The task of an excellent teacher is to stimulate the ‘apparently ordinary’ student to unusual heights. The challenging part lies not in identifying the winners but making winners out of regular people.
At the tender age of four, we step out of our comfort zones, and into a new world with the entry of new and ‘unknown’ human beings marks our lives. These humans, or rather — superhumans are teachers. As the years go by, a trail of learning from elementary school to high school see our academic goals unravel. As we burn down a year, new teachers come and make their impressions, and this universe keeps getting bigger.
Of course, they all share a single purpose, to help us grow. Some work to pass on the knowledge, some to finish the curriculum, and others to prep us for universal life truths. And there are some that stand out who not only manage to do all of this but mold us into who we are. The curriculum is always the necessary raw material, but warmth and nurturing are the vital elements for the growing plant and the soul of the child.
That stand out teacher is often the first personification of an informal mentor, someone who not only helps you to self-actualise but also teaches you to dream. This September, bringing 4 such stories from the world of beautiful teacher-mentors!
Recounting my own experience, I often finished amongst the top 10 students of the class with my scores, but then, who notices the tenth? “But, she did.” Asha Bali, who taught us chemistry at St. Francis De Sales School, realised that a shy, quiet girl needed to learn to face the world. She introduced me to the world of dramatics in school. She pushed me to an audition for the leading role, and I decided to give it my best shot. Don’t get me wrong; my career ambition was never to be an actress. Though for the record, I was adjudged the best actress for three years in a row in my final high school years. But more importantly, it was her nudging that turned out to be a game-changer in building my personality. It helped me gain tremendous confidence, overcome stage fear, learn leadership skills and group dynamics, and make people connect, which turned out to be the fundamental skills I needed in my career in Marketing and Communications. As someone said, “The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” For me, that person was Asha Bali, whom I can’t thank enough for deciding to help that timid girl.
A cogent point of both education and mentorship is that it can come from anywhere. For example, Renuka Kirpalani, TV journalist & Executive Editor Video at Autocar India’s first teacher-mentor, is not from her school days. Instead it is the person who continues to play a significant role in her career even today – Hormazd Sorabjee, the editor of Autocar India. She says, “From being a friend to a boss, he has played an important role in making me the ambitious, passionate journalist that I am today. At the outset, he told me “the car is the star” making me realise that anchoring also means knowing what to focus on. He always guided me on technical aspects, pushed me to challenge my abilities, and raise my skillset making him an instrumental part of who I am in my career today.”
Our another proud mentor working with us is a small-town girl, who pivoted her radio journalism career to start afresh at the age of 30. She soon showcased her clothing collection at Shanghai and New York fashion runways. Vino Suparaja, an entrepreneur of a sustainable fashion brand jests, “I actually went to school at 30. It is very difficult to name just one teacher when you are a grown student. I had not one, but many mentors simultaneously were involved with me to implement an effective teaching plan.” She recounts how her mentor from Dubai, Jean Michael introduced her to the whole concept of sustainable fashion and guided her to start a sustainable fashion brand. Her teachers from IFA Paris School in Shanghai, Delphine Durieux, taught her to have a structured approach towards design. Yannick Machado gave her excellent knowledge of pattern making. Irfan Cheema, is that great mentor, to whom she reaches out to when she is unsure of things at work. Vino says, “Not just the craft, I also learned a lot of life lessons from my teachers – the warm and friendly vibe from Jean, dedication from Delphine, the ‘go-getter’ attitude from Yannick, and how to pursue a passion from Irfan. These values that I admired in my teachers have become part of my personality today”.
Another fellow mentor, Whitney Small, a global Communications professional: on her teacher-mentor’s advice, she moved continents. She had enrolled in college and was planning to graduate in International Relations and Economics, focusing on Latin American Economics. But her faculty advisor and the head of the Economics department counselled her to change her regional focus to Asia. He said, “Asia is where the future is”. “I took his advice and pivoted my plans to switch to Asian economics, enrolled for the undergraduate exchange program with China, and started learning Mandarin.” And after almost three decades living and working in Asia, she truly understands how accurate he was!
At a young age, individuals manifest the most enthusiasm towards new ideas, concepts, or suggestions and go through an emotional roller coaster ride, ranging from elation for the success achieved to lost opportunities. The pressures in today’s world are immense and extraordinary teachers demonstrate the empathy to understand when their mentees are most open to reinforce a key piece of personal learning. Then they hit it hard to reinforce a critical message.
As we look back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers in our lives, we salute them with gratitude for touching our lives so profoundly. Those unsung heroes of our lives that have made our flourishing careers possible. Thank you, teachers, for making us what we are today and inspiring us to mentor others.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.