HAPPY TEACHERS’ DAY !!
Happy Teacher’s Day to a teacher, who shaped me, not only through her teaching, more than that through her passion and dedication to teach what she was best at , English as a language. Yes, she was Nasreen Bahenji (way back in eighties in Govt. Schools of UP, we used to address our female teachers as Bahenji and male teachers were addressed as Master ji or Guru ji).
She taught us English from class 9th to 12th. I studied in Govt. Girls Inter College Basti, U.P. It was a Hindi medium school. Being good at my studies and enjoying learning new things, I somehow was attracted towards language English. Of all other reasons, one reason most probably was influence of Nasreen Bahenji’s fluent and impeccable English coupled with her refined manners and sweet voice. Voice so sweet yet so low that if you wished to learn from her, you had to pay absolute attention to her. You could not avoid listening to her lest you may fail in English which was the norm more than the deviation during those days.
In the beginning of class 10th, I told Nasreen Bahenji, during one of our Slogan Writing sessions with her that I wish to learn English like her and she answered with a question, “What stops you ?” I also answered back with a question as to who would teach me. ( back then there was neither the trend nor much resources to afford a private class). She very gently answered again, “I will teach you.”And YES, she taught me. For the next may be four- five months, this is how our class went by-
The first day she gave me a book of English Grammar and opening the section Tenses, introduced me as to how to proceed from Simple to Complex exercises. She told me to read the rules and try translating the sentences given in Hindi to English. For Vocabulary, she told me just to use a dictionary from Hindi to English.
I was told to translate as many sentences, complete as many exercises as I could and deposit the note book with her in the morning during assembly and to collect it back during lunch.
Next day I deposited my copy practicing Simple Present Tense where in I had filled in perhaps 20-25 pages. During lunch she handed me my note book back, full of corrections and a caution. The caution was, “Before you take on exercises, you must get few sample sentences checked by me.”
So for the next classes, I would deposit the note book full of exercises, covering the tense which was sample tested, and a few samples of the next tense to be learnt. We met every day during lunch for almost ten minutes when she would explain the corrections done by her. Every small WHAT was looked into and every small WHY of it was thoroughly described at my level of understanding.
And this was repeated every single day of school working. On non working days of school, I kept on doing my work, her correction work doubled or at times tripled but Nasreen Bahenji, not even once got irritated.
As soon as I mastered basics, she would add some advance concept or finer nuances to my work, explain it a little and assign the work.Somewhere 2-3 months into Learning English Project, she made it mandatory for me to speak in English with her during our 10 minutes Lunch Session.
One fine morning, she told me not to come every day to her but two times a week would be sufficient provided I kept doing my work every day. Then she brought it down to once a week and then to once a fortnight. Finally one day she asked me, “Why do you keep coming to me?” I replied, “To learn English”. She exclaimed, “But you know it already!” We both looked into each other’s eyes, her full of encouraging praise and mine full of gratitude, we both laughed out loudly.
From that day, daily visits stopped but she was still my mentor for any issue, be it English or life. I had become proficient at English. During one discussion with me, she encouraged me to opt English as a medium of instruction for classes 11th and 12th. To my query that there was no English medium school in our town asmm it was a backward area, looking questioningly into my eyes she stated, “You just have to opt for medium English to write your exams and rest goes on like as usual. Study in a Hindi medium school, have your books of all subjects in English and keep doing your work.” This was workable. And yes I was the only girl to write my paper of class 12th in English from a Hindi medium school way back in 1984. After that I have pursued all my education in language English only.
It must not be a story of courage and passion for many today as studying in English medium is the trend. But putting in context, it sure is the story of faith, courage and passion. Nasreen Bahenji’s faith in the capacity of a student, her courage to dismiss other teachers’ demotivating remarks at times and her passion for teaching, passion to go beyond the call of duty to do what she loved doing. Teaching to someone who is willing to learn is a double joy for a teacher.
I owe my proficiency in English to my teacher’s extra ordinary efforts with me.
This teachers’ day, this story sharing is a tribute to my teacher Nasreen Bahenji in public though I have been sharing this story very often with my teachers and students over time.
I don’t know where my teacher is. I tried locating her through a letter to school some 7-8 years back, tried looking for her on Social Media but till date have not been able to make any contact with her. Through this tribute I wish to reach out to my teacher. Any of you who is reading this blog, if you have some clue of her whereabouts, please share with me. All I know of her is that she was Nasreen Bahenji teaching English in G.G.I.C. Basti, U.P. during the years 1982-84.
By the time I grew up, and became a teacher, private English medium schools were gaining popularity over govt. schools. This is where my hold on the language has always assisted me to do justice to my job. As an educator I believe, the language of learning should be mother tongue. One must learn any foreign language but learning in the name of language barrier must never stop.
I am proud of my mother tongue Hindi which I am equally proficient at. Hindi is not only my mother tongue, it is my day to day language, yet I have always experienced that being proficient in English has always benefitted me in my career progression. I have been into main stream teaching as an educator for 24 years and led the field from the front as Founder Principal of a CBSE school for 16 years.