As over a billion souls celebrate “Teachers’ Day” in India, what better to write about on this, 5th day of September. If you want to know why and how about this day, click here and get the context! Dr. Radhakrishnan was a great soul, a giant among the giants- it was that time in the history of India, when even within the political class there was space for brilliant geniuses to take centre stage, collaborate, contribute and lead! Well sure enough this piece is not about him, rather giving a context was necessary before we moved ahead to know “THE TEACHER”! What is it to be a teacher? Who can be one? and what does a real teacher do? Join me as we understand, unravel and get a bearing on this subject, which touches us every day of our life!
I had written sometime back on Guru in the workplace- to write about a teacher is a whole new level! India, is as ancient as one can think about and the civilization’s strength were not always the material wealth but more importantly the wealth of knowledge! Wise people, sages, seers and the great philosophical minds across the world have known this singular universal truth, that irrespective of everything and anything, the most potent weapon/ tool as you may like to address it has always been and will ever be the human mind and what goes into this wonder of evolution is what- your teachers nurture you with!
Teachers’ as a term is not limited only to the ones’ you came across in your school or college or your managers and seniors at the workplace, your gym instructor, your yoga or meditation teacher, it is basically everyone and anyone that you have been able to, are and will learn from- learn something that enriches you- your soul- to first uplift you to see a new perspective and than enabling you to share the same with the others around you- who are able to assimilate and sustain that new learning!
We live in an era now a days, where students get to choose teachers’, unlike the times of the ancient Gurukula system when the student would be fortunate enough to be taught by a much sought after teacher! Anyways, there’s not much that we can do individually around that, but what I am now going to discuss, perhaps will be of much value and interest to you as well! Great Teachers’ don’t always have Great Students and neither do Great Students always have Great Teachers! So what does this tell you something about being a teacher? read on!
The essential connect between the Teacher and the Student (apart from their personalities) is the Quality and Value of the Content! Learning doesn’t take place in vacuum, it needs social space and settings to be practiced, improvised, rejuvenated and deployed. Consider this, if you were to learn to swim- fair enough- you can swim in the swimming tank with a depth of 5 metres, now what if you are asked to swim across the notorious English Channel or in the Sea- what do you think? Will you swim or will you sink? Technically you have learnt what it takes to swim- so by that measure you should be able to swim, isn’t it? But, you too know for a fact that taking an approach route of going from the swimming tank to the Sea- will be nothing more than a shortcut to your grave! So why does the learning not help here? For the simple reason that all teaching and all learning happens in a contextual setting and unless there is improvisation done by the student on their own, applying their discerning mind- that learning will ever be stagnated with no way to go- forward and no place to come back! It’s that uncomfortable feeling of being stuck- plain stuck! So how do people achieve greatness, you may ask? Sure enough people do, but the story there lies not merely in the technical detail about what is been taught, but the real essence lies in who is “THE” teacher and who is “THE” student- what are their goals, aspirations, desires, vision. Unless there is an alignment of vision, desire, aspirations between the Teacher and the Student- no matter how sincere the intent is- how genuine he effort may be- the student’s mind will ever remain a half soaked sponge! Unless and until the contextual settings of their lives, the desires/goals don’t sync-in end-to-end, there will be no magic of greatness created and hence greatness is a rarity by itself and when it comes to evaluating that between a Teacher- Student relation, it’s even more rarer! Think about this bit! There are so many sport coaches around the world- not all are famous- but all are competent to be a sport coach! Sport coach may teach thousands of students, only one among them goes to be the game changer- an icon for the game, not all become world famous- only a few! This happens only when the intent/desire/goals/ aspirations of the students and the teacher align and are favored by contextual settings around. This is the singular secret to achieve greatness by learning from a great master and being able to create magic for everyone by deploying those great learnings!
Another vital aspect of teaching is that, the success/ failure of the teacher is not reflective of the competence/ incompetence of the teacher, rather it is reflective of the student- the student’s ability to remain steadfast, focused, observant and importantly the degree of awareness that the student has acquired! Consider this, if the teacher was the problem, you would have had either equally dumb or equally wise students and likewise the societies would have been too uniformly smart or dumb across, but that never happens ( how I wish!), and the reason for that is the fact that, is the Teacher- Student relationship, even the best teacher and the most vibrant content and quality will be of hardly any use, unless the student allows that to impress upon their hearts and minds! This final veto power- rather how that is used or abused is what goes on to shape the students approach, attitude and altitude that they are able to touch in their lives! As long as this is attuned to the philosophies, guidelines, content quality and has been improvised well, education and learning serves its purpose and individuals are empowered. It is these empowered individuals that go on to create vibrant societies and thats what makes the world a better place- as you see variation in the quality of empowerment- the society too will reflect corresponding variance in its ways of life!
One more final truth- The Teacher can be anyone- for the observant and curious mind- if you remember how you were when you were a toddler and a young kid- you went to everyone (unless you were cranked up) and you observed, studied and grasped what you could from everyone and anyone around- whether that was a human, an animal, a stone or a toy! All of that gave your mind a bossier dose of imagination, which as you grow also helps you to dream and perhaps the ability to dream is the biggest gift that we as humans have (sadly lot of them are forgotten, by the time we wake up and only nightmares keep coming back!). As long as you are able to keep your mind young- vibrant- like that of a baby- ever curious, asking questions, re-visiting the basics and reading that subject again and again just to know perhaps you will find something different now, maybe that sentence did not connect than, but now it does….so on and so forth, once you arrive at this frame of learning- you are a student for life and of life and there can be- rest assured no greater Teacher that you will ever meet than the life that you live and the lives that you are able to influence around you!
So what does a teacher do? You may want to finally ask this! Well as the Zen masters have said- The Wise Teacher, doesn’t tell you what to see, but rather where to look!, Likewise a wise Teacher doesn’t ever ask you what to think or how to think- the teacher simple presents the knowledge and the context. Applying your mind, researching, seeing the contrasts of narratives and deducing inference and logic is what the student’s mind is supposed to do! We live in an era, where what we hear, is crap, what we see or are shown is perhaps misleading, at a time when every person lives unto their own truth and one person’s reality seems to be another’s fiction, it only makes sense to empower students, by helping them to know the contexts allow their minds to deduce what they seem more appropriate through their research, curiosity and observation! The higher that quality, the higher will be their relative success in the times ahead!
Teachers’ through ancient history have always been and will always remain to be the unsung heros’ of the progress that we as humanity have witnessed across societies! Societies/ Kingdoms / Nations alike have risen and fallen in proportion to the rise and fall of the quality and value that teachers’ have been able to create and share with members of the society. Whenever and wherever Teachers’ have suffered, societies have taken a dive, when they have been empowered, societies have risen and raced ahead!
I leave you here, urging you to reach out to the student and the teacher within you and see who’s playing on your mind and who’s playing with your mind! Stay curious, stay inquisitive and no matter how far or how high you reach- stay grounded and read those lesson again- as your experiences of life get altered, the same things read earlier, begin to mean different!
Ciao for now! Will be back soon with another article, until then keep learning, keep teaching and stay connected! Observe and Think!