3 Blessings a faculty can give to students this Guru Purnima

A lot has been written and said about gurus on the occasion of Guru Purnima* day. From teaching-learning perspective in higher education, what would a guru like the shishya to be? Three blessings from guru would make a student what it would take them to be and also improve the teaching-learning in higher education

Guru Purnima symbolizes our society’s commitment and deep seated urge to recognize and promote teaching as a novel, and ancient profession. Teachers need to be duly acknowledged and respected by the society. A true teacher would choose to remain a teacher forever, no matter whether his profession gets changed. Teaching is more than a profession, it is, perhaps a mission. A teacher is a lifelong learner, an avid reader, and seeker of truth. It is this perennial urge for knowledge that makes a teacher impart learning to students. Students look up to teachers for guidance and knowledge. On the occasion of Guru Purnima, what all blessings a teacher would like to shower on students, to make them empowered as a learner. I can visualize three blessings which can go a long way in making students what they would like to be in life. These three blessings also rest at the heart of an improved teaching-learning process and driving quality in higher educational institutions.

1. May you be a seeker of knowledge!

Invariably, teachers are portrait as a ‘knowledge giver’ and students are there as a ‘knowledge takers’. In the age of digital and online learning, the role of a teacher as content provider has tended to diminish considerably. Teachers no longer remain mandatory for getting access to knowledge content. Students largely know where to get it. Teachers are being looked up to by students not just for the content but for their ability to contextualize knowledge and co-create something new and something interesting. However, for this to happen, students need to develop the habit of reading and come up with questions starting with ‘why’ in plenty.  

I was interviewing a candidate of late, and I asked—do you read? He said, yes he does. I was so happy to hear that reply. Curiously enough, I asked what do you read. He said novel and recently he read Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend. I started talking about the book with him. I didn’t find his elaborations good enough to support his claim to have read this book. However, this was not what made me to rethink about reading habits, but I was really surprised to see that almost everyone I interviewed on that day told about Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend with similar scanty knowledge about the storyline. May be I had a curiously coincidental bad day. Nevertheless, the fact remains that lack of reading habits, in general, seems to be a matter of serious concern.  One does not have to reiterate time and again that books and readings are of utmost significance. Readings provide wings to imagination and dreams. It helps language development and communication. Perhaps, in a fast paced life with so many alternatives to fall back on, we are not able to rediscover the joy of reading. Institutions need to find ways to re-establish the culture of reading among students and faculty.

In a digital age, print reading is considerably low. Use of screens (computer, iPad, smartphone) must be promoted for book reading. A system of common read wherein one book is selected and declared as common read of the month may ensure a great deal. It is to be followed by talking about the common read in a seminar. Generally, books are selected and bought by faculty and library. Let students select and buy books to be kept in library. If you buy books, you also tend to read it. Let books unleash a fresh new world for us, as W. Fusselman said, “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

2. May the child within you live forever!

At the end of his speech in Norway, the Noble laureate Kailash Satyarthi asked everyone to keep hands on heart, close the eyes, and look at the child within. Remarkably, the Noble laureate Malala Yousafzai, jointly sharing the same dais, emphatically said, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world”. A little bit of child needs to be retained in each one of us.  

Khalil Gibran told parents to always remember that children have come to this world not from them but through them. He warned parents not to try and make their children like them, for time does not move backward. Children have their own way of moving forward. Their sense of fairness is undiluted. We need to learn a lot from them. First habit we can embrace in us is their indulgence in ‘pure’ play. When children play nothing else matter. Such play “reduces stress, improves communication skills, builds team work”, says Cathy Raphael in her book It’s Our Turn to Play.

Like children we must try to be our own best friend. Mildred Newman (How to be Your Very Own Best Friend) writes—“Give yourself positive recognition. When you do something you are proud of, bask in the glow, tell yourself that you did well, even if no one else does”. Yet another habit we can embrace in us is kid’s perennial tendency of learning something new. We learn for the pay-offs. Kids learn for the sheer pleasure of it. They are learning machine. We need to recapture the sense of joy we had as children. Lastly, be as simple as a child. One of the Bengali songs suggests–unless a man is simple, he cannot recognize God, the simple one. Robert Herrick writes—“Truth by her own-Simplicity is known”. Brihad Aranyaka Upnishad mentions—“Let a Brahman reject erudition and live as a child”. With this sense of simplicity, we can enhance productivity and be innovative to achieve great things in life.

3. May you have the courage to make a choice!

We all are a product of choices that we made in life. It has brought us to the place where we are today. Some choices have made us to go up in life while some choices may have pulled us down. Choices which result into a loss may cost us but the cost of not making choices could be much higher. Taking a decision and making a choice is extremely important in life. Ability to decide and choose is a great skill. As a teacher, we must focus on encouraging students to make choices in life, well informed choices as far as practicable.  

In nutshell, students in higher education must leverage to expand beyond known. They must endeavour to experiments, and to see new lights. The first step towards this is to prepare well for each session or interaction. A well prepared class, equipped with pre-reads, will push the discussion to a next level. A high level of discourse is the beginning of exploring new dimensions.  The next step must be to move beyond text book and read alternative literature, be exposed to unorthodox paradigm. This is likely to change the way we look at the phenomenon. With several why, what, and how in our thinking pattern, finding new may not remain too distant. Finally, as a teacher we must make our students try for impossible. A constant craving for overcoming impossible rests at the heart of a passionate teaching learning.  

However, it would not come about of its own. This would mean sacrificing procrastination, valuing time, reading more and greater indulgence in open discourse.

References

Raphael, Cathy (2000) It’s our turn to play, Harper Perennial; Illustrated edition.

