To Sir, with Love

Logo of Teacher's Day Campaign; Pic: istockphoto

Loyola School teachers were generous. On a day when we students were supposed to make them feel special, they sportingly entertained us — by agreeing to a round of basketball, with the odds stacked against them. I now feel that the staff vs students match on Teacher’s Day was unjust as much as it was in jest. Let’s make amends.

Five years ago, when Vivek Krishnan (1997) and I led Loyola’s alumni association, we visited teachers to invite them for the ‘Back to School’ event. It was an eye-opener. One teacher refused to meet us, another entertained us politely, but the vast majority were simply thrilled to see us.

There’s always a joy when you meet somebody after several years. But the teachers were happy because we remembered them. They insisted that we had taken pains to visit them; our protests were brushed aside. For, in their experience, old boys rarely contact teachers, leave alone meet.

At times, an old boy invites teachers to his wedding. Among retired teachers, only a select few get such invites. And believe it or not, less than a handful of students in any batch invite teachers to weddings.

Old boys offer several explanations for this. “I was not close to all teachers. I invited the teacher I was close to,” a few tell me. Teachers, however, do not use measuring scales and differentiate students. In my experience, even those teachers who played favourites at school, consider every student “close”. In fact, the naughty boys who were shouted at the most, are the ones more fondly remembered by teachers.

Wedding invite is not the issue. If you don’t wish to invite somebody for your wedding, that’s your personal decision. In any case, all of us miss somebody or the other on such occasions.

The broader and real question is why we do not bother to write even one letter to any school teacher, after a few years of our leaving school. We often remember our teachers but we do not let them know that they are in our thoughts. It will take us less than an hour in a year, to light up the life of a teacher. If so, why not make the effort by posting a letter, sending an e-mail, calling up, or surprising a teacher with a visit?

A few old boys do contact oft-forgotten teachers, and not just the ‘star’ ones. These are exceptions, and exceptional. But why should they be exceptions? Why not make ‘keeping in touch with teachers’ the general rule, or as we often love to say, a Loyola tradition?

After that invite round of 2003, Vivek handed me the address list he had compiled from the school’s records, I keyed it in, and Abishek V (2001) uploaded it on the old boys’ association’s website. And something happened.

Mr V, one of my batchmates, used the address list to send wedding invites. He doubted whether teachers remembered him. So, along with the invite for the reception in Trivandrum, he sent a one-page letter explaining where he was, and how he was grateful to his Loyola teachers. On groom’s day, outside the reception hall, there was a battalion of teachers. As they strode into the hall and blessed him, it was difficult to say who was more happyย  — the old boy, his parents, his teachers, or other invitees.

In the coming weeks, I’ll try to get Loyola teachers’ addresses again, and upload them here at loyolites.com. (Update: Teacher addresses uploaded.) Please contact at least one teacher, preferably someone you haven’t seen or heard for years.

This September 5, let us play the game and watch the teachers win.

27 Comments

  • When I visited a teacher at Trivandrum she had the same thing to say! She said many teachers felt hurt when they were not remembered by the students, when they did not invite them to the most important ocassion in their life (Marriage). She fondly remembered how you had sent a personalised wedding invitation to each of the Loyola Staff ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great post Ashok.

    And as regards Mr.V , when he saw the whole batallion of Loyola Staff at his wedding. the teacher said that he was so overcome by emotion that he was in tears. I think these small things when done make a lot of difference in the relationship.

  • Ashok, would be great if we can have the addresses of the teachers uploaded here. I am sure many of us wonder how they are doing now. In this context I hope we can get hold of the contacts for the junior school teachers also. By the time you pass out they rarely feature on the “Fav teachers” list.

  • I mail 3 teachers once in a while. Two of them reply. I call 4.
    Don’t have everyones numbers. do you want mail ids btw ?

    Awesome post.really great one.

    btw if u need help with the addresses… feel freee to mail ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Uhm I may be hypothesizing here, but what if the teacher does not remember the student? For us, there are a small number of teachers who have taught us – perhaps 25-30 in all. For the teachers, every year they meet a potential 40 new faces, so that any teacher who’s been teaching for a reasonable amount of time might have had 400-1000 students. Will he/she remember them all? Maybe they remember the academic best, or the hyper-mischievous ones, or even the ones who kept in contact year after year, but if someone who’s never communicated for 10-12+ years suddenly goes to meet them, and they don’t remember the student, it’d be a wholly futile exercise.

  • Great post Ashok…In fact uve already made me feel very guilty conscious…I must confess that ive not been in touch with anyone….Wonder whether u will have the contact details of teachers of our times….

  • Karthik, yes, the small things make a big difference.

    Vishnu, I’ll try to get contact info on junior school teachers too. Yes, they are more remembered, and more forgotten.

    Syam, yes, please e-mail me the teachers’ mail IDs you know.

    Please do not post teachers’ mail IDs in the comments section of this blog.

    Nish, it wouldn’t be a futile exercise even if a teacher did not remember you. When she comes to know that you were her student, she’ll be happy to know more about you. She’ll also be happy be to see you contacting her after 12+ years. BTW, chances are very low that a teacher wouldn’t remember a student. Try once and see for yourself.

    Sreejesh, I’ll put the contact details of teachers of our times. I don’t have them with me now.

