Who is your teacher? And who taught the teacher ?


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I saw this today morning at the Starbucks counter in the hotel lobby . And then I had to change my shirt – and I have mocha dripping through my nose .

I am not a big fan of Alexander – and have a hard time saying Alexander the Great . However , I do like what little I know about his teacher Aristotle and other teachers like Plato , Socrates and so on .

In India , there is a pecking order of respect that goes “Mata, Pitha , guru , Daivam” (mom,dad,teacher, god) . If I had the liberty to reorder this list, I will put teacher at the top of the list . Here is my rationale
1. Not everyone is fortunate to have a mom and/or dad in their formative years
2. You can have only one mom and one dad , yet you can and should have many teachers
3. As you grow older , in many cases you will stop taking introduction from mom and dad – yet when the student in you is ready, the right teacher will appear
4. Unlike mom and dad , you can choose teachers you like

Like many of you, I can trace back my (limited) success in life to a few great teachers in schools and colleges I attended . I also had some pretty horrible teachers – and don’t wish them on even my enemies . And at work, I am eternally grateful to the mentors I have had .

But the more important point is – are we growing the next generation of great teachers ? As I look at my daughter growing up – I think the primary school teachers are just as awesome as Mrs Nirmala Marhrubhootam who taught me in Chinmaya Vidyalaya . I can only hope that she gets equivalents of Fr Berthold, Prof Nasser, Dr Kevin and Dr MNV nair to guide her through her academic life .

But at work – I am not so sure . I think people actively seek mentors these days way more than when I started working . However , I don’t see anywhere close to the same interest in people going out of their way to mentor others . There are a few exceptions like John Leffler and Ken Englund in IBM and Sanjay Poonen in VMWare . It is still a pull model – and I think that should change . As we get past each stage in life , we owe it to the next generation to pass on our knowledge .

This is just as true in the world of dog shows . As the older generation is getting into their golden years, there are not enough youngsters to keep running the kennel clubs . Many clubs are defunct now . I am as guilty as the next guy in this situation . I should do a lot more in supporting the clubs I am a member of – and not just monetarily .

It is definitely the most satisfying part of ones life – I have seen the joy in my teachers when they hear how well I am doing . I also feel quite the thrill when the people I mentor do well . Words cannot express it – you should feel it to know it .

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