Shillong: As soon as the Union education ministry released the names of 47 teachers from across the country for the National Awards to Teachers, 2020, Rahul Sankar Chatterjee, only teacher selected from Meghalaya, was flooded with several congratulatory messages and phone calls on Saturday.
Chatterjee is an assistant lecturer (Physics) of Shillong Jail Road Boys’ Higher Secondary School.
Filled with happiness, Chatterjee said that it feels good, it is a vindication of whatever you believe in and all the things you tried to do for the children has been recognised.
“Very happy at the moment, all the sacrifices over the years not taking holidays working almost continuously week after week, year after year for 17-18 hours per day that has given this,” said Chatterjee.
The two incidents that changed Chatterjee’s role as a teacher
Chatterjee always believed that the role of the teacher wasn’t just teaching but much more.
Narrating the incident, he said, “When I was a science teacher at a different school I found that they had a Science lab, so I asked the principal for the keys and while handing the keys she told me that it hasn’t been opened in years. When I opened the door, it was filled with cobwebs the same was the case with the cupboards. What I noticed was that the cupboards were rich with scientific materials. Instruments and several other things, it was absolutely rich, whoever replenished that lab knew what a science lab requires but it was not being used.”
He returned to the class and asked the students to come on Saturday voluntarily to help clean the lab. Chatterjee was taken by surprise when both the sections, all the girls turned up. He was now in a fix seeing the good strength of students’ turnout.
“I had to involve everybody but the enthusiasm that was something I learned. If I show this much interest the students will show a magnified interest, that was a huge lesson for me. It was completely upon me, if children are not learning then perhaps I’m the barrier,” said Chatterjee.
Another incident that shaped his career was when he noticed one of the students not having a textbook.
“A new batch of class eleven had joined, I had given them 10 days time to get their textbooks and come to class. So that particular day arrived and students were made to leave the class who did not have textbooks. Three boys and one girl stood up to leave the classroom; while the girl was leaving she looked up at me and whispered something which I didn’t pick up. I asked her to come back and repeat what she said. So the girl said my father isn’t at home and I don’t have money to buy books,” narrated Chatterjee.
Struck by the girl’s situation and reminding him of his old days, Chatterjee immediately took it up to the principal and ensured that books were bought for the students at any cost.
“I had a very cooperative principal. Lots of things had been possible because of the cooperation of higher ups. I started with 5 books, 4 were given to the students and 1 spare was kept. Next year the word spread and we needed 10 books and the same was done. Now I have 12 books in between syllabus changed twice or thrice and with the old books not valid anymore so we had to buy new sets of books. So we have a book bank, and we provide these books to the children to be used for the full year to be returned only after the exams before we give the marksheet,” said Chatterjee.
The girl who Chatterjee had almost thrown out of class for not having a textbook later did excellently well in her exams. In one of the subjects she even scored the highest marks in the board.
Chatterjee said that a little bit of encouragement when given to the students they pay you back.
“So these were huge lessons for me. And these were the initial years of my teaching career, it gave me direction it gave me this thought process that you start doing something for the children and it will simply come back and that has been the motto throughout these teaching years,” said Chatterjee.
Chatterjee makes Physics easy
“I teach a subject like Physics so there is a lot of fear associated with it but I don’t see why. And if I can teach the subject in a way which is fun which is interesting and understandable, then the fear will go away. They will be able to understand and automatically it will remove the fear,” said Chatterjee.
His message to the teachers is that to keep the children in focus do everything that is required to be done so that they become comfortable and you will see everything fall in place.
Teaching in COVID times
Chatterjee has definitely left no stone unturned during this global pandemic. He has ensured that students don’t miss out on learning; he has gone an extra mile by making his own videos on teaching Physics.
“It is a challenge we don’t have the children in front of us and teaching concepts is a challenge. I have made my own videos because I have never found videos available on Youtube giving the message the way I would want to teach it. I have a certain way of teaching and I would want to give it that way and I think that is the best way of teaching than anybody elses,” said Chatterjee.
He has been sharing the videos with the students also with the Directorate of Educational Research and Training (DERT) inorder that they can put it out on their website and entire state’s children can access it.
According to Chatterjee, COVID times has changed and especially the way of teaching. “The further challenge is I might have connectivity but my students might not have. So there are different ways of doing it. It necessarily need not be online teaching. The word we should be using is remote teaching,” added Chatterjee.
It may be mentioned that Chatterjee has brought many laurels to the state and the school in the past as well. In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious “International High School Teacher Programme” fellowship for a two-week training programme at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. He was the only teacher from India selected for this fellowship.
In 2017, Chatterjee was awarded the Lokmani Lal Award for Excellence in Secondary Teaching.
In 2012, he received the highly-acclaimed “International Leaders in Education Programme” (ILEP) fellowship to the United States.
In 2009, Chatterjee was conferred with the “Science Teacher Award” by the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI), NER Local Chapter.