I will take no names because what I will go on to describe here is an archetype. The teachers of the English language have somehow throughout the years managed to stay etched in the memories of their students. The other day my friend said, "I hated poetry, but then I realised I'd been looking at it all wrong," and it was a realisation that her English teacher brought along.
Not that others have not given us wothwhile lessons, but it's the legion of a special kind that gave us what we needed in ways we never imagined. They taught us things way beyond what books have, they invoked sensitivity, they challenged us to think, they made us believe that the world out there had way too much in store, more than we could've ever imagined and she made us want to look for them.
This is just a token of gratitude for the doorways they opened and distorted my life into what it is today.
She is the one who made me believe in stories again.
While we were busy finding the 'right' answers to everything, she showed us a form of learning where answers were not definite. She did not just love literature, she searched and promoted it through us every day. It was this eccentric woman who taught me that words are arbitrary. Before I could learn about what legends like Lewis Carroll were trying to tell me, she mapped out a rough sketch, telling me exactly how language is malleable, ductile, and fluid. She taught us how language is both - mankind's biggest boon and a weapon of mass destruction.
From articulation to vocabulary, she wanted it all.
I come from a convent school that placed conduct at a very, very high stature. But in grade five, I was introduced to a woman who took a personal interest in our posture. Claiming that she'd have "gone to the other side of the fence" had she wanted to teach "a bunch of nincompoops", she made sure that her end of the fence was civilised enough. The reference was to a boys' school across from ours and also a cue for opening the dictionary as she'd proceed to ask what 'nincompoop' meant. These dreaded little things had so much we could take back from.
She was the first ever person to have glorified and taught dissent.
And also messed up our idea of respect for authority. It was not politics that she was talking about. After a detailed lesson on Romantics, she went on to say that she personally thought Wordsworth had messed up poetry. That's when I realised that knowing something inside out was not loving it. She taught us that dislike and judgment should stem from a thorough examination of the subject and how gray area is a necessity, a point from where comes the thirst for learning, and also how debates need not always have a right and wrong.
She taught me that world still needed people who care.
I was in fifth grade and we had to read The Diary Of Anne Frank as an assignment for the vacations. The week school re-opened is etched in my memory forever. That week, she took us through the horrors of the second World War, told us of the pain, loss of lives, and the killing boredom that people suffered during hiding. That day, she had given birth to voices. Her students discussed it everywhere. What began as an assignment turned into an inquisitiveness to know and understand things that lay way ahead of our fifth-grade intellect, but the dams had been opened.
She made us believe that we had a voice which mattered.
It was that time when we were not adult enough to take care of ourselves, neither young enough to be spoon fed. When people my age were being flipped between, 'You're too young for that,' and 'You're not old enough to understand', it was within the walls of our classroom that we felt limitless. She made us talk, voice out our opinions about Keats, about younger brothers who gave away their wealth to older siblings, and even about the myth of the dangers that follow pregnant women if they venture out on moonless nights.
There are very few people who leave a mark that won't be wiped away by time. there are even fewer who teach us things that echo for a long, long time to come. This is a note of thanks for making me who I am today, for showing me that the world is way too vast to be contained within books. Thank you. I'll keep looking.