Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s life has a magical intertwining for what it means being a teacher. The KRA (key result areas) centric approach to teaching will ensure ‘instrumental values’ for students. However, it is just one side of the deliverables. Learning experience of a student becomes a transformational journey, when the teacher choses to ‘go beyond the KRA’ and embrace duty and service as the credo. It is only through this approach and attitude that the ‘intrinsic value’ of education can be delivered. It is indeed a win-win situation, both for teachers and students.
India’s celebration of Teacher’s Day on 5th September symbolizes its commitment and deep seated urge to recognize and promote this novel, and ancient profession called teaching. Radhakrishnan urged not to celebrate this day as his birth day but as teacher’s day. This unequivocal wish itself reflects the essence of being a teacher. Teacher needs to be duly acknowledged and respected by the society. Radhakrishnan hailed from a modest family background. He carried the credo of simplicity and modesty at all stages of his life. He chose to become a teacher. His life accounts amply demonstrate that he preferred to remain a teacher forever. 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 a mission.
Radhakrishnan was a scholar of international repute. His intriguing works evoked the world at large with admiration and reverence. 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. It was his mastery on the subject and his unflagging attitude to help out students that Radhakrishnan became the most popular teacher. Students look up to teachers for guidance and knowledge. Only a knowledgeable and capable enough are able to command respect from students.
Radhakrishnan’s life gives us a clear message that being a teacher means commitment to high principles and dignity. It is about constant learning and helping students learn, irrespective of any monetary pay-off view that we may like to take.
Which teacher you still remember, and why?
If we try answering this question, there will not be many teachers who would figure in the list. We have already forgotten even the names of many teachers. They are not even a faceless-sketch in our mind, let alone their teaching. But, look and behold, we still remember those one or two even though we met them eons ago, in our school days, college days and so on. Is it a surprise that we remember only few of them? Not, not at all. We do remember our teachers for many things they have done for us. Yes, of course, not every teacher for sure. Who are these teachers we forget easily, and who are those who have made an imprint on our mind and heart.
I fondly remember Debendra Das, my Economics teacher from my college days. He knew that even as a student, I write in magazine and journals. This was not just my hobby but also a means to earn 40 bucks for each article. These 40 rupee was of great value to me as I used to buy books from this money. I literally had to fund my own education due to my poor family condition. This is a rather long story which I would like to reflect on some other occasion. Just to bring the point home, Prof. Das came to me and said we have a conference coming up in December and why not I write a paper for it. I liked the idea and wrote a paper for the conference. The paper got accepted. I was elated. My teacher Prof Das came to meet me and advised that I should attend the conference. It looked good to me but for a second thought I told him that it may not be possible as December will be very cold and I do not have coat to wear. How will I manage? He smiled, did not say anything and went back. After a week’s time, there was a knock on my door. I opened the door, just to see a great surprise awaiting out there. Prof Das was standing with a woollen coat in his hand and a face full of smile. He said, “let’s go, now there is no excuse for you”. I really had no ‘excuse’ to make. I sometime wonder: where on earth the job of a teacher is to get a coat stitched for his student?
Above experiences and many more which we can keep on adding to the list indicates two things:
- Excellence needs to be seen from the eyes of the students. However, in reality, there is a simmering difference in the concept of ‘excellence’ in teaching profession, as seen from the eyes of the teacher vis-à-vis students.
- A teacher is remembered for many things which go way beyond the content delivered in the classroom. Every small thing we do for our students matter in their life. Our act of fairness, enthusiasm, promptness, punctuality, being available to students and learning support we render can change the life of students.
We seek to be educated because education delivers great values to us. Let alone the purpose of education as to why it is needed and the philosophical views on education, it can still be made to deliver two kinds of values: Instrumental Value and Intrinsic Value. As we tend to walk on two legs, both kinds of values are needed to make us move ahead in life and career. In the absence of any one value, there will be gaps. Students will either remain ‘unemployable’ or loose the esteem to face life. Instrumental values are enshrined in making students to find a job and livelihood. Degree is an instrumental value which allows access to better jobs. Degree which lives up to its promise and expectation would do far more good to student success. Nevertheless, degree alone is no guarantee that the young guns will be able to make a career out of the job and be a life-long learner. It is the intrinsic value of education, if cared for by teachers, will make the students achieve it.
A life-skill seeker will be very high on intrinsic value while a job seeker and degree seeker will be high on instrumental value. It is only the teacher who can find it out and pave the path of transition for a student from instrumental value seeker to intrinsic value seeker. It is a win-win situation for both the teachers and students alike as it would allow both to grow in stature and reach the commanding heights. At least on this teacher’s day we may like to look at Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan’s ideals as an example and learn few things from them.