On being a Teacher

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Value delivery

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.

Source: A slide from my presentation on teaching-learning, based on empirical data collected from a sample of 2000 plus students.

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.

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.

45 thoughts

  1. Dear Sir, Thank you very much for supporting and enlightening all my way. If only I could have your blessing for a lifetime, I would succeed the way I have done always. Happy Teachers Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Sir, Thank you very much for supporting and enlightening all my way. If only I could have your blessing for a lifetime, I would succeed the way I have done always. Happy Teachers Day.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A teacher is an inspiration to create a Learner and the Learning..An amazing profession to build, nurture and guide an idea into action! A beautifully articulated blog that shows your profound experience in this field, Dr. Prabhat.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A true teacher graduates from imparting knowledge to imparing wisdom. Wisdom comes by contemplating on knowledge. Such a teacher we call Guru. You are a Guru of repute dedicated to bringing out the best in your students. Stay blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Indeed a powerhouse!
    In today’s world of commercial education industry, it’s a must read for all such setups!!!
    Happy Teachers Day Dearest Dr Prabhat Pankaj.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very well articulated. You still remember Mr. Das for his gesture for taking care beyond class room and books but for sure academic excellence which he saw in you.
    I feel that it is missing. Reasons may be many and debatable.
    Congratulations for writing a valuable blog.
    Damodar Prasad Goyal

    Liked by 1 person

  7. An article by a true teacher by choice whose heart beats for his students and his team. Dr. Prabhat Pankaj portraits a teacher as one who inspires learners, leaves an indelible mark in their minds to peruse continuous learning and influences them to serve the cause of the society. “Be a good human being rather than being a nice person” is what he firmly believes in and practices in his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dr. Radhakrishan has rightly said, and to quote ” Teaching is a mission”. When teaching an hetrogenous class of students my mission has always been to address the knowledge gap and needs of the less intelligent slow learners, than to only sharpen the knowledge and skill sets of brightest of the kids in a class. There are slow learners in every batch of students we teach and as teachers, our mission is to enhance the knowledge and self confidenence of these scholars.
    A teacher has to multi task as a scholar, role model, mentor and a confidante.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Sir: You have made a very pertinent point and I fully agree with you. Most institutions do not have policy on slow learners. A few remedial classes are found to be arranged by some institutions. But in general a policy towards slow learner is missing. Then there comes the attitude of teachers towards such students. Slow learners require more time which teachers find it difficult to spare. There is also a need for mentoring policy which takes care of slow learners. Thank you so much for your comments.


  9. An excellent exposition of the true nature of learning encapsulating the timeless example of the outstanding teacher that Dr. Radhakrishnan was, a tribute to the writer’s own teacher, as well deep insights into learning for a living-vis-a-vis learning for life. Dr. Pankaj draws strength from his own beliefs and practices as a great educator as well as from his wide reading and research and their application in his daily engagement.
    A wonderful tribute to education and educators!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So well said for beyond KRA and that is what will curate value driven culture, since moving beyond KRA fundamentally emerge from deep sense of value a teacher holds. An important ingredient to this is “teacher my choice”. Such teacher will surely put efforts for slow learners which often needs time, efforts and student teacher bond which could be circled in KRA.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As you have always quoted taking up teaching profession should be a choice and not a chance.However even if one lands up by chance one should genuinely inculcate the art of developing others….as rightly said at the moment all that our nation needs are Good Teachers.

    Reflecting on the students who keep expressing their love to me even after a decade are the ones whom who were genuinely interested in their growth and we as Teacher gave them three things ” Our Trust, Our Time and Our encouragement”.

    Trust instills them with confidence that they can move mountains and keeps them progressing.

    Time is where we we build a bond and invest in helping them leverage their strengths and overcome weaknesses.

    Encouragement is the highest level of good a teacher can do for student development.

    Thus it is not the syllabus and its delivery which single handedly makes you a great teacher but it’s the like skill that you teach them which makes all the difference. And teachers in my journey have been truly exceptional and I owe my every bit of success to them..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great thought Dr Nidhi.. thank you for sharing. You have been a great teacher and a mentor to students. It is not surprising that students keep getting back to you. Wishing you all the best and the teacher that you are!


  12. Your thoughts on Education and Happiness are really commendable.You are always a great inspiration and role model for me as well for many as teacher educators.
    Your thought on this special issue “on being a teacher” feeds a lot for the way of my journey as teacher educator.
    Thanks a lot , looking forward for more such inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sir..I have read your blog “On being a Teacher” & congratulate you for the same. You have explained the reality of the subject in such an excellent manner ..for which I have no words.

    I also feel that Teacher’s are always remembered either for their humbleness or their strict approach.

    In fact I appreciate your commitment as Teacher inspite of being head of the Institution. You have your goals and you are working so hard for it.

    Kindly keep us enlightened with such blogs in future also.

    Harish Malik

    Liked by 1 person

  14. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site provided us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our whole community will be thankful to you.


  15. You can definitely see your skills within the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.


  16. Hi, I do think this is a great web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may revisit yet again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

    Liked by 1 person

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