Five years ago, I set up a trust in Kolkata for the retired teachers of the St. Xavier’s Collegiate School. I spent 15 years in that institution, from the age of 6 to 21. After 150 years, the building blocks of any institution like this must be its teachers. If I have any claim to leadership today, there is no greater debt I owe than to these noble souls. And here’s the reason: good teachers pass on useful knowledge, great teachers build character. And the outstanding ones create leaders.
My first accidental brush with teaching began when I was 18…and I have never forgotten what it taught me. One evening, a distraught, hardworking corporate executive arrived home asking my professor father for help with his daughter who had failed to clear her ICSE prelims. The demon subjects were the sciences, which the pater didn’t dabble in. He asked if I could help out, with my new-found love for numbers. The parent grudgingly agreed to give it a shot. I found my ward had a brilliant mind, but with a block for maths and science. All I did was to clear the block. The kid cleared all her papers with over 80%.
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The first lesson I learnt: expand the mind. It will never return to its original configuration.
However, the generosity of spirit defining a teacher is not restricted to a classroom. My debit balance kept piling up after I entered the workforce. Two amazing bosses taught me more than any management program could have in a lifetime.
My formal tryst with teaching began at 28, when I was asked to address a classroom full of postgraduate students at IIM Bangalore for 3 hours. Somewhat nervous, I began by overloading the session with graphics and videos. In the break, the prof. in charge of the department gently told me “Maybe they want to hear what YOU think. Maybe you want to hear what THEY think.”
The second lesson I learnt: it’s not about the content, stupid.
Years rolled by; the classrooms morphed into MDPs (Management Development Programmes) and the campuses spread from Melbourne to Paris. I was asked to teach business owners and CEOs at one extreme, and drug addicts and orphans on the other.
And the lesson has never changed ever. If every session can help them think differently about themselves, they will never be the same people again. As individuals, as colleagues, and as leaders.
This is my debt. This is why I need to pay it forward. This is why I teach.
About the Author:
Ramesh Jude Thomas is the President and Chief Knowledge Officer of EQUiTOR Value Advisory Private Limited, Bengaluru. He is a prolific writer and has contributed articles to almost every major newspaper and business magazine, on the theme ‘Brands as Strategic Business Assets’. He is also an avid marathon runner and enjoys playing the acoustic guitar.