Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them. – Dr. Kevin Maxwell
In celebration of Teacher’s Day, I want to celebrate teachers who hear, understand, inspire and believe in their students. You do not go unnoticed for the mark you have made in many young lives and students around the world will forever be grateful to you.
In this post, I want to highlight the five teachers who made an impact on my life and taught me many great things and not just about the subjects they taught but crucial life lessons too.
For the purposes of privacy, I have altered the names of my teachers.
- To Ms Begum Who Always Believed in Me and Stood Up for Me
Ms Begum was one of several teachers at our Islamic School. I was the top student there and one of the top students in primary school too. But my reserve and quiet nature resulted in me often being overlooked. Heck, I used to walk out of classes sometimes at my primary school and get away with it, that’s how little they noticed me. But not Ms Begum. Ms Begum was my champion, my advocate. She once gave me extra dessert for my good work which made me feel incredibly special considering she was quite the disciplined and stern teacher.
One day, I was contrary. I got into a tumultuous row with another teacher at Islamic School who was also Ms Begum’s mother. I cannot remember what started it, but I know what heated it – I was called a “street kid.” Granted, I didn’t argue like a “sophisticated, young lady” – I was both crying and yelling – , and, of course, I didn’t argue like one either. Because I wasn’t one, and neither were the other students. We were from the heart of the East End, not the West End of London. Naturally, I was kicked out. However, behind the scenes, Ms Begum fought to turn that permanent expulsion into a temporary suspension. Eventually, I was back at Islamic School, performed very well and fell in love with my religion.
Thank you, Ms Begum, for being the first ever teacher to acknowledge me, like me, believe in me, and stand up for me. And thank you for teaching me to stand up to those I love for what and who I believe in.
- To Mr Dudley Who Taught Me to Keep Going and Stay True to Myself
I was getting bullied. I was getting called a lesbian due to the closeness I shared with my then best friend. I was considered weird. I was weird. I am weird. And Mr Dudley still believed that I was great and that I should keep going and be who I am and not change that. That made me realise that not everybody in life is going to like you and sometimes they won’t like you for inexplicable reasons, but you cannot let them dim your shine. Illegitimi non carborundum. Let the freak flag fly because you will never feel satisfied pretending to be someone else. True happiness is found when you accept and love who you are for all your flawesome qualities and then the tribe comes, the right tribe, the tribe that was tailor-made for you.
Thank you, Mr Dudley, for imparting this valuable lesson and clapping fantastically loudly, nodding your head in appreciation for my tone-deaf – but confidently done – singing.
- To Mr O’Hara Who Made Me Fall in Love with History
You taught with passion, you taught with endless encouragement and you talked at length too. You made history an adventure, a time travel to grief-stricken eras, iconic moments and revolutionary movements. To this day, I browse the history section in bookstores with excitement, eager to learn and eager to revisit history. It was a sad day when you retired, and we both cried. My then best friend and I wrote a card for you and you told us that you expected great things from both of us.
Thank you, Mr O’Hara for teaching me that learning can be fun, thank you for making History my all-time favourite subject and thank you for planting the belief that I’m capable of striving for and achieving the great things in life.
- To Ms Brown for Checking Up on Me When Nobody Else Did
I woke up one day after having to revisit a traumatic incident and I was there but I was not there, do you know what I mean? I wasn’t off the grid, but my mind was. It had entered a dark place, a place where I only held the key to. No one knew about the door, and when they glimpsed the door, they forgot about it immediately afterwards. I was there for a long while, slumped in the corner, and no light could enter. I tried once, and it had settled along the lines of Albert Camus’s The Stranger. That’s it – I was a stranger. I had become a stranger to everyone around me, to my loved ones and nobody ever questioned it. Nobody looked behind the façade. But you did. Without hesitation. Some called you aloof, distant, disciplined and reserved, and I said that if there’s anything I learnt from the first teacher that made an impact on me, it is that the best people usually do not make a fuss about kindness… they just are.
Thank you, Ms Brown, for pulling me out of my slump, thank you for noticing and thank you for checking up on me when nobody else did or cared to. You reminded me that I do matter.
- To Deepika Padukone For Speaking Up and Inspiring Me to Reach Out
No, Deepika Padukone is not a teacher but she taught me the most pivotal things that I needed to know about mental health. See, I was one of the ones who thought that depression just meant somebody who was sad, that anxiety was just nerves and that lack of knowledge cost me a lot. I didn’t know what I was going through and had gone through for a long while until Deepika Padukone had the courage to speak up about her experience with depression on national televisi. I wept endlessly watching Deepika talk about how she was struggling to get out bed, the fatigue, the panic, the numbness, and the façade. The façade hurt the most. Pretending to be okay hurt the most. She spoke about therapy and reaching out to her loved ones. And, finally, I realised that I was not alone. That others go through this too. And it’s about time that we put an end to staying quiet about something as important as mental health when 1 in 4 people in the UK experience.
Thank you, Deepika, for your strength and courage in speaking up about depression. At that time, you were the country’s most sought-after actress and understood that it could affect your career. But you dismissed this and instead broke taboo, challenged the stigma and fought on behalf of us. Thanks to you, I undertook therapy sessions for depression and anxiety and this year, I haven’t experienced a panic attack, I am happy, I find that I have returned to myself, I do not stay down for long, I reach out and that’s because therapy has helped me to understand and learn essential coping mechanisms. I cannot express enough how much I am thankful towards you.
- To My Grandmother for Teaching Me the Biggest Lesson – the Importance of Love
I always knew there was something missing in my life. Something that made me feel like an alien amongst people, something that wasn’t right and something that was off… until I met you. They say there is no such thing as love at first sight, but I knew and met love the day I met you. I knew love because you were love.
I recognised a kindred spirit. Though I was shy and reticent, and you were gregarious, we shared the same adventurous and rebellious spirit. I was the shy extrovert and you were the outlandish, life-of-the-party extravert. Contrary to expectations, you weren’t the most affectionate, but you showed your love through your actions. You made sure I was fed, that I was brought gifts, you teased me for my westernised Bengali accent and your eyes and smile never failed to shower love on me. There was always genuine and unmistakable warmth wherever you were.
When you passed away, I thought I would never find love again. Weirdly, I did find love and friendship by bonding over the loss of grandmothers. Strange that, right?
After I pray for my sins to be forgiven, you are the first person I pray for and you are the person I want to see in heaven.
Thank you for teaching me love, thank you for loving me and thank you for being my favourite person in the entire world even long after you were gone. I always miss you.
Which teachers made an impact on you and how? Share your story in the comments section below.
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