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Thursday, June 19, 2014

'Thank you, sir'

'sir, whatever I am, it is because of you'
'It's ok'
'sir, you taught me so many things, I have totally changed'
'if you have any problem, you can come back to us, we are all here to help you people'
'sir, I came to you to thank you as it is our last day'.
'ok, thats fine'

This conversation was between a student and a teacher on the last day of formal teaching. The student is going to appear in last semester exam after around 10 days. As the student entered the room, he saw few students sitting in the teacher's room, so he sought permission. 

'sir, can I come'
'yeah come, how are you'

As other students started leaving the room the conversation had started in the way mentioned earlier. This student who joined the university some 22 months back in the first semester of masters in commerce program, was a shy lad. He had problems dealing with friends, making presentations and many times was seen sitting alone. Though he had few friends but still he was not very open with them. He had recognised that he has some problem and he has to work on it to improve. And while he was taught organizational behaviour, he tried applying some of it in dealing with friends. 

One day, when he was in first semester, he went to his teacher and asked 'sir, can you help me', 'I am not able to mix with friends, I am not able to speak in public, I am not able to make new friends, in fact I find it difficult to interact', 'sir you tell stories, I like them, please help me deal with my problem'. This young boy had taken a step, many would think thousand times to take. The teacher started working with him. There were many sessions on many afternoons, when his friends would be going back to their respective houses, this boy would be busy listening to stories by teacher. The teacher would share his experiences. He would tell stories, some real, some fictional. For him he was a sample for experiments. Teacher's room was a lab, student's house was a lab.

As time kept passing by, the relationship between them became quite friendly. By this time, the student started sharing his personal life, about his parents, brothers, etc etc and about his friendships, neither he told the names, nor teacher was interested in. So without names many things got shared. The teacher was experimenting with very simple exercises, like asking him to give some time to himself, think, just think, who you are, what you are, why you are on this earth, what are you doing, why are you doing, what is your role to your parents, to your teachers, to your state, to your nation, to society at large, just keep thinking, give some 15-20 minutes time daily, to yourself. Then start writing what you think, keep writing. Then spend some time reading what you wrote, correct it.

Some time the student would write something on a shabby paper, and show it to him. He handed him over a diary and asked him, to keep writing what he feels and if he think he can share it, show it to him. The student wrote many stories, many time he wrote what he felt, what he just experienced, what was his reaction to events that he thought he should talk about. There were discussions on what he wrote.  Once the student told the teacher 'sir I have a presentation to make but I am feeling nervous, how to go about it'. The teacher told him prepare your presentation and read it in front of a mirror at home. 'When you read book, read aloud, if possible in front of a mirror'. Whether the student strictly followed it or not, he improved his presentation in the class. He came to the teacher and told 'sir my presentation went well.' It gave a satisfying smile to that teacher since his experiments were reaping fruit. His lab was able to register a patent.

After number of sessions, experiments, follow ups, during the period of around 20 months. Today he had come to the teacher to acknowledge his contribution in shaping his personality and for that teacher, what could be a better moment than this. As the student was leaving the room, he came closer to the teacher and touched his feet. It is quite unseen an experience in this part of the country. This acknowledgement by the student was an achievement of the teacher. Not many students acknowledge, yes not many teachers do as well.

Today I taught my Ph D students how apt Peter Drucker was in coining the term 'knowledge worker'. Drucker wrote in 1969 in 'The age of discontinuity' - 'knowledge workers cannot be satisfied with work that is only a livelihood.' The teacher was not doing teaching for livelihood but was playing his role as a teacher, trying to be best at that. We are all given different role to play, we need to play that role as perfect as possible.

'Thank you, sir', he said, as he left his teacher's room.
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