The Most Influential Teacher

Each of us have our set of favourite teachers and similarly all teachers have their set of favourite students. I say it from my personal experience.

So who do you think is the most influential teacher?

The bell rang and Ms. Alex (name changed) was expected to enter the classroom anytime now.

I was shivering. Shivering with fear. Honestly, I don’t recollect whether it was fear or if there is any name associated with that emotion that I was experiencing.

No. No. I had not committed any mistake. Nor did I do anything wrong. It’s just that I was her ‘pet student’.

I shivered with fear because I was sure that the neatly written pages of my 6th grade Mathematics notebook will shortly get crossed with a red-ink pen, almost tearing off the page or it will be sent flying into the dustbin. None of this because the sums were incorrect or the method was wrong, but because that’s how it has been since I was in grade 3.

public-humiliation

I knew all the formulas and I also did almost all the sums correctly unless I was distracted by a harsh shouting and then the name calling, which happened almost every day. That was the intensity of her hatred for me. I am fully aware of how it feels to be constantly insulted, humiliated, discouraged and demotivated at the hands of none other than someone who is supposed to shape up your future. It hurt me more because the same teacher used to treat one of my classmates very very lovingly and was not so harsh with the other students.

Ms. Alex was my mathematics teacher for four consecutive years and had ensured to make me feel completely useless and hopeless. My correct sums and answer sheets were torn right in front of the whole class and I was made fun of while most of the class joined in the laughter riot that she started. More than the visible external marks that were left by the cane stick usage, it was her words and the manner in which she chose to humiliate me again and again, year after year, class after class, that hurt me more.

quote-a-torn-jacket-is-soon-mended-but-hard-words-bruise-the-heart-of-a-child-henry-wadsworth-longfellow-114402

My fault: My mother was a colleague of Ms. Alex and her best competitor as they had joined the school somewhere around the same time. And Ms. Alex’s daughter too was in my class.

Ms. Alex was so harsh that to avoid a tiff with her, few of the teachers chose to give her daughter an A+ for an essay which was no better than mine. And I would get a B or B+. Of course, those teachers would pacify me separately saying that the marks on papers don’t count in life.

By the time I got rid of this treatment I was in grade 7 and had lost complete interest in the subject, Mathematics. Slowly my interest in other subjects too came down. I used to sit blankly all through my Maths classes in grade 7 and 8 even with a different teacher and it was purely my luck that I managed to pass out because I used to score good marks in all other subjects. The lowest I got in Mathematics was in the finals in grade 8… a 46 out of 100.

In grade 9, Ms. Subramaniam (name changed) accepted me for tuition classes even though  I joined in mid-session (sometime in August) and had to cover up a lot. After the first week, she told me,

You are a quick learner and you pick up real fast. Just a little bit more and you’ll surely shine. I’ll help you. We’ll do it together.

Those were the first few words of appreciation after years of mental torture and self confinement. It was ecstatic to note that someone truly believed in me.

I put in my 200% with Ms. Subramaniam’s 100% and there I was with a 98 out of 100 in my final exam in grade 9. I’m glad I didn’t prove Ms. Subramaniam wrong.

As usual, Acha did write to me, “Why and where did you lose the two marks?“, but to me I had won the race. The race of running away from myself and from everyone else, because I thought I was useless, hopeless and good-for-nothing.

A big thanks to Ms. Subramaniam for all that she has taught me apart from the Mathematics lessons.

Though the child in me may never be able to forgive Ms. Alex, I must confess that it is because of her that I chose to have Mathematics as a subject till my post-graduation. And I did clear all my Maths papers with distinction. Something that I am not just proud of, but something that makes me feel confident about myself and makes me believe in myself. May be it was because of the treatment from Ms. Alex that I learnt what kindness and humility meant. Or may be I learnt it when I compared her with Ms. Subramaniam. And it is only because of Ms. Alex that I learnt why it is necessary not to shout at kids even if they flunk. It breaks their confidence. There are other ways to improve a child and many other ways to show your discontent without being rude.

