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The making of a teacher

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist 

Learning a subject from a teacher is only a small fraction of education, the real lessons in life are from ‘learning the teacher’. One such teacher at IIM Bangalore is Prof. Ramadhar Singh, who taught us Social Psychology in current team. His set of publications and accolades would pile most of the teachers by comparison, but talking of the person himself- he is a Father Figure.
What is see above a cohort of (F)ellow students who were fortunate to be taught by Prof. Singh, and this snap was taken during one of the several outings that we went for during the term. Prof. Singh says that real learning doesn’t happen in classroom, you learn through social interactions. And I tell you what sir, you are absolutely right. In a matter of just three months (there are colleagues of mine who studied from him last term as well), I have learnt not only some bit of Psychology, but also learnt a few traits of a good teacher.
We all at IIM Bangalore’s Doctoral Program are here to be trained as research scholars and eventually teachers. As we spend a good 4 years (over 10 percent) of remaining living life and some of the most valuable years of our life, the system here very much shapes how and what we learn. Most of the learning comes from our teachers, followed by friends and then the rather tough situations play their role (and take the tole).

Few months back, influenced by another IIMB teacher, I wrote a note on the Teachers’ Day. There I identified five traits of an influential teacher based upon my limited understanding (Bounded Rationality). These being: Humility, Discipline, Subject Matter Knowledge, Curiosity, and Creativity.

After interacting with Prof. Singh and coming across his thought process and style of teaching, here I add two more traits to these Big Five Trait Theory (if I may). These traits are:

  • Fostering Inspiration: These is no single session I remember of where Sir hasn’t given us a though or two to work on. He keeps saying that we at IIM aren’t showing enough spark to do something great and make a mark in the field, and all of us acknowledge his sentiment with personal responsibility. My friend Sweta (the only girl in the snap above) narrates an incident where Sir asked her to send across some supporting research papers over the weekend, and even before she could send it, Sir was finished writing the final paper. Here she was fetching the papers from the public-domain and there was Sir churning out a paper in matter of two days.!How is that for an inspiration? His body language, command over the subject and never failing to leave us with lingering questions, make him an idea teacher.  
  • Humor: You would see very few people who practice what they teach and Sir is one of them. Having mastered the subjects of Personal and Social Psychology, he has imbibed the key lessons in his behavior and life. Delivering a three hour lecture incessantly and with a consistent amount of enthusiasm calls for connect with the subject and audience. And Humor is his way of ensuring it. His subtle style of humor and sense of occasion, coupled with relating almost all key concepts to happenings around us, makes his teachings sticky. Most of us, I know of Vipul (the guy behind me, in the snap), relied pretty much on lectures and almost topped the the class without much revision. 

The excellence of a teacher that Prof. Singh is can make me go on and on, but let me sum it all up with this personal takeaway by being his student.. as follows…

गुरु गोबिंद दोनौ खड़े, काके लांगु पायँ ।
बलिहारी गुरु आपनो, गोविन्द दियो मिलाय ।।
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