My mom's been an english teacher for 17 years now. She's loved every minute of it, every second of it. She even taught me for a coupla years. People ask me if I ever found it odd to sit and be taught by my own mom in class. I have to admit- i never did. And the credit goes entirely to her. She was very clear- in class she was a teacher. At home, she was my mother. There were other teachers who didn't get that distinction all that clearly, many students who never got the difference at all, but my mom always did. And it takes a gem of a woman (if I may be allowed to say so myself) to be able to stand there and not feel bad about correcting your daughter's mistakes anymore than another student, or not feel proud to commend a good essay anymore than another student. We were all equally her students, perhaps equally her children as well.
What makes her (notice- I use the present tense, although currently, she's not sure if y'day was the last day of her teaching career or not- and perhaps I'm overly dramatizing the situation... all that notwithstanding...) a great teacher is not her great english or her love for shakespeare or a passion for teaching- in fact, what got her started was the fact that she was getting bored at home, and wanted something interesting to do.
What makes her a great teacher was that she managed to do it with dignity, with self-respect, with compassion and understanding, and eventually a desire to learn as much as she taught. She'd come home telling me her student told her something about playstations- what is that? she'd ask. Another student told her about harry potter. I've found it humourous, even funny. Internally, I've always found it very cute. We once went to forum to "check out" the playstation- so she could go back and tell her students that she thought it was cool too. I've chided her several times for getting too close to those students. I bet she thought it was jealousy. Or maybe she thought I didn't respect her enough. It was just that, I found it strange. I'd never really been all that close to a high school teacher before. I've certainly never gone and told my english teacher about shah rukh khan. My mom's craze for SRK is widely known. When KBC- 2 was released, so many people called her and asked her if she liked the show, and as she said "oh! he's a charmer", I was very embarrassed, but at the same time, very pleased that I shared half my genes with this person( yep- the SRK craze gene included, with a bonus "keep the craze closeted" gene, which I think I got from my dad, coz he likes SRK too)
There have been times when mom would come to me and say "oh you remind me of this girl in class", and I'd be gravely insulted. There's a stark difference between my reminding her of that girl, and that girl reminding her of me- I'd insist. "I love both of you", my mom would insist flatly, and I'd only be further insulted. Such was her love for teaching, that sometimes she'd get daughter and student mixed up.
And then things started to change. For a long time it's been the only thing I've taken for granted- the fact that mom goes to school and teaches, comes home prepares for class the next day (or more recently chats with her students on orkut) and somehow finds time to make dinner and yell at me for not keeping something in order etc, and goes back the next day to teach again. But things change, and for a desire to not say too much, today my mom has had to quit.
When one gets old, change is not something that one easily adapts to. These are things I know. I've been so used to my mom being such a strong pillar in my life, that I forgot to see a crack in hers. I wish I could tell her I still loved her every bit the same way. She certainly knows that her students do. Before I went off getting all high-priestess(ly) about karma and retribution and jeopardizing innocent students' studies, I should have known that my mom would've never willingly hurt anyone. I suppose she knows I didn't mean to abandon her when she needed me the most. But still, it would've meant a lot if I hadn't.
One of the most special things I share with my mom is the fact that she'll listen.If i go upto her and tell her "ma, listen. Don't comment. Don't give me solutions. Don't even tell me the fault is partly my own. Just listen", she'll do exactly that. No more will be said about it. No more will be asked about. That's exactly what she needed right now. A little listening. Not even understanding. Just a little listening. I wish I'd done that. But I'm glad that even this didn't perturb her. She has managed to march on and keep her chin up. I hope I've conveyed that this time around I'm ready and willing to listen sans any chicken soup bullshit that she simply doesn't have to hear. Still, I wish, she'd be as happy teaching at whatever new place as she was at the place she taught for almost two decades. She deserves it (partly because she's my mom, and I'd want her to be happy, regardless of anything, and partly because even regarding everything, she deserves to be happy).