In India, we celebrate September 5 as Teacher's Day, to honour the birth anniversary of former president Dr S Radhakrishnan, a prominent thinker, philosopher and educator.
It's a fun day at schools, with the older students dressed up as teachers, and then going to teach kids from the lower grades. Of course, it isn't a serious exercise, and results in frivolity all around. And the mad dash to 'entertain' teachers - skits, dance performances; basically anything goes. The more colourful, the merrier. Teachers are seen leaving at the end of day, staggering under the weight of (mostly) hand-made greeting cards and flowers, and the odd gift or two. Nobody deserves the honour more, in my opinion.
Looking back, you never do appreciate your teachers much while still a student. I remember desperately attempting to blend in to the walls on Open Days, when the parents (invariably Mum) would need to stop by school to meet with my teachers and get a heads-up on the progress I was making. Or not. Most teachers were held in awe, while a few others were more relaxed and approachable. However, whatever be their style of functioning, looking back, there's so much I learnt from each one of them. Some of them were super special, and I know I'm the person I am today thanks to their contribution.
Did you ever have that special teacher(s) who encouraged you always? Who was a parent away from home? A teacher who, no matter how grim things seemed, was impartial and firm? Loving, even? One who taught you right from wrong, but in such a way that you didn't even know you were being taught - and still changed for the better? Thankfully, over my academic career, I was blessed with them.
That's academia for you. But it's not just people who imparted formal education that need to be appreciated and told how much they've made a difference in your life. Do spare a thought for your very first teachers - parents. Siblings, even. Friends. And the list goes on.
As I type, I still am learning, and hopefully, will continue to do so. And pass it on.