Posted by: C P Gurnani

The Teacher we never wanted

This week let’s go back to school. Take a moment, look into life’s rear view mirror and recall everything good you associate with your school – friends, fun, uniforms, water bottles & lunch boxes, bunks, Maggi, crayons, graffiti, learning, laboratories, canteens, sports, recesses, annual functions, extra periods … the list won’t end! Now think of the not so good memories. A fist fight, failure in a school competition, a failed laboratory experiment?

And then, remember the teachers you adored. I am reminded of my Hindi teacher, Late Mrs Savitri Parmar. She spotted some talent or hope in me like no other and ensured I got sent to every interschool debate competition. While I didn’t think much of it then, I know my ability to speak extempore today, is because of the sheer persistence and faith she placed in me then. I remain eternally grateful to teachers like her.

Finally, think of teachers you didn’t admire as much, and allow me to ask you a question: did they also give you any lessons for life? In fact, has someone or something that you never wanted in the first place helped you become what you are today? And while we’re at it (and since India celebrates its Teachers’ Day on 5th September), has there been a teacher that you always wanted out of your life without realizing how important a role they were playing in shaping you?

Now, look around. In the bygone six months, all of us have come face to face with that teacher (arguably in a much nastier avatar though), who has taught us every day and prepared us for a life that awaits us soon.

No marks for guessing: the unwanted teacher is Mr C. So, what did we learn? Here are my top six

1. Unlearning: The first thing that I learnt from Mr C is that the first thing that I must learn is to unlearn. Mr C gave the biggest blow to the notion that things can only be done the way they’ve been done so far. In thought & action, we learnt that there are different ways of accomplishing things and they often involve going back in time to go forward in the future: the success of working from home or remotely is the biggest example I can think of.

2. Prioritizing: Out of 100 desires, we only have 50 wants and maybe just 10 needs now. Honestly, if you ask me, we could probably survive with just about half of them fulfilled now. Health is our biggest priority today and breathing without a mask, hugging a friend or going out for a meal have become luxuries, and we have a better understanding of our priorities than ever before.

3. Correcting course & reinventing: We learnt to let go of redundant and unproductive ways of working. In fact, we also let go of redundant work in the very first place. New work and new ways of accomplishing work emerged that demanded us to be more agile, swift and innovative in our work. You’d appreciate that the new initiatives, solutions and services we produced during this period reflect the immense potential of the human mind, when stimulated in the right way.

4. Future-prepping: At school, we grew up preparing for the challenges that our future had in store for us. We learnt from Teacher C more than anyone else why that preparation is lifelong. Nobody, and I repeat, nobody in the world was prepared for a challenge like the one thrown at us in the last six months – people and institutions only battled it better or worse than others. Today, let’s remind ourselves of how that unwanted teacher taught us things that we (might have) never wanted to learn, but needed so bad to survive and thrive. We learnt to be eternal learners and prepared for anything and everything.

5. Breaking to connect: Many of you shared how the lockdown and working from home allowed you to take a little break and go back to things that you loved (but also stopped) doing. From cooking and painting to gardening and writing. The lockdown has made us reconnect with our younger & inner selves and connect better with our colleagues, families and friends. Guilty there, I’ve myself enjoyed some indulgence in the kitchen.

6. Being positive, staying prepared: ‘Positive’ is undoubtedly the most dreaded word today, yet positivity is what we need the most to tackle it. As members of the Mahindra family, caring for ourselves, the people around us and the world we live in comes naturally to us. I'm proud to see it multiplied and manifested in diverse ways during the last six months with so many of you stepping forward to help others along with the Tech Mahindra Foundation. Teacher C has also taught us to return to our old, raw and formative selves and start doing many things the way we would do as school children: organizing ourselves, taking extra care, maintaining better hygiene, doing personal things ourselves (cleaning, laundry & dishes to begin with), and help at home.

Inviting you to share your stories of teachers you never wanted yet are thankful to. And of course, wishing you a very happy Teachers’ Day 2020! Keep learning.

CP | Connect with me on Twitter.