Newman, Mildred, Berkowitz B and Owen J (2016) How to Be Your Own Best Friend, Random House; Reprint edition.

*The word ‘guru’ in Indian tradition is variously described and upheld in high esteem. In nutshell, it means a teacher and a preacher. ‘Shishya’ connotes to a student or a learner. Guru Purnima day is celebrated in reverence to all gurus to whom the humanity owes so much.

Author: Dr Prabhat Pankaj

Dr. Prabhat Pankaj is a postgraduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in applied economics. He is a teacher by choice and started his career 30 years ago in 1991 from Arunachal University. He has been teaching Economics at postgraduate and undergraduate levels for about 30 years, in Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 7 years in Bhutan. Dr. Pankaj has also obtained his Executive Education in "Management and Leadership in Higher Education" at Harvard University, Boston, USA. Furthermore, He has written for the Times of India and other popular publications. Currently, he is serving as the Director of Jaipuria Institute of Management, Jaipur.

17 thoughts

  1. Sir, this article carries a very strong message to all the faculties out there. The third point for me is the strongest of all and I believe you saved the best one for the last. Taking decision isn’t an easy task as it seems to be, and yes it does turn out to be a blessing indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I fully agree with you Akash ji .. we are so much dependent on others for taking our own decision. Good or bad, one should develop the habit of deciding. Nice to hear from you. Pls keep on commenting.

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  2. Thanks Prabhat,
    Ideally the relationship between the Guru (learned) and the Shishya (Learner) should be as explained in your thoughtful passage. Sadly in most cases the relationship has become transactional. “ Give me good grades and I will give you a good course assessment”. It is all about grades, which often times has no correlation to the subject knowledge. Money and favors have bought grades. This piece of narrative is a must for reading by both Guru and Shishya in today’s context of teaching and learning.
    I am not a pessimist and I do have hope in our teaching community for making teaching and learning more meaningful to the students we teach.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sir,
    This problem of “Killing the Child which is in you” and being paranoid about what wrong decision my child may take, is not only killing the creativity but, also producing a generation of risk averse learners, and this doesn’t go well with the start up environment that this country tries to create. It’s high time our parents and society, at large, allowed our kids to experiment and have faith on both teacher and taught. This essence is very well captured in this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. An enlightening read indeed! Millennials indeed make a different genre of students, who have brought around kinda disruption to the ‘Teaching Profession’ as imagined by quite a few teachers. Teaching has evolved into facilitation and student occupies the centre stage as against the stereotypical notion of teaching. There thus has to be a teacher in every student and a student in every teacher. This sums up the essence of modern day teaching. A sage on the stage strategy has paved the way for a ‘guide by the side’ philosophy. An interesting read that surely shall help the teachers become resilient to changing times and bring glory to the profession. And yes, there could not have been a better fit with the occasion of ‘Gurupurnima’. Thanks Dr. Prabhat for sharing and gifting all teachers with an insightful read that shall help them stay relevant and ahead of time🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Prabhat Sir for a wonderful piece of reading.

    Two of your points especially strike a cord deep within me.

    One wherein you mention ‘ A little bit of child needs to be retained in each one of us’. There are two unique things that characterise a child….innocence and curiosity. Because of innocence, a child is insulated from ego, avarice, prejudice and jealousy. Because of curiosity, a child is always open to explore, to learn and move ahead.These are the same two qualities which are essential in a learner or someone who is worthy to be called ‘shishya’

    Second point of yours is where you mention ‘courage to make a choice’. It is so imperative to understand that the real teachers mentors their students in a way that they (students) are empowered to make their own choices thus developing an autonomy of their own. This is the essence of the Guru Shishya relationship that is so very highly talked about in Indian context.

    You captured it beautifully in your writing Prabhat Sir. Thanks again

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you Prabhat Sir for sharing this wonderful piece of reading.
    I especially would like to point out two points of yours which struck a cord deep within me.
    The first is wherein you mention ‘ A little bit of child needs to be retained in each of us’. This is so pertinent. A child is characterised by two unique features – innocence and curiosity. ‘Innocence’ insulates him from prejudice, bias,avarice and ego whereas ‘curiosity’ enables him to explore and investigate. These very same qualities are indispensable for a true learner as well…a ‘shishya’.

    Second poignant point of yours is wherein you mention about ‘ courage of choice’. This is profound as it underlines the role an actual teacher plays in the life of his disciple…eradicating the shades of doubt so that the light of courage can shine forth. This is the hallmark of the beautiful relationship of the ‘Guru’ and the ‘Shishya’.
    Once again, thank you for a wonderful read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Dr Shubha for your encouraging comments. Yes, we make hell of our own life by loosing the child within. As you rightly pointed out, habit and courage of making choices is an integral part of growing up and a sign of leadership quality. We must develop it in ourselves as well as in our students. Pls keep on reading and posting comments.

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  7. Sir, these 3 blessings are so much pertinent. You have hit the nail on the head through this post. We all have so much to learn from you. Warm Regards

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks a lot sir for articulating this for us, all these 3 blessings echo the voice of great teachers or gurus. It reminds me of my guru who used to endorse that it involves a huge cost to live according to one’s own wishes. As you make choices you are liable for each and every bit of it. I think we as teachers are liable to set correct examples for our students, reflecting values such as empathy, social consciousness, courage, being respectful and dedicate towards to ones work. The Gurus by their conduct can leave everlasting impressions and learnings.
    Thanks a lot Prabhat sir for putting it so lucidly. Lot to learn from it and this directly echoes your heart.

    Regards
    Dr. Aparna

    Liked by 1 person

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