“You taught me more than English”

From Google Images

by Sheetal Makhan (AYC)

Hailed by Time Magazine (Europe) as one of the “10 Best Movies of the Year 2005” from around the globe, Black is an Indian drama film about a blind and deaf girl, Michelle McNally. A prisoner of darkness, which is the only world she knows, Michelle grows up to be a violent and uncontrollable eight-year-old child. As the saying goes, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel” and for Michelle, it was in the form of an eccentric teacher, Debraj Sahai who sees himself more as a magician. Michelle’s parents don’t approve of Debraj’s unconventional teaching methods, yet…he persists.

Slowly, he teaches her words and their meaning through sign language.

When everyone was about to give up on Michelle and send her to a mental asylum, it was her teacher who saw that inner “something special”. Years later, Michelle becomes the first deaf-blind person to gain admission at a university to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. Little does she know, that her teacher starts to develop Alzheimer’s disease. After an uphill struggle to attain her BA, Michelle gives a speech to her graduating class. She tells them how for the past 12 years, her teacher would bring her to the graduation ceremony and tell her, “I want to see you there one day.” And while he may not be there there to witness her graduate, she tells her class that the reason she is not wearing a graduation robe is because her teacher should be the first to see her in it.

At a mental asylum, Debraj has lost his memory and is even unable to speak. Ironically, after all the years that have passed, it is his student who becomes his teacher. The film is inspired by Helen Keller’s life and struggle and certainly evokes a lot of emotions. It had me in tears…for a number of reasons. This film inspired me to write the following.

With students outside the school
With students outside the school

I have had some incredibly memorable teachers throughout my years of schooling. I remember many of my teachers, and I’m still in contact with Mrs Felton, my high school English teacher. I believe that she nurtured the curiosity I had of the English language. Since I was able to read, I had a love for words. Books became my friends. I wanted to create magic like the works of Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl. It is for this reason that my love of writing developed over the years. This is why I thought I would pursue a career in Journalism (even after obtaining my BJourn).

For me, no power is stronger than the power of the pen.

Now that I am in the capacity of being an English teacher myself, I realize that my “job” is so much more than that. Being a “teacher” is merely just one of the many labels I wear. At the best of times, I am also a sister, a confidant and a shoulder to cry on.

When I look back at some of the letters and messages I have received from students over years gone by, I sometimes sit in awe. Words which I feel are far too great for me, often brings me to tears. Probably the best line I receive from students is, “You taught me more than English.” That’s when it dawned on me.

My work is merely the platform I have been given to inspire, motivate and manifest magic from these people who are my students.

I can’t explain the thrill I get when I see a student blossom before my very eyes. When I see progression, development and hidden talents surface…I sit back and beam with pride. Becoming too emotionally attached to ones work is, of course, a risk and I guess I have been guilty of that too. I know that deep down I have this desire to stop war and poverty.

With my High Int class (2013) at The Heart Museum
With my High Int class (2013) at The Heart Museum

Realistically speaking, I may not be able to put on my super(s)hero cloak and save the world from war, but…in MY own way, I can be a (s)hero in my own world to my students – whether it’s from my office or in front of a whiteboard in a classroom, even if it’s standing under a tree outside the school. We need to remember that many of our students look up to us in so many ways. Whether we like it or not, we DO become their family away from home.

I have many names at school: “Teacher“, “my sister” and sometimes (to my surprise) “mother” or “mum“. I take no offence to this. In fact, I embrace the title and for as long as I am able, I too…will shine the light on all those who bring light to MY world.

I extend my deepest gratitude to my colleagues who understand my passion. Not just for English, but for people and understanding what their needs and wants are. Then, to my students (past and present) who challenge me day after day and whose hunger for knowledge is most inspirational.
Thank YOU for reading my piece!

With my Pre-Intermediate class from 2013
With my Pre-Intermediate class from 2013

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