TEACHER – A “NEVERTIREE”
Ms. Shagufta Tahir
Head of Department of English
Army Burn Hall College for Girls Abbottabad
It was 2002, probably it was. The big clock on the wall facing the audience was steadily ticking: 08:30am. The hall was echoing with the voices that were both excited and quizzical. Among scores of faces, a few had a trace of familiarity in them, which bore the stamp of approval when smiles were exchanged. I checked the schedule of the programme, yawned to see that all five sessions of one hour each, from 09:00am to 02:30pm, would be by one person–SKS! “Who's this S.K.S?" I thought and started scribbling something on a separate sheet of paper to pass my time. It was the first day of Diploma TEFL workshop in the main campus of Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. I was one of many others who had congregated upon the venue form all over the country for the fulfillment of the course requirement. Going by the given schedule, the first day did not bode well for me and of course, for a few others like me. Nonetheless, we all were waiting for the mystery man!
‘A teacher is an undying spirit, an inextinguishable flame. Teacher is – a “NEVERTIREE”!’
At exact 9 o’clock, the door opened and a middle-aged spectacled man entered the hall with a bag in his hand. There was something in his personality that stopped the whispering tongues and there fell a reverent silence on those present. During his brief self-introduction, the secret was out that his name was Shahid Kaleem Siddiqui and he was a professor at Ghulam Khan Institute, Topi. He started his first session, “Teacher Development” with the ice breaking activity. First, he made us sit in a semi-circle and divided us in pairs. Then he drew his hand on the board and asked us to do the same on a paper. A wave of curiosity ran through the participants of the workshop. In each of the fingers drawn on the board. He wrote his name, qualification, experience, favourite colour and favourite book, respectively. We did the same for us. He asked us to swap our paper with the person on the next seat and read aloud while transforming words into complete sentences. How nicely he made us introduce each other and practice language creatively! I did not know how those five hours (there was a 30-minute break from 11:00am–11:30am) hurried away. In each of the sessions, we really learnt techniques of teaching in addition to the content-related knowledge. He, through practical demonstration, showed us the difference between conventional teacher, who refuses to leave his rostrum, pours his “knowledge” into the “minds” of his students without using any teaching strategy, and the “real” teacher, who “teaches” in every way: through his personality, his behaviour, his words, his interactive measures, his gestures and even when he is quiet.
Apart from “Teacher Development” we had workshops on “Lesson Planning”, “Classroom Dynamics” and “Introduction to Teaching Practice”. On one hand, there was theoretical knowledge conveyed to us, but on the other hand, there was so much that a “real” teacher needed to apply in the classroom to make teaching-learning a creative and exciting experience. He proved that it is not only “WHAT” we tell our students in our class, but “HOW” we say and do that matters most.
During his lectures and presentations, he would walk among us, make us work individually, in pairs and groups, would use the most sophisticated language sprinkled with humour, ask questions unexpectedly by calling our names, encourage and appreciate our responses, give us time to rethink and come up again with the better answer, would allow us to communicate (strictly in English) and discuss our points meanwhile observe us silently. His use of audio-visual aids was a learning of its own kind. And at the end of the day-long sessions, I can safely bet there was hardly anyone who complained of boredom, fatigue or lethargy. When our “real” teacher had been active and lively, how his students could be running short of energy!
The rest of five days (Saturday used to be working day in those days) were also rewarding in one way or the other. However, the taste of that day is still fresh. The colours that Dr. Shahid added still have their hues, words he uttered in the hall still have their echo, and lessons I learnt that day are not easy to forget. That was the day when I came to know how sacred a profession teaching is! How artistic a job it must be! Even now, wherever I meet him, I do tell him in all my humility what an inspiration he has been! I tell him that the day when teaching no longer remained a dull profession for me and became a worship, was THAT day! If today, any of my students see even a little sparkle in my eyes when I teach, it is not mine; it is what I have been granted!
Whenever I ask Sir Shahid what a true teacher is, he smiles and says, ‘A teacher is an undying spirit, an inextinguishable flame. Teacher is – a “NEVERTIREE”!’
Note: This article was written for Burn Hall college magazine in 2014.