I would like to start with the words of Calvin Coolidge, a man known for his decisive intent and action: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence, nothing is more common than an unsuccessful man with talent, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb and the world is full of educated derelicts, persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
As a teacher for over 35 years, I strongly agree that no matter how much talent, genius and knowledge is attained, if it is not taught to persist, it will eventually perish. Yes, you read that right. Persistence can be taught. Clinging to the edge of the cliff in the strongest winds can be taught. The spirit to fight regardless of the resources available can be taught. The ability to stay afloat and rise above from every rogue wave that comes one’s way can be taught. Nevertheless, that requires a highly selfless mentor who is ready to sacrifice the hours, the sleep, and is forever ready to adapt. Hands that surround a dying flame and protect it from the breeze are holier than the vows kept.
Times have changed along with the roles of mentors and teachers. Once the teacher used to be the “source” of knowledge but is now one of the “means” of knowledge for a student. This specifically implies that in this world of abruptly changing dynamics, the role of the teacher is to build a character which is ready to absorb the knowledge coming from other means, to grab the rough diamond and turn it into a gem. Persistence comes easy when a student is made aware of the fact that there is no short-cut of the knowledge-route, you work with what you have, till you have the will to, and then work some more. In the words of Sur Sassui of Shah Bhittai:
Crawl O Sassui, to the land of the beloved
With thy hands, thy eyes, thy eyelids
Keep crawling, the mountain will bow
And sigh will reach
I read somewhere that “teacher is the greatest of the artists”, and students are the canvas. So please, oh greatest of the artists, when you have your canvas before you, create a masterpiece and do not ever settle for the ordinary. O greatest of the artists, your shoulders bear the burden of the colours, the rhythm, the expression and the awe of the centuries. Do not look away from it until you have given it everything that you have got. Tear away the parts of yourself, turn them into brushes and colour it so beautifully that the eyes of the time forget to blink.
Most of the time a teacher has complete authority over the environment (s)he wants to create. But creating an environment for professional development or character building takes a lot of doing. When a teacher enters the class, (s)he must be full of energy, enthusiasm, and a lot of optimism. You impart what you contain, and a teacher should contain oceans of energy and optimism. That helps students believe that they can make a difference no one else can, they possess the vision no one else does. Every shot at glory from every angle counts, whether it is a bullseye or misses the mark. There can’t be a greater tragedy than a wasted talent. Every time a moth quits, the flame weeps.
It’s not always about chasing dreams though. In this world of growing complexity, living an ordinary day-to-day life without getting lost is a challenge itself. The art of living needs to be taught as well. Living in these jungles of concrete with heart-rambling noise and eye-gouging lights are people who can’t find the way because there are too many. Trees once hooked with swings of children have lost their being and the shadow because of giant structures of luxuries. Butterflies have lost their colours because of the exponentially growing so-called civilisation. Your canvas is lost too, o greatest of artists! Take them out of this rumble of waste and colour them with the value of love, memories and harmony. Imprint these values in their minds so well that this civilisation has to hear the sigh, the call of mother nature.
A good teacher recognises talent in every student. Colouring his canvas with confidence, self-esteem, and the spirit to struggle should be the utmost priority of the greatest of the artists. Every colour has its own vibrance and hue which needs different and detailed attention.
Your audience (the society) is still grasping the outline and is still dangling over the texture, o greatest of the artists! It yet needs time to realise your pain, passion and the sleepless nights that went into those textures. I assure you the needles of the clock applaud you and they will along with the thread of the taste sew the audience’s shredded consciousness back. They will and they should applaud you, the greatest of the artist!
Building a nation without planning is the same as creating art without imagination. Our artists (teachers) are working in isolation hoping to build a gallery that would amaze the audience which is simply not possible. Rhythm is a necessary aspect of beauty. Teachers need to come together, to collectively imagine the nation we need to build and start creating the elements and pieces so the dreams could come to reality. As a part of this trying journey for the last 35 years and having realised the potential that our young minds possess, I would conclude with one piece of advice: “It’s a long way but the only thing standing between us and glory is the time and effort we are willing to put in to this journey.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2021.