Achievements

‘Teachers imbue life into school buildings and transform them into living monuments’

The address by Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, Chairperson, Apeejay Education Society, Co-Promoter and President, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and Co-founder and Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University, on the eve of Teachers Day, was brimming with wisdom, life lessons and insights that provided a road-map for Apeejay institutions.

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The address by Mrs Sushma Paul Berlia, Chairperson, Apeejay Education Society, Co-Promoter and President, Apeejay Stya and Svran Group and Co-founder and Chancellor, Apeejay Stya University, on the eve of Teachers Day, was brimming with wisdom, life lessons and insights that provided a road-map for Apeejay institutions. Mrs Berlia began with a tribute to the founder Chairman, Dr. Stya Paul, by calling him an epitome of resilience and wishing the family of Apeejay teachers to rise to greater heights not just by being better professionals, but also by becoming better versions of themselves. In her address, she also touched upon an eclectic array of subjects such as who a real guru is, how Apeejay schools and institutes of higher learning coped beautifully with the pandemic and online classes, the opportunity to transform teaching that is the new National Education Policy and how teachers imbue life into buildings and turn them into living monuments.  Here are a few edited pearls of wisdom from her Teachers Day address:

Difference between a teacher and a guru

Guru Govind dou khade, kake lagoon paay; Balihari Guru aapne, Govind diyo batay.

 My God, and my guru, both are standing before me. Whose feet should I touch first? I begin by touching the feet of my guru, because it is only through him that I came to know God. It is only through him that I have learned to live life. Each one of us here is a teacher in the best sense of the word. But beyond being teachers, whether in the classroom or outside of the classroom, we need to aspire to be something beyond this. Often we use the words ‘teacher’ and ‘guru’ interchangeably, but they are not. Because a teacher may stop at imparting knowledge and skills. But a guru is the person who enables you to transform yourself for life. We must remember that it is not only what we teach or speak during the classroom. It is how we conduct ourselves, how we express ourselves, how we demonstrate our caring and the kind of values we exhibit in our interaction with people around us which truly turn us into that guru.

Rising to the Covid challenge and the road ahead

Whether it is personally or at the professional level, all of us have gone through very tough times during Covid-19. Some of us have lost loved ones. Even those of us who have not lost somebody have gone through a lot, whether physically or emotionally. I commend the Apeejay family, for having been around with each other, and for each other during these tough and challenging times.

Now, let us talk about newer challenges. First of all, we still don’t know whether Coronavirus is entirely behind us? What is important is that we prepare ourselves to meet those challenges head-on. I’m delighted that each one of our members, along with our families and dear ones, have got ourselves completely vaccinated.

I’m sure you’re also aware that the vaccine for 12-Plus has now been approved in India. So now our next challenge is to make sure that all the 12-Plus students, in our schools, as well as our families are also vaccinated.

As we are moving towards partial opening, full opening, or maybe opening of physical schools and institutions, our challenges will be different. On the one hand, you will have to make sure that all the necessary infrastructure arrangements have been made, as well as regulatory requirements, but also focus on the curriculum designed. We will have to continue to adapt ourselves to changing circumstances. But I’m not too concerned about it, because I have all of us here. You have done a remarkable job of rising to the occasion during the most difficult of times.  

The NEP: a window of opportunity

One of the newer challenges in terms of curriculum is development of the syllabi by keeping in mind the new National Education Policy (NEP). Not that we were not already aligned to it. In fact, many of the ideas are those that we have been propagating for the last 50 years and trying to implement in different ways. So we can say the new NEP is a testimony to the kind of education Apeejay has always believed in. Having said that, the government is trying to open up new policies and we need to be fully poised to take advantage of everything, including the curriculum. I know that we are already on that path. I’m delighted that we are doing it because we will work on it, we will learn from it, and then we’ll improve upon it. The most wonderful curriculum is something that comes from within, from our teachers. Dr Stya Paul didn’t believe in getting many awards for himself. Education for him was a way of giving, of transforming. That is the ethos we must take forward.  

Teachers can turn schools and colleges into living monuments

Apeejay’s educational institutions are not just buildings, they are living monuments. Like they say the statues or idols become gods when you do praan pratishtha, when life is put into them. In a similar manner, in these buildings, that life has come from our teachers. It is us together as teachers who bring life to these schools and these buildings. I take this occasion to bow down in gratitude to the teacher amongst us all.  

Of teachers, resilience and human values

The most important learning from these times is that besides everything that we teach to our students, human values are really important.  This pandemic has reinforced the criticality of human values, of resilience and the teacher. You may not need buildings or infrastructure, you don’t really need classrooms. All you need is a teacher and good values and you need resilience, above all.

If we need anybody to learn resilience from, you can learn it from the life of our own chairman Dr Stya Paul.  I have also learnt resilience from many amongst us, who have suffered losses, who have suffered innumerable challenges at home and continued despite all of that, to teach and look after students.

Let’s resolve to become better versions of ourselves

While we focus and continue to focus on teaching better — whether it is impartation of skills and behavioural environment we conduct ourselves in — the most important central point in all this is self-development.  If we do not grow ourselves, if we don’t focus on becoming better versions of who we are, we are not going to be able to make it happen around us either. So, let us focus this next year, not only on all these challenges, but on how to be better versions of who we are, whether it is in terms of our knowledge, our skills, any other area where we think we need to improve on ourselves, including our attitude, our behaviour.

Let people know you care

Finally, let us be caring. More than anything that we do in our lives, what is important is often letting people know that you care for them. Particularly during these times, whether it is our colleagues, many of them young ones, who themselves may have suffered tragedies or gone through a lot of challenges in their life. We all need that balm if you will, to our hearts. So as we move forward in whatever we are to do, as we move towards our targets and goals, don’t forget to tell people you care.    

The ultimate gift can be shared by teachers, the frontline and future-line workers
As one of you shared with me, there are front line workers and there are future-line workers and I think our teachers have been both. I hope all of you have got copies of the book The Ultimate Gift. This book is very close to my heart and it was given to me to read by my father. In my mind, when you go through the book, you will understand what the author means: There are certain gifts of life which are not encapsulated in material terms. Those are very special gifts which we are lucky if we can gather unto ourselves. Or have people give it to us and to then to be able to give it beyond. What is the ultimate gift? To my mind, what I got from our chairman was the ultimate gift. You have in each one of you the capacity, the potential, as teachers to give this ultimate gift to so many more.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected]

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