Teacher

It is very essential for a person to learn to be humble and encouraging. More so for a teacher, because it’s not just the children in the classroom but a whole big world out there that gets affected by their behavior/learning.

A teacher can either make or break the future of several generations.

*All images in the post are taken from Google Image Search results. 

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This post is part of the WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts program where the aim is to post at least once a day based on the prompts that they have provided. Today’s prompt is, Teacher’s pet: Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?” 

The author Rekha Dhyani is one of the contributors to the We Post Daily and blogs regularly at Dew Drops. She also shares her lucky clicks at The Crystal Trance

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30 Replies to “The Most Influential Teacher”

  1. Well, you had a Ms Alex and I had someone who we used to call ‘kulli’ (the short one in Kannada) back in high school. And at least Ms Alex did this to you as she was rivals with your mother and her daughter was in the same class as you were, but till date we don’t know why kulli picked on the 4-5 of us in the class. Net effect I hated Maths back then, and I still am not very comfortable with it even today 🙂

    There have been so many occasions in life when I have wondered if kulli hadn’t happened, if I had learnt Maths well, would my life have been different. And that’s the level of influence that this short teacher had on my life.

    I therefore have no option but to completely agree with you on this post. It resonated at so many levels for me 😀

  2. WHat a horrible person Ms. Alex is! But I know there are teachers who are irresponsible and do not understand their importance in a child’s growth. I am glad Ms. Subramaniam identified your potential and helped you to sail through with great marks. More so because you regained your lost confidence.

    Thanks!

  3. WOW, I am impressed that you continued on with her. How horrible. I had an awful, mean teacher in 9th grade Algebra and that one teacher convinced me I was completely stupid in Math so I never took another math class in high school. When I got to college I was given a placement exam and scored so high that I was placed in the College Algebra class. I fell in love with that professor and learned what I needed to leave her class with an A. I even help my daughter with her algebra now and it makes me feel so good!

  4. That Mrs Alex sounds like a hitler! Gee… so many times I feel so many things in the past we perhaps could have taken head on! However, back then, it was just not an option!

    I had a Maths teacher who made me stand outside her class for one whole year! But I was also pretty much to blame! I was once caught standing on the desk throwing rockets in the class and normally would not have done my homework! I hated maths… as most of the class would understand and I wouldn’t! Earlier I would raise my hand and ask… but soon it became clear that I was the only one who was not getting it in the class and so as my ego got the better of me I stopped asking and started loathing maths… I used to love my English teachers. I was fortunate to have the best of the lot. They told stories and poetry in the most wonderful manner! I never had to refer any book for English even during exams and yet I would get the highest marks. It was so wonderfully explained!

  5. Teachers make such an impact on the students.. Sadly few fail to understand this…In class 11th we had the most hateful cruel physics teacher and because of him I hated the subject too…this was the only reason I didn’t pursue engineering… Actually turned out a blessing in disguise.
    And as far as Maths is concerned I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the subject…from almost failing in class 8th to securing a ton in 10th and 90s in 12th…haven’t really thought about the reasons… Could very well be a teacher! 😉

  6. It is so horrible on part of Ms Alex. She is one of the nightmares that almost every student has encountered. The extent differs though. I am glad that you finally found someone who helped you shine.

  7. Your Ms. Alex reminds me of Ms. S.A, who was my Maths teacher in 8th std. I started hating Maths that year, failed in all class tests and just managed to pass the final exam with 35% marks. But luckily it was only a year. In 9th std Mr. B was my Maths teacher and slowly I started loving Maths and scored more than 80% in 9th and 10th and took Mathematics for 11th & 12th. But again there was another Ms. S because of whom I slipped down to 60% in 11th and 12th.
    The same Ms. S intentionally made my brother fail in 9th std, because he had complained to mother that he was not understanding what she was teaching and my mother had shared this concern with her in the PTA meeting! But then in second year in 9th and also in 10th, Mr.B was his Maths teacher and he scored 90% in maths!

