Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Teacher, who Never Behaves Like a Teacher.....

" A real teacher's one, who never behaves like a teacher......."
 
                                                              Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan on becoming the Spalding Professor of 'Eastern Religions & Ethics' at Oxford 
 
 
This short but pithy aphorism by Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan has always been one of my favourite quotations. A teacher, who's accessible to his/ her students with absolutely no airs at all, strikes an instant and lifelong rapport with students. It's said that two of the greatest teachers of all time Socrates and Aristotle never sat on a higher pedestal while teaching their students, who they called their 'cerabral extensions.' A teacher doesn't just impart knowledge, he/ she guides the students and shows them a direction to follow. After parents, it's the teacher a child forever remembers or likes to forget as the case may be. Aurangzeb, who never liked anyone in life and even had doubts about his sons' integrity, loved and respected just one person: His teacher, who taught him history and Quranic verses. A teacher's indeed a child's parental substitute.

The Gurukul system of ancient India had 'parental substitution' at its bottom. Ishopanishad  calls a teacher 'one of the child's three parents' (Ekam isthi tritya abhibhavakam). But can this be said about today's teachers, who've forgotten their objectives and fallen from their lofty positions? When teachers start raping and molesting their students, how can they command respect and the whole teaching fraternity gets sullied. I remember my professors Edward W Said at Columbia, Jacques Derrida at Sorbonne in Paris and Umberto Eco (the greatest exponent of Semiotics, the science of signs and symbols) at Bologna, Italy. It never appeared to me that I was interacting with some of the greatest minds of all time. Once I'd a problem in understanding Derrida's 'Deconstruction'. Exasperated, I told him, " Mr Derrida, at times I think, you've made it intentionally unintelligible." He laughed and said, " You'renot  completely wrong!" This is humility, the most desirable quality that a teacher ought to have.

A teacher must always be ready to learn even from his students as the process of learning is never ending. Then only can a teacher find a place in the students' hearts. On the very first day as a King George Philosophy Professor at Calcutta University in 1925, Radhakrishnan told his students not to call him 'sir'. " You can call me Mr or Dr Radhakrishnan, but not sir. It distances me from you." This must be noted. Nowadays, teachers have distanced themselves from their students. The earlier respectful cordiality between teachers and students has degenerated into over familiarity. There's no respect for teachers as they too have never tried to acquire their students' love and respect.

Today, a junior college teacher calls himself/ herself professor, not knowing that a professor is always at a university teaching at post graduate level and that too after minimum thirteen years does one become a professor. The late orientalist Edward W Said always called himself ' a  mere teacher.' Despite his doctorate and Post Doctorate degrees, he never introduced himself as Dr Said. And all students liked him so much that the day he died, they felt as if a part of their existence also came to an end. A teacher's never condescending. He's never patronising. He's down to earth because he knows that man has limitations but knowledge has no limits.  I salute all those great teachers and expect today's teachers to emulate their examples.           
                        ----Sumit Paul




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