Anyone can learn from a book. But a #TerrificTeacher can make the difference between passing an exam and learning a life lesson. The Better India salutes those for whom teaching is not a job but a higher calling.
Teaching is among those thankless professions across the world, where the contribution made by a person towards moulding lives of generations of students can never really be measured or quantified.
From holding our tiny hands through kindergarten to lending guidance for many of the landmark decisions we have made, all of us know at least one teacher who has played a defining role in our lives.
With Teacher’s day coming up, we take this opportunity to not just thank and appreciate all the teachers across the world but also celebrate their unwavering commitment towards the profession. Our focus is on those teachers who are setting a rare example with not just inventive teaching methods but also their contribution to the society.
Gopakumar VK from Ennakkad in Alappuzha district of Kerala is one such remarkable individual, who besides being a high-school Physics teacher, dons many other roles.
He teaches karate, guides young NCC cadets, is a beekeeper, plucks coconuts and even runs a ration shop!
The 46-year-old, who is lovingly known as Gopan sir by students and staff alike, is a known face in Mannar and has been teaching physics for the last 19 years at the Nair Samajam Higher Secondary School in the town.
Gopan’s foray into academia stems from his love of physics and mathematics that took form when he was a young boy studying at the Sree Karthiyayani Vilasam High School in Kuttemperoor.
While imparting lessons about inertia and momentum during the school hours, the man effortlessly moves on to a different role when the classes end—that of a Lieutenant of the Senior Division NCC wing at his school.
Interestingly, Gopan took up this post when he found that no one else had volunteered for the same.
“It is a huge responsibility and involves lots of planning and dedication. I underwent compulsory training for three months before taking charge. When I don the NCC uniform, the teacher in me vanishes. It is a great feeling to train students in early lessons of military discipline. NCC transforms youngsters and inculcates a sense of nation-building,” a proud Gopan told OnManorama, a local Malayalam daily.
And it doesn’t end there. Gopan is also a ‘karateka,’ has been a regular practitioner of the martial art for the past two decades and holds a 3rd Dan black belt.
A teacher to approximately 200 students, Gopan believes that karate can help tone down aggression and increases alertness; he credits it with keeping him calm during testing times.
Gopan has also been practising yoga for the past 22 years, a habit he picked up during his B.Ed. days at the Ramakrishna Institute of Moral and Spiritual Education in Mysuru. “I feel every teacher should be a yoga expert. It increases the flexibility of body and mind. A fit teacher can inspire his students better,” he added.
While his primary role in life is that of a teacher, Gopan is a man, or you can say a teacher of all trades! Not only does he know how to climb coconut trees and pluck the coconuts, but he also does so quite efficiently!
After the man who used to do the work did not show up one day, Gopan decided to learn the skill and master it himself. Following an intensive seven-day workshop at the Coconut Development Board, there wasn’t anything left for Gopan to know about the species as well as its upkeep and is now a state-certified coconut plucker!
Gopan also has another vocation, which he tends to after school hours—that of a ration shop owner.
“I was forced to look after the ration shop—my father’s business—after his demise. We sell rice, wheat flour and kerosene. I come to the shop after school hours and become a shopkeeper from 5:30– 8.30 p.m. I help my 72-year-old mother, who generally sits at the cash counter, with packing and weighing the items. We are just keeping our father’s dream alive,” Gopan said.
A teacher who thinks of himself as a perpetual student learning from life, Gopan also nurses a rare inclination towards nature and takes care of native cattle breeds apart from maintaining a thriving apiary which currently has 11 beehives. He shares a special bond with these animals; none of them are tied up, and they are free to graze about the area. He makes sure to spend some time with them every day before retiring for the night.
One would wonder about how Gopan finds time for his family of three comprising his wife Preethy, a high school teacher herself and their sons, Sooryanarayan and Karthikeyan, who study in class 11 and 7 respectively.
His multiple roles do take away a lot of time that Gopan could have spent with his family, but the man has no regrets. The sons are already taking after their father and have both already clinched their brown belts in karate.
What is next for the versatile man who is unstoppable and faces every obstacle that life throws at him with élan?
Well, after retirement, Gopan hopes to pursue farming and that too, through practices that are sustainable and environmentally friendly—so organic farming, it is!
It is individuals like Gopan sir who are setting an excellent example for not just his students but also the society as a whole. We salute the indomitable spirit of the man, who happily juggles between several different roles every single day, and is still raring to go.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)