  8. Why you need to change the names dear both of them needs to know what they have been atleast I feel so as I know both of them.

  9. My husband’s mother was a teacher too. I have heard similar stories from him. Hugs to you Rekha. I am glad she ended up being your motivation. 🙂

    Teachers play a powerful role in a child’s life. Even though we are not supposed to bad mouth teachers, I do that sometimes to bring my child’s confidence back. Or just to vent out my helplessness in the matter. I don’t mind if my kids not get a teacher to inspire them, but I do mind it when someone manages to destroy their confidence.

  10. I shudder to think what you have gone through. A teacher is supposed to be a mentor but very often some start trying to be Gods. Proud of you Rekha that you came out shining. Many would have succumbed.

  11. Wow.. what a monster Ms. Alex would have been… to break a kid’s confidence like that is much more monstrous than anything else… Its good that you used it to your advantage.. but I really salute all those other teachers who with their affection and patience create great human beings… 🙂

  12. I’m so glad that you proved Ms. Alex wrong. I completely agree that a teacher’s attitude towards a student can affect him/her a lifetime. Continously picking on a particular child and humiliating him/ her in front of the whole class is really demotivating. I’ve had similar personal experiences in school. To make matters worse my mother taught in the same school and the few teachers who didn’t get along with her always picked on me intentionally. I’m so glad that I came out of it.

  13. Gosh! It must be a nightmare for such a small child. Thank God, you found Ms. Subramaniam. Teachers like Ms Alex should be be banned from teaching. Such teachers can scar a child for life!

  14. In every spoken word that you remember, there is a valuable something – something that made you not forget it in all these years. No matter how harsh it was at that time. Happy to see how you see that too. 🙂 And Mathematics has always been my Waterloo – Alex or no Alex. 😀

  15. Even I am surprised by your patience. May be I was a rebel by birth but once I complained about a teacher who made me stand out side the class (for no reason). One meek reason was I was learning the lessons faster than him. LOL
    I appreciate the way u chose some thing which bothered u and came out in flying colors.
    U should be proud about it Rekha
    and a booooooooo to Alex
    🙂
    good day

  16. Ms. Alex was a nightmare of a teacher and glad you found Mrs. S who reinstated your confidence in yourself and sparked in you an interest for Maths, which was incidentally my very favorite subject in school. I recently wrote about an incident that happened in my son’s school. Sometimes, teachers don’t even realize the emotional scars they leave on students. Glad you came out stronger and wiser.

  17. What a terrible teacher. I know exactly how you felt. My son had 2 teachers like your Ms Alex. He proved them both wrong. good on you for sticking to it and 3 cheers for Ms S.

  18. Oh yes, the age old teacher competition. And yes why is it always maths? Rekha – I think we might have a lot more in common than just love for blogging. And kudos on emerging relatively unscathed from the experience. Lovely post

  19. I wonder if all Math teachers are like that! I too had a Math teacher in class 10 who hated me because on the first day, she caught me giggling and she assumed that I was laughing at her! After that, she chose to mentally humiliate me in every way possible!
    I’m so glad you accepted the challenge and excelled in Maths after that, Rekha!! Good for you!

    1. Thank you Joy!
      I hope it gives the readers an essence of why a particular child behaves in a certain manner and how important it is to communicate with them and nip the issue in the bud itself.
      Best wishes,
      Rekha

  20. Well said…a teacher can either make or break it. My maths teacher was such a terror that she would make us stand in a queue and shower slaps if we got the sums wrong. She taught us for two sessions and by then I began to dread the subject. Hope there was a Mrs.Alex in my school back then. At the sane time, my English teachers throughout were so good and cooperative that I outperformed the others in the language…and I owe all my writing skills to her! Time to write a tribute to my teachers today…:)

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