Ms. Tharshan is a social sciences teacher at Marc Garneau.
Q: What courses do you teach?
A: Currently, I’m teaching Philosophy and two Civics classes. I also usually teach Introduction to Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology.
Q: How long have you been teaching at MGCI?
A: I’ve been here for ten years.
Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: I really like collaborative discussions—I usually give the foundations of what they need to know, and then based on that foundation we do a couple of questions. The type of classroom that I like is one where students can actually talk about their ideas, and even scrutinize each other’s ideas. But, at the end of the day, they can share and still feel safe in this environment.
Q: What’s the most important thing you hope students would learn or take away from your course?
A: When I teach, I want them to understand that there’s a world outside of where they’re living, and to be respectful of the differences or conflicts that may exist. And to care, to have empathy. What I want them to take home with them is that they should have compassion at heart. I want them to see that they’ve got it great, but not everyone is in the same boat at them. And they need to actively do something and be a part of that change.
Q: What was your dream job as a kid?
A: Actually, I grew up in a family of teachers: my mom and my grandmother were teachers, so I naturally stepped into that role. I remember when I was little I’d line up all my stuffed animals, and I’d pretend that I was teaching them. I would use the cupboard walls as a chalkboard and pretend to be making notes to my stuffed animals. [laughs]
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self, when you just started teaching?
A: Not to be hung up on the specifics. Sometimes you can’t plan everything, and you can’t expect everything, and that’s okay! Just like your students, you won’t be able to accomplish everything as well, but that’s all right, that’s how you learn. You have to fight your battles and choose your battles.
Q: Anthropology, Psychology, or Sociology?
A: Sociology. All the way. I did my education entirely in sociology, so that’s my passion.
Q: Funny story of a teaching experience?
A: I was teaching philosophy once, and I had a quote from Karl Marx and I had one of my students write it on the board. It was a very passionate quote, and it was a little bit controversial as well. It was the last period of the day, and I forgot to erase the board, but the next day I was on a class field trip. Whoever was covering for me didn’t realize that the quote was part of my class lesson, and they thought that someone had come into the classroom and had written this derogatory Karl Marx quote, and they were up in arms about it. One teacher told the other teacher, and that teacher told another teacher, and they thought, “Oh my God, who’s writing these quotes on the boards? This is not acceptable.” They eventually figured out that whoever wrote the quote must have some sense of philosophy, and they went through this whole Sherlock Holmes investigation and realized, “It has to be Ms. Tharshan’s class. Who else would write this?” Although I wasn’t actually there, it was really funny because everyone was all angry and riled up.
Q: Have you ever pranked anyone during your years as a teacher?
A: [Laughs] All the time! One prank was on our old department head, Mr. Persaud. So I told Ms. Woodley to squeeze herself into the cupboard and I asked Mr. Persaud’s to come and help me like, “My keys aren’t working! Can you help me open the cupboard?” So he comes out of his classroom and he’s huffing and puffing (because I interrupted his class) and he’s asking me what’s wrong with my keys. So he opens the cupboard and out jumps Ms. Woodley, and he freaked out. It was almost like—I can’t describe it in words, you had to be there—but he literally jumped back and he couldn’t talk because he was so scared.
Q: What’s your philosophy on life?
A: Be true to yourself! As hard as it is sometimes, especially when you’re bombarded by so many things. Trying to be true to yourself as much as you can, whether it’s the way you teach, or your intuitions, you have expectations and sometimes you won’t meet those expectations, but you have to stay true to yourself. It’s still something that I’m working on.
Q: If you could meet one philosopher, who would it be?
A: Probably Mohandas Gandhi. The reason I want to meet him is not only because of his political connection to India and the fact that he led the independence of India, but mostly because in his memoir, he wrote about a concept called ahiṃsā, which means “non-harmfulness” and in every possible way to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, even in times of political unrest. He was a politician, and when are politicians ever known for telling the truth? If I had a chance to meet him, that would be my question: How did you do it? And did you really do it?
Q: What do you think is the best comfort food, or your favourite comfort food?
A: There’s so many – perogies. Perogies with salted caramelized onions on top, sour cream with salsa – hands down the best food on Earth.
Q: What’s one fact about you that you think would surprise most people?
A: I’m very afraid of heights. I won’t go on a rollercoaster, I don’t like looking over a balcony. I also suck at all sports. I do! The only thing I can do is run, but I can’t do any sport. I coach some sports, but I suck at playing sports.
Q: If you were stranded on an island, what two things would you want to have on hand?
A: I’d say a good book, to pass time. I think I’d also want my second son with me. Not my first one but my second one. The reason I say that is because he’s a charmer and he’s a talker, and you just will never get bored of him. On an island you’ll need entertainment, and if there’s no electricity, my four-year-old son is the best choice. Don’t tell that to my first son though!