Pl read

1. Why o Why?

If you are visiting these writings for the first time, or have not read the entry "Why o Why",

may I suggest you read that first and then read the rest in numerical order?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

14. Why we do what we do -- our students are our (a)wards

Why we do what we do
   Our students are our (a)wards

When you examine the headings above, it may not be obvious that they are related enough to serve as a title for the following essay.

Consider the first question: Why do we do what we do?
We may have one or more possible answers.

n  We do what we do because we enjoy doing it, it gives us a sense of achievement, we get our own sense of satisfaction, like for example, when we finish a crossword puzzle within a self-imposed deadline, or when we reach a milestone in skiing.

n  We do it because if we don’t do it, we may be jeopardizing our future, for example, exercising regularly or eating in moderation, etc. As in the previous category, it is out of personal consideration.

n  We  do it for the benefit of someone else. For example, a teacher who imparts education or a chef who creates a gourmet meal. Of course, both get paid for their services, but their customers depend on them. Often, the payment could be intangible, for example, one gets an ego boost when others appreciate your work.

Come to think of it, teachers in  good universities today do what they do and obtain all of the above as a result. They enjoy what they do, have the flexibility to work on things which will create a better future for everyone – through the students they produce or as a consequence of their research, and in the process derive personal satisfaction.

Many educational institutions have awards for honoring their alumni, and in doing so, in a sense, they are honoring themselves – their own teachers and also the institution. For their part, by doing well in the real world – utilizing the education that they received  from these teachers –  these students nurture the very institutions and people that nurtured them in the past.  

The joy of seeing one of your “products” doing well, whether the product is a student or a useful artifact, can be profound.  One feels that nurturing such students and working hard to get the best out of them is  worth all the effort -- when you hear their success stories, or when they get recognized for their contributions a teacher proudly proclaims that he/she “was  my student”. When a student reciprocates and acknowledges the significant part a teacher has played in his/her success, there is nothing like it for the teacher. In my mind, graduation ceremonies (aka convocations, commencements) are solemn events because this recognition, by the teacher and the taught, of their mutual dependence, is brought out in a beautiful manner at these events.

Recently, some of us witnessed one such event when my colleague Prof. Sudarshan, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from IIT Madras where he obtained his Bachelors degree years earlier. While he was on stage, listening to the citation and then receiving the award, among the audience members was his favourite Professor, Pandu Rangan, savouring and capturing the  moment on his camera. Within minutes, he posted the picture  on Facebook, with a note that paid tribute to his past student. Soon after, there was a beautifully crafted response from the taught. Their sentiments were sublime, the generosity of the teacher and the taught was touching and their mutual admiration quite apparent. I hope such relationships become the norm. Hats off to them.