As the country celebrates Teacher’s Day, in light of the recent Kolkata university teacher’s swimsuit row, mid-day Online spoke to teachers to understand how they navigate the challenges of being in the profession in the social media age
Every year, Teacher's Day is celebrated on September 5 to mark the birth of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, India's second president. Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock
Every year, India celebrates Teacher’s Day on September 5 to mark the birthday of Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was born on this day in 1888. The philosopher and politician, also served as the second president of India from 1962 to 1967 after being the first vice-president in the preceding years.
For the longest time, teachers have been celebrated as they shape young minds. While teachers have navigated the last two years of learning as it was approached by the in-person and online medium, a more recent issue sheds light on the many challenges they face.
A Kolkata teacher was reportedly forced to resign by the St Xavier’s University administration, after she was accused of corrupting young minds with ‘objectionable’ pictures on a public platform. The reaction came after the authorities received a complaint from a father, who had seen his son, a student of the university, look at the bikini-clad pictures of the teacher on social media.
The teacher in several interviews to the media had stated that the picture was clicked in 2020 before she had joined the university in August 2021. She also stated that since it was only on her Instagram stories, it was visible for 24 hours, and none of the concerned authorities even had access to it. The whole issue has caused a huge furore online since then and many people came out in support of the teacher.
Mid-day Online spoke to Mumbai teachers to understand how they face the challenge of navigating their personal and their professional lives, without being judged. They also talk about how parents and students need to understand that they have personal lives, and how educational institutions need to educate parents and support teachers in such cases.
Neha Jain, 38, Mulund
Teachers do face challenges by being on social media. They can't show their real self to everyone. You always have to be a role model, which is practically not possible. We do have our personal lives. We have to think twice before keeping a status or a profile picture. It is always good to keep your account private and not add your students or their parents. Never mix work with personal life. My social media account is my personal space. I want to speak my mind and post the things which I want to without the fear of being judged. Educational institutions should support their teachers. Maintaining my dignity is their responsibility too. If they do not understand and respect their own teachers, then how would others do it?
Amrita Saha, 39, Kolkata (formerly in Mumbai)
I personally have never faced such a challenge because of my presence in social media. However, I do feel that somehow the students always feel that teachers belong to a different species and they do not do the normal things that a person does in their personal time like hanging out with friends, pubbing, socially partying or wearing any kind of clothes they want. There are students who know that I am there on Instagram, and I have been very frank with them. I have a life, and I am very normal person and I have my personal space – what I am as a teacher, cannot be mixed with what I do in my personal time. It is a very narrow-minded way of approaching that because I am a teacher, I cannot wear a bikini or cannot show my cleavage and wear clothes that I want to. It is absolutely my personal choice and doesn’t have to do with how I deliver my lessons or how I am with the kids or teaching them. when I was living in Mumbai, students who lived in my building, did see me taking a walk with my son or husband wearing shorts and loungewear, and it's not like as if they haven’t seen me.
Parents definitely have a big role in developing this mind set of the students because the teachers are portrayed as so-called "ideal" who can never make mistakes. I do feel educational institutions should be supporting the teachers and educating the parent body about the different hats a person wears all throughout one's life. Occupation cannot be a yardstick to judge a person's character. It's just another hat that a person wears.
Neha Britto, 26, Vasai
I definitely do feel that being a teacher makes it quite tricky to be on social media considering how Indian society is. I have had a social media presence since college but I do think I have been a lot more mindful of my posts after starting a job as a teacher because of the fact that I have students following me. I also do have students who mention that they love my content. Considering they are my ‘students’, I have been a little more careful. Though I have not ever really posted content that would be considered inappropriate because I mainly post baking and bookish content or vlogs, I also have to be mindful of not revealing too much of my personal life due to all of this.
Indian society is the biggest issue here though, as I do follow a lot of teachers in other countries and they do post bikini pictures and no one bats an eye because in the end, everyone has a personal life and can do what they wish to. I don’t think even the student's parents should be able to dictate what another adult does. We are teachers only in school and we play different roles outside of it. I believe strong boundaries need to be drawn when it comes to their teachers’ personal lives and work lives. And there should be clear communication to the parents of the same from the school in case they have any issues with it.
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