Monday, December 17, 2007

To Sir, With Love - 1

As I finished reading this classic by E.R. Braithwaite today, I lay in bed, thinking of my students - some of whom I have forgotten and some of whom I can never forget. Ahhh... those were the days!!!
A brief background - I was preparing for an MBA admission at ICC in Lucknow and in my first attempt, got several calls but none converted. So one fine day, when I was sure of giving it a second shot and I was sure of not spending another 10K on coaching, I went to the coaching where I was a student thus far and proposed to teach. They knew that I have the potential and I knew that they don't have anyone for DI, so despite being more comfortable with maths and reasoning, I offered to take DI. So, soon enough, I was there as 'Sir' before so many pairs of interrogating eyes.
And believe me, it was difficult for all of us. For me, the tables were turned and I had to face people similar, or even senior, in age and qualification. For them, I was a young novice - just a graduate with one year of M.Com. to back up all my claims of seniority. Although, contrary to my expectations, first few classes went quite well - I was prepared, my questions and logics were readily accepted, and blind feedbacks were almost all positive.
However, the problems began to erupt once the information about me spread. Some of them started posing difficult questions in the middle of class to take me by surprise and to check my aptitude. My solutions and logics were argued upon or refused many a times - it became a question of prestige for some to accept me as a teacher but mostly, they meant to have some fun by playing smart or making a fool of me. I remember that during the first year of my teaching, I preferred evading surprise questions and doubts - most of the times, they had the most difficult questions to test me. I was not very experienced and more than expertise, I lacked confidence.
Incidentally, three of my friends had also joined that coaching and suddenly became my student from a friend. That proved to be a lot helpful for me - I used to get 'secret' feedbacks from them and that helped me a lot. As I kept on improving, it affected the general perception as well and finally, even the most nasty ones became, more or less, friendly. Anyhow, I survived that year with finally positive feedbacks, a raise in pay, and more freedom in teaching, including additional areas to handle - content development, reasoning, puzzles, and economy.
By the end of first year, I had a final call from IRMA and a waitlist at IIT Delhi, among other calls. These calls and my CAT and JMET percentiles helped me gaining more supportive attitude from many. By the time I went away to join IRMA, I had spent some two-three months with the new batches. This time, I was quite easily accepted. My classes were sought for, I was enthusiastic on getting new puzzles and teaching materials from wheresoever possible, and I, along with Anand Sir, had started handling free-flowing discussions in class. More importantly, I was no longer 'afraid' of taking up questions in class - students could ask anything they want and even if I was not able to answer, for the first time, I was not embarrassed in accepting the challenge.
Then, in a completely strange twist of fate, I ended up leaving both, IRMA and IIT-D. As a result, I found myself standing again at the doors of ICC - to give 'it' a final shot. This time, I really had to prove myself and I was applying to elite colleges only - no fall-back options or buffer like earlier times.
At teaching, I had stopped preparing beforehand for the classes. I was taking up the things as they came - asking for doubts, stimulating discussions, giving open-ended assignments, and to top it all, I was teaching my own short-cuts and techniques. Students now were happy with me and the director now more often got requests for my classes. After the classes, I used to have discussions and unplanned sessions with students for every sorts of things - academic problems, CV making, personality problems, and even personal problems. However, there was still a lot disapproving of me but that was insignificant and it didn't bother me to face them. I was as confident as ever.
By this time, not only students were loving and enjoying with me but also the faculty had accepted me as one among them. I was having intellectually stimulating discussions with them, especially with Anand Sir, Gurjeet Sir, and Burn Sir - details of those encounters in some later post. And in retrospect, that part of my life is the most beautiful one - I was having fun, knowledge, respect, money, and all that I could long for - well, almost all.
I got final call from IIM Ahmedabad on 13th March,2005. After this, I spent two more months at ICC and in every respect, it was wonderful and enjoyable. I got plenty of farewell wishes, cards, and gifts. In fact, till very long, I was willing to get back to teaching. Even now, I miss teaching and talking to students so much that whenever I get back to Lucknow on vacation, I try to interact with a few classes at my old coaching. And again I have had a few wonderful experiences.
I am in touch with very few of my students now but I wish them all success and happiness wherever they are. It really feels great when one of them crashes into me and shares their success stories with 'Sir'.


Jatin Chowdhary said...

You indeed are a great teacher "Sir".

Nitin Gupta said...

Love going back to this blog of yours & read it.. As Jatin said - you are an amazing mentor 'sir'. Glad to have known you..

Sid said...

Thanks Nitin for reminding me of those days... just yesterday, I was chatting with Anand Sir and ohh I missed our ICC days so much :)

Hopefully, we'll have another boat-ride in Gomti some day soon :)


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