Mrs. Joel was the new class teacher for grade four. This class was unusually bright, except for Malika whose eyes looked sad and dull, as if she was far, far away. Her work like her appearance was sloppy and messy. She never seemed to have done her homework or have prepared for any class test. As the months passed Mrs. Joel developed an irritable attitude towards Malika. When the half yearly examinations were conducted, Mrs. Joel sat down to prepare the report cards. She was toying with the idea of recommending Malika’s case for repeating this class. Some inner instinct told her to ask Malika for her old records. The next day Malika brought her old report cards in a dirty plastic folder. Mrs. Joel sat down to read the old report cards.
Kindergarten Report: An unusually well behaved and organized child. She is always full of fun and laughter. Excellent!
Grade-I Report: Malika is a joy to have around. She is always ready to help with class projects. Has a way with numbers. Keep it up!
Grade-II Report: Malika is an intelligent and hard working child. We understand that her mother is indisposed. Perhaps her father could put in more time for her?
Grade-III Report: Malika is trying hard to maintain her zest for life. After her mother’s death she needs more attention and love from others at home.
Request: Father, please put in your best.
By now Mrs. Joel could barely breathe. She realized what was happening. She made up her mind that Malika was not going to repeat the class; instead she was going to do as well as she had in class KG and in class I. Mrs. Joel started paying special attention to this neglected child. She was made class prefect and was sat in the front row in class. Malika was made to assist the teacher in preparing charts, class projects, posters and the like. Mrs. Joel would put her arm occasionally around her little shoulders and say, “Malika you are a great girl.”
Day by day, Malika started regaining her confidence. She started studying well. Basking in the sunshine of Mrs. Joel’s special attention and care, she cleared her final tests with distinctions. Malika moved on to class V, but Mrs. Joel maintained her contact with her. Malika would seek her attention after school or during break time. When Malika finished her schooling, she hugged Mrs. Joel and said, “Ma’am I am what I am because of you. You are the best teacher in the whole world.”
But the story does not end here. Ten years later, Mrs. Joel received a letter from Malika. It said, “Dearest Ma’am. I completed my Computer Engineering degree. After studying from many teachers during these years, I still believe that you are the best teacher in the world. My father died last year. I want to marry a class mate of mine called Alok Srinivas. Would you be my mother and ‘give me away’ in marriage to Alok?”
… The rest was detail.
When Mrs. Joel went for the simple wedding ceremony, this is what she said to Alok: “Young man, you have a precious jewel; see that you deserve it!”
And, this is what she said to Malika, “You have branded me as the best teacher in the world. Do you know who taught and inspired me to try to be that? It was you Malika! You brought out the best in me and I am happy to see that I have been able to bring out the best in you. Remember, whenever you need me, I shall always be there for you.”
Bhagwan Baba has put it very beautifully saying, “A bad teacher complains; a good teacher explains; the best teacher inspires.”