The TEACHERS we need

I studied in a wide variety of schools from Sainik School to Kendriya Vidyalaya to a Jesuit school. My teachers were my frst role models. I still remember, I was in standard V and had to write an essay on ‘The Radio’. Mrs. Mark was my English teacher. After giving me the best marks in the class, she took an hour to give me her feedback on the essay. She urged me to take up writing as a hobby. When you are 10 years old, nobody tells you whether you are good at anything or not. Here, Mrs. Mark showed me a future strength through her coaching. Thanks to her, I try my best to write well.

I have been inspired by the selfless nature of the Jesuit system. The Loyola’s, The St Josephs, The Xavier’s, Rosary Matriculation where my wife studied are all peerless institutions. They have educated so many of the professional class today. The Jesuit institution placed an emphasis on developing the all-rounder – a great combination of curricular and extra-curricular success. They taught generations of students the value of teamwork via competitive sport. They taught us the value of a prepared speech and the ability to hold your ground in a debate. They also taught us our subject!

In IIM Calcutta, I befriended three professorsProfessors Sudas Roy, Amar Chakravorty and Ramanuj Majumdar. Decades later, they are still my teachers and now, good friends. At Wharton, I re-learnt Systems Thinking from the great Russell Haley and the fnance professor John Percival made the dullest balance sheet an expression of prose and poetry. I learnt about the ‘leadership moment’ from Professor Michael Useem and negotiations from Richard Shell. I learnt humbly that there are no dull topics, only dull teachers! Ram Charan is a life teacher for me. Professor Bala Balachandar of Kellogg’s is my teacher every time we are in a Godrej board meeting.

Teachers are important to society and we must give them their due recognition and place in the sun. Students are getting more articulate, more tech-savvy and shall I say more deviating from the accepted norm on discipline.

We need to give our teachers latitude to act and the teacher has to be the fnal authority on discipline. If students don’t learn discipline in the formative years, then correcting them in later years is costly for a family and society. We need to raise the level of parent-teacher interaction for the good of the child. Teachers will innovate via the digital infrastructure. The classroom as we know it today, the chalk and board as we see it today, will all morph into the net and the touch screen. The physical classroom has been a bottleneck for teachers and their ability to inspire a larger section. The digital era will change that. The best teachers in the future will be like orchestra conductors. They will orchestrate teaching masses of students via the web, via massive open online courses. This will give them a wider audience, a larger fan following and help them fne tune their teaching methods. Teaching and learning will be fun and engaging in a digital world.

If you are a student reading this, or a parent, or a teacher, I have one request of you — let us all elevate the respect of teachers in our society. They are our real character builders. They are selfless in their sacrifces. They set you free and let you pursue your dream. They know you better than you know yourself. And when you succeed, the teacher is there behind you, standing with humility and taking pride in your success. For me, my teachers meant a lot and will mean a lot.