The most important job in society

In this materialist world, teaching is not seen as the first career choice of talented people. But be it Russia or India or for that matter anywhere in the world, there is that rare breed who has devoted their lives to teaching and are proud of their chosen path. In this series of double teachers, RIR spoke to Ludmila Solovieva, who teaches at school №1225 in the center of Moscow and Usha P, who teaches at Vaidevi Dolphin High School in Hyderabad. Cutting across continental distances, what strikes one is the same passion for teaching, although their experiences are slightly different.

Name: Usha P 

Age: 52

Education: Secondary

Name: Ludmila Solovieva

Age: 51

Education: Higher

’Communication holds the key’

India prides itself on its education system  -  a varied spectrum of education standards and methods that help India in churning out geniuses from even nondescript towns and villages, where education sometimes comes even before the family meal. The land that gave birth to scientific and mathematical geniuses like Sir C.V. Raman and S. Ramanunjan believes in education for all children. 
However, my intention was to seek those who were responsible for creating geniuses with nothing but faith in their students’ hidden potential. Because if we knew their mantra, then we will know how everyone else was doing it. Searching for those unsung heroes, I happened to go to the Vaidevi Dolphin High School and that’s where I met Ms. Usha P.

 ‘Being a teacher was my destiny’

The Russian education system was once famous for its exceptional quality and character. However, there has been lately a dip in standards. Many Russians blame the system as well as teachers for the dismal plight of Russian education. But this has not deterred devoted teachers like Ludmila Solovieva for whom teaching is not just a job, but a vocation. She believes that it’s not just imparting knowledge that matters, but what is more important is communication and developing a bond with students.

How long have you been working as a teacher?

I began very early in life. I took my first job as a teacher when I was 18. It is almost 27 years since I have been teaching. I started teaching in the kindergarten and today I teach senior students. 

I’ve been teaching for 33 years. I started when I was 19. I used to teach in a primary school, but now I’m working in a secondary school.


Which subjects have you been teaching?

It has been five years since I am teaching the 10th graders in the Vaidevi Dolphin high school. I teach social studies that includes history, geography, civics and economics.

I’m teaching the Russian language and Russian literature. But I think I’m not only giving knowledge to children. After the first lesson with a new class I’m telling them that if they have concerns or problems they should feel free to come and talk to me. Usually there are plenty of kids who come to me during breaks in my room. I think it’s very important to speak with children, and not just to teach them.


Why have you chosen this profession?

Honestly speaking, teaching was never on my mind. If the financial situation in my family had been better when I was growing up, I would have wanted to have become a nurse as it is the best way to serve others. But today when I look back, if not a nurse, I would have liked to be teacher.

In the 1970s in Russia, being teacher and doctor were the most prestigious professions. Like many people at that time, I decided to become a teacher. However, I soon realized that it wasn’t just a job for me, it was my destiny.


What can you tell me about your school teachers?

Generally, we are very close-knit, but at times there are difference of opinions. A tinge of jealousy or politics seeps in. Luckily, it is easy for us to sense such situations and we try to get past it quickly. As far as teaching is concerned, every teacher I know is constantly working for the best interests of the students. 

We are close to each other. Of course, we have differences, but overall we have a friendly atmosphere. I do know that if something happens they will help me and the other way round.  


Do you remember your first day of teaching?

It was a long time ago, but one thing I definitely remember is how scared I was on the first day. It was more about what would be expected out of me and would I be able to live up to it.

I don’t remember the first day, but I definitely remember my first year. I was 19 and I was working in the school that had a mix of poor and rich children. When I received my first salary, I spent it on one pupil. I bought this boy a shirt and socks. His parents couldn’t afford it. Many people wondered why I did that, but it was something I felt right about.


Do you consider yourself a strict or warm-hearted teacher? 

For me communication is the prime tool for winning the children over. Combine this with love and affection and this all you need. So on those lines, I would definitely say that I am a warm-hearted teacher. 

I think I found some golden mean between being strict and warm-hearted. On the one hand, I think it’s very important to talk to children and I’m always willing to listen to them. On the other hand, children know that under my watch they should behave themselves. 


Do your students have a nickname for you?  

Sorry, I don’t think I know of any. But I do have nicknames for some of my students. The best part is that when I use these nicknames, their faces light up. It’s like I have made them feel special. 

I don’t know if there is any. Many a time, I asked my pupils if they have given a nickname to me, but they always tell me that I don’t have one.

What do you do if you see your students cheating? 

First, I go to them and confirm my doubts. If they have been cheating, I get them to accept their mistakes, speak to them softly, give them time to explain themselves and then give them a strong warning of severe action if they repeat such mistakes. Being harsh doesn’t solve the problem, I feel.

I have been teaching for many years, but I’ve never seen anyone cheating. During tests, I don’t walk near every child, just to catch him or her on cheating. I always tell my pupils that they should close all books and do tests themselves and I think that they are listening to me.


Do you have any favourites in the class, what makes them special?

Yes, I often find myself favouring certain students, it is mostly to encourage them in particular areas. I like students who are all-rounders, or students with rare talents. I try to encourage their work. Sometimes I also take it on personally to help students who have financial difficulties.

I don’t have any favourite pupils. Sometimes I may have sympathy towards some pupils, but it doesn’t make them different from others. Even when some children upset me I will never show it. Any child can come and talk to me.


Did you ever teach your own children?

Yes, when my son and daughter were in the kindergarten I had taught them. I would just talk to them for sometime during breaks, just like any other teacher. However, later it became a little uncomfortable so I moved to another school.

I used to teach my daughter, when she was in secondary school. It was only for one year. She was a good pupil, but I preferred not to teach my children.


Do you stay in touch with any of your students? 

Some of them forward me text messages on my phone or call me. I have 2-3 boys who come and meet me during vacations. But generally, I accidentally bump into one of them on the way and we chat for sometime and move on. It is nice to know what they are doing with their lives and how we have made a difference.  

In our school we don’t have a special day for alumni, that’s why it’s hard to see them often. However, all my students know that they can come to me anytime. I’m always happy when my students succeed in their lives.


Do you see any difference in the way children behave today and previous batches you have taught?

There is a great difference between students I have taught earlier and children I teach today. They used to listen to the teachers. There was more obedience and discipline. I would say that parents’ pampering and extensive exposure to multimedia has made them this way. They are unable to concentrate and get distracted easily.

There is a big difference. First of all, I think that children have a different attitude towards studies now. Many of them are sure that even if they don’t study hard, their parents will help them to get a place in university or find a job. It’s a very emotional subject for me. You know, the school system is now one of favourite targets in media and society in Russia. They blame us for everything. I always want to tell such people that society is changing and so is the system of education. But there are still teachers who consider teaching as a destiny, and who will try hard to elevate the standards of education to the highest possible level.  


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