‘I thought teachers were old people who didn’t have ambitions in life’

Illustration: Samia Singh

I GREW up in a family of academicians. I had a father who is a professor at a Moina Khanrenowned university, a mom who used to be an English teacher, a mamaji who was an education officer and a taaya and taayi who are professors: everybody wanted me to be a teacher and carry on the scholastic parampara. People around me often tried to convince me that teaching is a noble profession and good for women. I was in Standard X when everybody started injecting these thoughts into my mind. I was, of course, a rebel who hated their gyan. At the same time, I was also a good girl who would never actually say anything to my parents about their prescriptions.

I never liked the word teacher and often told my sister that with a little change in alphabets, the word teacher can become cheater. Although I was a good student, I hated the never-ending lectures and always felt my lecturers could never understand me. Also, as a teenager, I was more attracted to swanky-looking managerial and media jobs. The simple lives of teachers made me think that it’s work done by people who are old and who actually don’t have ambitions in life.

I landed up in the radio industry: a job of my choice. Working there for about two years, I realised the significance of teachers in one’s professional life. Their theoretical gyan was correct when applied practically. Each day taught me a new lesson. The moment I started applying their gyan in my professional life, I started getting appreciation from my seniors and, finally, a promotion.

My parents, of course, still wanted me to be a teacher. And even though I had finally started liking teachers, I still never wanted to be one.

Then one fine day, I was told about this vacancy at a reputed institution. They wanted an assistant professor who could teach radio journalism. My dad, somehow, persuaded me to try and, after some rounds of interviews, I got the job. I hadn’t planned on taking it up initially and made all kinds of excuses. I said, “I am just 24 and teaching is an old man’s job.” After a good course of argument, I joined the institution for my father’s sake, thinking I would leave soon. There’s no way I would have known that there was a huge realisation in store for me.

I still remember the day when the guard didn’t permit me to enter an area that was restricted to teachers. It wasn’t his fault because he didn’t know me and had a general perception about a lecturer’s personality. I was shattered, had an identity crisis and started hating the job more.

But this revulsion vanished the day I took my first class. I was quite nervous and thought I would not be able to handle the students. They were MA final year students, almost my age, some older than me, while the rest were “young adults”. I started with what I was comfortable with — ‘How the radio industry actually functions’. It was not at all a lecture but a class filled with discussion, questions and arguments about issues. Ultimately, it turned out to be a successful one. I was satisfied because I felt I had achieved something. This gave me confidence. I started designing my own methods to explain any topic in an easy and interesting manner. The idea of sharing my knowledge with others suddenly seemed exciting. It was a two-way sharing. For some reason, I started feeling younger. Yes, younger than my 26 years. I never ever had this feeling in my previous jobs, though I was surrounded by many young people.

It has been close to two years now and I am still very much on the job.

Moina Khan is 26. She is a Delhi-based teacher