly be a teacher. ‘Besides,’ she thought, ‘why would I want to be a teacher in the first place?’
She kept mulling over this question, forgetting the half finished chapattis. Covering the bowl of dough with a plate, she left the kitchen, her mind racing.
Praveena went over to the living room and lowered herself on the couch. She crouched in a comfortable position, thinking.
‘What is a teacher’s purpose?’ she asked herself. Her inner voice replied smugly, ‘teaching!’ Praveena cracked her knuckles. ‘Teaching, yes. Teaching a subject’ she smiled to herself. ‘That’s it?’ she challenged her inner voice. ‘For a typical teacher, yes’ her inner voice responded wisely. ‘But it’s not so for teachers like Ms Marrie and James.’
Praveena smiled wider now. She agreed with her inner voice. The two teachers she respected the most, the two people who, according to her, did complete justice to the role of a teacher. ‘Why?’ her inner voice asked teasingly. “because they didn’t just teach the subject, they helped me and a lot others understand themselves better.” Praveena exclaimed, irritated with her inner voice for testing her.
‘That’s why you should be a teacher.’ her inner voice ended jubilantly. Praveena understood. She was the girl who was upset because some aimless person had given up on himself and his beliefs. She had expected people to be better individuals. That doesn’t come easily. Someone has to instil that in young children. That’s what she would do if she became a teacher. She would help her students realize their potential and help them build a better society to live in. She wanted her students to help fellow countrymen. They would have a society that sympathizes with other people’s problems.
‘But,’ her inner voice broke in gently. ‘Remember, we live in a society that doesn’t want to he helped. They don’t want to live better. They prefer the sewers and try to pull in the others as well.’
‘Yes,’ Praveena agreed with her inner voice. ‘and that’s why we need to teach it to children, and not adults. This generation is gone to waste, all we can do is help the next.’
‘What’s the use?’ the inner voice asked exasperated. ‘you are just one person, you can’t change the world alone.’ Praveena agreed. Her inner voice had a realistic point, ‘but I don’t want to change the world. I know I can’t do that. I will be happy if I could change just one person’s world. Knowing that I helped one student lead a better life is enough to make me happy.’ she thought earnestly.
Her inner voice said no more. Praveena knew it was the right thing to do. She was aware that her beliefs would be tested, but she would overcome them. She wasn’t the same worried little girl she had been in school. She remembered what Ms Marrie had told her all those years ago: she could either shun away from the society that continuously threatens her behaviour, or she could face society with the satisfaction of changing at least one person.
She had chosen a way.