  • There are guys in every batch who make a special effort to remember the little incidents that bring us closer to all our teachers, even those teachers who tried to keep a studied distance from their students…Karthik(incidentally the guy who was the first to comment here:-) is the one from our batch(99). He’s a bioscope man, who can rewind every single incident.. ask him what happened on 3rd march 1990 and he has it down to the last detail..I hold his observations in high esteem…Wherever I have run into school teachers railway stations, cloth shops, beaches they have this uncanny knack of recognising you even if you have shed the baby fat on ur cheeks and gained it round you waist. Most of them have a hard time recollecting the names but once the connection has been established, there is a genuine urge to know how well u r doing in life…

    Great and a very disturbing post i shud say Ashok…….

  • Thank you Reghu for sharing your experience of how teachers respond, even if they are unable to immediately place a student.

  • I belive that all the teachers who ever taught me at loyola do remember me. I remember Mrs. Murl Murray saying that its the mischievious kids that they always remember whilst they often forget the studious kids. Heh.

    I think Nish’s concerns are misplaced. We all should give it a try and see how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚ you might be very surprised.

    Ashoketta, have mailed you the few i have ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks, Syam. I too feel that old boys should give it a shot, and share their experiences here. BTW, I think Murray Madam told you that just to make you happy ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • No actually i disagree ๐Ÿ˜€

    cos we went back to school and saw her once. and she couldnt remember people like Rakesh Rollands- probably the only DECENT guy in our class haha….. who went on to win best loyolite later.
    there are others, – class toppers etc- whom she forgot ๐Ÿ˜€

    nammale okke nalla oorma ayirunu ๐Ÿ˜€

  • In the coming weeks, Iโ€™ll try to get Loyola teachersโ€™ addresses again, and upload them here at loyolites.com. Please contact at least one teacher, preferably someone you havenโ€™t seen or heard for years.

    As mentioned in the blogpost, 100+ teacher addresses are now available at the Teacher’s Day Campaign homepage. Over to you, folks. Please post a letter, send an e-mail, call up or visit a teacher. And tell your friends about this Campaign.

  • Recently the batch of 1983 celebrated the 25th anniversary of our school leaving. Around 20 of our teachers and the support staff turned up for the event at the school. I must say all the staff members including Fr. C.P Varkey, Fr. Varghese, Fr MM Thomas, BOS, VC Jacob, PK Sebastian, Joseph Uncle,… were touched by the effort of the batch in organising such an event.

  • Harikrishna and Rahul, I’m glad that you liked the post. Hope you’ll post/send/call/visit.

    Varghese, three teachers I called up on Sunday told me about the 1983 batch reunion. Congrats to the organisers and participants for making the event a success. Our teachers expect very little from us, and we often don’t deliver even that. Well done, 1983!

  • Good to see the updated contact list. Wonder if it’s possible to search or sort the results. Say, I want to get the contacts of all the teachers for Physics and Chemistry between ’85 and ’90.

  • Great Post! Felt good to remember our teachers. While going through the list of teachers, I noticed that the name of one of the teachers – Mr Edwin (forget the surname, think it’s Fernandes) is missing. Many would remember the fun we used to have in his moral studies classes! I don’t know if teachers like Thamby sir, Father MN Thomas have moved on.
    Aravind (SSLC, ’95)

  • Issac, sorry, we don’t have info on the subjects taught by teachers. I’ll be surprised if even the school has a record of it. Teachers’ joining and retirement/resignation dates are also not available with us.

    Aravind, I guess you are referring to Mr Edwin Vijayakumar (he taught me physics). Didn’t know that he handled moral science. Thampi Sir left Loyola several years ago but Fr MM Thomas is still there in junior school. Their contact details are available at loyolites.com.

  • Dear Ashok,
    This is a very good idea of yours and as soon as I saw your message I posted it to my loyola 78 batch group site.Seeing your message regarding the poor response I have sent the new message also.I am sure by Sept 5th there will be a good response.Keep up the good work ,don’t worry about the response.All good things takes time to get implemented. Shajy Thelly 1978

  • Shajy, thank you for the appreciation and reassurance. Though the message did not pick up initially on Loyolamod, the second mail clicked. Thanks to your efforts and that of other egroup moderators, 100+ guys visited the site within 2 days!

  • Thanks to your posts and my regular visits to Loyolites.com, I spoke with 2 of my teachers on Teachers Day. I spoke with Mr. B.O. Sebastian and Mrs. Roma Joseph. I kept trying Mrs. Merl Murray’s number throughout the day, but just could’nt get through. Mrs. Murray was my class teacher in Std I (1971) and Mrs. Roma Joseph in Std II (1972). I intend to call Mrs. Murray soon. Can’t imagine that it’s actually 36 long years since these great ladies taught me. Roma miss was overjoyed at my calling. Mr. B.O. Sebastian is truly the BOSS. Such a gem comes your way in life very rarely. Hats off to him for his spirit. I tried calling Fr. C.P. Varkey, but he was resting and did’nt get to speak to him..
    Thanks Ashok.. Thanks guys.. You guys are really keeping the Loyola spirit in me strong and young !!
    Uday Rane (ICSE 82)

  • great work by u guys to post the contact nos of our beloved teachers…… i feel very guilty for not keepin in tch for all these years………will make up 4 sure………..

  • Rohan, getting the contact numbers took us a few months of effort, and involved pestering teachers past and present. Yes, get in touch, and write to us your story of ‘getting in touch with my teacher’

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