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 happy — 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.