This Teachers’ Day we look at how the social network has transformed student-teacher relationships and helped them stay connected
The Worldwide Web, it is said, is taking people away from people with us spending more time looking at our phone screens than the world around us. We are, even otherwise, moving away from people we were once close to as we move along in the journey of life.
And in this journey, perhaps, very few of us manage to stay in touch with people who have shaped our lives — our teachers. “How is Sir?” we ask meeting friends in reunions. But it is through a product of this, often cursed, fast-paced world that some teachers have found their students and students found their favourite teachers again.
Chef and food stylist Michael Swamy, who has been a guest lecturer at several catering colleges and media institutions, feels that it gets overbearing
This find has been more than mere connections—sweet nostalgia for some, sharing life for some others and even a new lease of life for a teacher. Subrata Sengupta, who taught political science for over three decades in a small town in Tripura, was spending his retired life in Kolkata with fond memories.
The professor who was slightly slow with technology was introduced to social networks in his retired life. Slowly he picked up and added one student after the other being introduced to their new worlds and lives and this, he says, is the best thing that has happened to him in a long time.
“I have no hesitation to confess that the re-establishment of contacts with my students is the best gift of my life. Retirement from service was actually like a paradise lost to me. This new day-to-day interaction has given me a new lease of life,” he says.
In Mumbai, the students and teachers of St Mary’s Convent in Mulund created a Facebook page to gather the alumni and comments poured in. “It is through our alumni association and its Facebook page that things started. It didn’t just help reconnect ex-students to a past they had long forgotten but linked them to their teachers and buddies.
The ever-increasing network strengthened over social media as old bonds were discovered and while newer connections were fostered,” recalls Malaika Fernandes, founder member of SMAART, the alumni association of St Mary's Convent High School.
She shares her heartwarming discovery about how relationships between teachers and students evolve. “When they meet you, they speak to you with a certain respect and are proud of your accomplishments (irrespective of how you behaved in school).
At our 20th reunion, I’ve seen ex-students who are mothers to eight-year-olds tell teachers, ‘Ma’am, I am just a housewife’ and the teacher kindly and encouragingly responded, ‘Being a housewife is an unpaid job, child,’ she conveys. ”
But not everyone is enthusiastic about adding teachers on Facebook. After all some things are better not shared, they feel. And then some are not aware that their teachers are in spaces where people share duckface selfies.
Like media professional, Latika Marri, wasn’t. She is now based in Hyderabad and has been in and out of Mumbai, her home city, quite a bit in the last few years.
Social media for her is the means to keep track of what is happening in her older city circle. The discussion, though, got her looking for her teachers. “I want to add my school teachers since they are the ones who made an impact on my life and I would want them to be a part of the good and the bad things in my life,” she says.
But then it is not just students who worry about sharing their personal, sometimes goofy details on social media when their parents and teachers are on their friend list. Chef and food stylist Michael Swamy, who has been a guest lecturer at several catering colleges and media institutions, feels that it gets overbearing.
“A lot of ex-students send requests, I add them but keep them in the acquaintances group so that I don’t have to see unwanted posts,” he says. For some others like Shomik Roy, college bonhomie with some teachers just goes on. Roy attended SIES College in Sion and is selective about teachers he adds on Facebook.
“I only have the teachers I like on my list. I used to have a good rapport with them and it actually worked to my advantage. I would bunk lectures to work for the college festival and they all knew about it, so there was never any trouble,” he says.
Bridging the gap
Dr Kirti Narain, who retired as the Principal of Churchgate’s Jai Hind College in November 2011, moved to Lucknow after retirement. She was earlier a victim of mischief by some student who had opened an account in his name and posted opinion that Narain did not agree with. But after retirement she opened an account himself and took charge.
“I was so busy as Principal that I had no time to understand the working or value of social media. In fact, sometimes I felt it was rather intrusive as during my tenure as Principal, one of the students created a false Facebook account in my name and posted opinions that were scurrilous in nature.
When I moved to Lucknow, I delved in this further and realised the value of social media if used ethically. I firmly believe now that social media has connected teachers and students,” she says. She mentions that it is through social media that she managed to pay homage to a colleague, professor Mohini Dias, along with students when Dias passed away.
For primary school teacher Mustaque Alam, 23, social media is the mode of communication with his inspirations. “I have had a good relationship with most of my professors in college. We often chat on Facebook, about work, and life in general. They have inspired me to become a teacher,” this teacher, who aspires to inspire many others and continue this beautiful relationship, tells us.