AT 9 YEARS of age that I decided, I was going to be a teacher because I wanted superpowers. It’s proven!. When I was in primary school, I could limpidly visually perceive that some of my teachers had miraculous potencies. My classmates went about their day with ecstatic forsake. Not me. I was the quietly keen-eyed one, noticing things.
There was our French-language teacher in fifth grade who could magically convey us through different worlds every day, simply by portraying to our stories and reading to us from books we would otherwise never pick up.
Then there was the founder–principal of the school, an educator as well, who kenned everything about every child, knew not just their parents but even their grandparents. You couldn’t elude her superpowered laser-like eyes right into you—through flesh, bones and all. That was a frighteningly eerie superpower. Her hawk-eyed scrutiny often left us feeling like there was no delusion.
But, our class teacher in the fourth standard could visually perceive the invisible. I was one of those who remained invisible, being rather quiet and shy as a child. Yet my teacher would descry me, even when I was unnoticeable. The unspoken message in her superpowered ocular perceivers told me: “I discern you, I can notice you, I understand you.” She kenned, without needing to be told, the days I felt doleful and lost and needed that extra support. Being a dreamer, I found school scarcely endeavouring at times. She clearly had a superpower if, after four decades, I can still vividly remember her lessons about the great masters of art, expanding our horizons and kindling, at least in me, a lifelong interest in the subject. She did this albeit her area of specialization wasn’t art; it was geography. I don’t recollect much of the geography now, but I do recollect how she made me feel. Her teachings transcended the textbook. As I learnt from her, the role of a primary school educator is to teach children, not subjects.
I kenned I wanted to be such a teacher, one of those all-visually perceiving ones with superpowers that made children feel safe and valued.
What seems astounding to me is that all those extraordinary men and women went about their business, serenely engendering daily magic in their mundane classrooms. No one described, no one gave them medals for stout heartedness or Nobel prizes for ingenuity, although they were being the most creative anyone could be, in shaping and moulding young human beings.
Then there were the other… the Muggles of the teaching profession: People without X-ray vision, no sense of humour and no insight into a child’s secret world. They were the kind who should never have been sanctioned to become teachers. I vowed never to become anything like them
The thing is, being a tutor isn’t the most facile or the most financially rewarding of jobs. And there are occupational hazards that no one tells you about—your knees become jaded from years of carrying piles of notebooks up and down the school staircase, your voice gives in from an inordinate amount of verbalizing and all that chalk dust. But despite all that, there are those who opt to be educators.
It wasn't until I was past 24 that I commenced realizing that there was so much more to being a teacher than I had imagined. Twenty-five years ago, my mother commenced teaching a group of scruffy out-of-school children under a tree on the outskirts of Bengal. The numbers grew steadily, from eight to 50 to 200. Now there are 800 children and a full school. An entire village has hope because of the work my mother did. The first batch of students has taken their board examinations, the first in their family to do so. Magic transpires when you believe in something with a single-minded zealousness. Other people, magnetized by that superpower, come forward to avail. I learned from my mother that inculcation is not a privilege, it is a right. And every child deserves to have that right.