If the affection the children of Kerala have for their teachers could be measured simply in decibels, then the ear-crackling screams of appreciation which greeted the entrance of these elegant and graceful ladies to the Auxilliam School games hall to watch the afternoon's entertainment said it all.
But the day didn't start there.
Teacher's Day is celebrated all across India and reflects the cultural importance of education as a means of advancing the development of Indians and thus India itself: the teacher is at the heart of this. Children will arrive in the morning for school clutching cards and drawings and flowers and sweets- all to say "thank you" to the people who are with them all day, working hard to prepare them for the years ahead. The classrooms can be uncomfortably hot; the power might fail; and materials they have to work with may not be the best, but the dedication of these ladies (and they are all ladies) is unfaltering.
A day to say 'thank-you' is about right.
And so the school day begins: register is taken and the cards build up, happy faces smile as they watch teacher read their message of thanks; the sweets are plentiful and the flowers fight for room on the desk. But everyone knows the best part of the day is still to come.
For weeks the children have pinched time to rehearse and practice their routines: traditional Malayalam songs; dances to Indian tunes old and new, and comedy sketches. Outfits are made, props are gathered and as the afternoon approaches, and the teachers wait outside the hall to be introduced to the whole school waiting for them, the nerves jangle.
The stage is set: the blue backdrop says simply "Thank you Teachers and Volunteers". The teachers are, like everyday, dressed in saris of every colour; lined up outside the hall they are an impressive sight. Immaculately dressed, they await the spotlight to fall upon them just as it is in class. But this time they get to relax and watch the entertainment. They are introduced individually and each class tries tries to outdo the other to show how much much their teacher means to them. The noise is deafening: these modest ladies struggle not to show how proud they must feel inside, and little smiles escape and flash across the hall.
The cheering increases.
Now seated, the show begins: as the dancers and singers perform, eager kids join in and clap to the beat; and the teachers join their charges in laughing at the comedy sketches set in classrooms with characters that are all too familiar... A power-cut during one routine proves brief and the atmosphere cannot be calmed.
The show is a success. Little faces beam and the hours of hard work pays off. To round the day off a presentation is made to the teachers: more presents, only this time we, as volunteers, are also invited onto the stage to receive gifts. Unexpected , but lovely.
Being made welcome and to feel important by the school is only one side of the deal: the best bit is in knowing that you're part of a community where the focus is on helping children learn and improve, and who know why 'Teacher's Day' is so valued.
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