Saturday, August 13, 2011

On Teachers

During my random survey with my friends on the teachers they have encountered through school or college, my findings have generally been similar. Over the course of the entire school and college, we would have typically encountered no less than 100 teachers, if not more. The real figure is closer to 200, if you were among those who went to coaching classes and tuitions. And yet if you ask them how many teachers they remember from their school or college days (for what they taught), most of the answers are in single digits.

Think about it. Barely 5-10 percent of your teachers are "good" - that you remember them 15-20 years later. It's a travesty is it not? That the nearly 15 to 18 odd years we spend studying, we barely remember a few teachers.

So, here is the story of one such teacher who has left an everlasting impression in my mind.

Metallurgy, as a subject, to those who do not know about it, can be interesting as watching paint dry. And that in essence is what great teachers are about. They can bring about even the driest subject to life - and it goes without saying that the opposite is true for bad teachers.

So this professor walks into the first day of Metallurgy class in second year engineering and asks us "What have you heard about this subject?"
And one of us, replies "We have heard that it is a boring subject"
And he replies, with supreme confidence in his usual unflappable self that we came to associate with him over time "I will prove to you that Metallurgy is an interesting subject. I would have failed in my job if you go back thinking that this is a boring subject."

Over a semester, prove he did. His passion for the subject was evident as was his deep knowledge (is one possible without the other?). He managed to transfer this passion to a few of the students. Whatever else he did, he managed to have good attendance in his class (notorious as engineering students are, this was a big achievement).

So what made him a great teacher? His passion in the subject. His ability to transfer this passion to his students. His ability to "pull" students into the subject. And the way he taught, undoubtedly. He was sharp, no doubt. Post engineering I sold many of my books, but the metallurgy one still remains with me.

The man himself went on to become a great storyteller. CPN was what we called him - Narayan Parasuram is his name. And I am sure you would have heard of the company he created...Karadi tales. I am honoured to have been taught metallurgy by him. Hats off to you Sir.

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