Tuesday, May 03, 2005

To Si'R', with gratitude

"A real teacher is someone who can instill a thirst for knowledge in his pupils"

Today is National Teacher's day in the US, a day dedicated to teachers who shape our lives and careers. Actually, it is celebrated on the Tuesday of the first full week of May and so the date keeps varying each year. I am sure all of us have had special teachers in our lives - someone who went a little out of their way to teach us or do stuff that would remain with us forever. Over the years, I've had quite a few such teachers: Sheila Miss, in middle school, who taught me a lot of the English I know today, Solomon Sir, in high school, who turned this Math and Science nobody into a Math and Science "know"body and Somayajulu Sir, in junior college, who taught me the concept of a derivative, not just as a mathematical operation but as a physical quantity. These are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head and I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to them for moulding my life the way they did. But this post is not about any of the aforementioned persons. It is about another one of my great teachers, someone I had the chance to interact with in graduate school.

This was when I was in the second semester of my graduate studies. I had taken a course on Programming Languages under Dr. R and that was the first time I was taking a course under him. But I was well aware of his capabilities as a teacher. My seniors at that time had told me about how sharp his mind was and how he was a stickler for correct grammar(in documentation. Alas, I found this out the hard way :)). So naturally, I was very excited to have finally had the opportunity to take a course under him. I discovered, not to my surprise though, that he was very much the great teacher that my seniors had told me about. Come first assignment, I found out the hard way what a stickler he was for correct grammar. He docked quite a few points for my grammatical transgressions but it did not matter much. I was learning a lot and I was happy about it. My performances on the subsequent assignments were much better than the first and suddenly, I found myself in the 'A' grade region. But it was cut-throat competition in the class for an 'A' grade and a small slip-up could easily relegate me to the dreaded 'B' grade.(not that I hadn't had a 'B' grade before. It was dreaded, nonetheless). I was also very active in the class, answering a lot of his questions and participating a lot in the discussions. At that time, I had no idea he had noticed that, but, as I would find out later, that was what proved to be my savior. It was almost the end of the semester and the final assignment was handed out. It was nothing extraordinarily tough and I completed it on time.

A few days passed...the semester ended and the time came for us to check our grades. Most of my close friends secured an 'A' but to my horror, I discovered that I had secured a 'B' in the course. Tears are not something that come to me too often but that day, I was about to burst into tears....not because I had secured a 'B' and definitely not because my friends got an 'A'. There have been courses where I have received a 'B' but was not bothered about it too much because I was found lacking in effort in those courses. It was different this time because this was one course I had put my heart and soul into, and I felt a 'B' did not reflect my efforts or my performance. Anyway, what was done was done. I decided to meet Dr. R and find out why I had secured a 'B' which is what I did. He showed me my final assignment and pointed out the error. I had done something completely different from what was expected. No wonder, it did not seem "extraordinarily tough". I knew it was my own (un)doing, cursed myself(on the inside), thanked him and was about to leave the office. That was when I heard the best thing I'd heard in a long time. Dr. R said, "Moni(yahoo! He even remembered my name. that's a good start), I am going to change your grade to an 'A'". I couldn't believe my ears but found the gumption to ask him why. He replied, "I had noticed that you were very active in class, answering a lot of questions right. And your performance in the other assignments were also very good. One bad assignment shouldn't strip you of what you truly deserve". And that was it. Tears started welling in my eyes but somehow i managed to control them. I felt like prostrating(saashtaanga namaskaram) in front of him, then quickly realized that would be too melodramatic for real life. So I shook his hands, thanked him and scooted out of there.

The reason I am writing about this today is to bring out the greatness of the man. I already knew he was a great teacher but, that day, I realized he was great in more than one way. I cannot imagine anyone else doing such a thing. I bow before you in gratitude, Dr. R. Thank you.


At Tuesday, May 03, 2005 6:16:00 PM, Anonymous a no nymous said...

A very noble sentiment, and a very apt post for today. And well written too. I'm sure Dr. R would be proud.

Since most of us here are students, I think we should do something that reflects this respect we have for our gurus. I say we honor a faculty member every Guru Poornima. If we have the drive and resources to make Diwali Dhamaakas happen, we should be able to do manage something atleast small scale for this.

Thanks for that post, Subramoni. Thanks for reminding us what we really are all about.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2005 6:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Moni, very nice tribute to the best teacher in UK. I do remember that day in the CSlab when u were very happy when Dr. R changed ur grade. You really deserved it, especially when Mr. H got an A (no offence to him). I'm still involved with Dr. R as he is on my committee so I guess it is a blessing in disguise (though, life has not been easy for me as u know he is a perfectionist). His dedication and commitment for a student's welfare are awesome. When we feel tired we should always remember him; even at this age he has so much energy and enthusiasm. Don't u agree?


At Tuesday, May 03, 2005 7:13:00 PM, Blogger subramoni said...

a no nymous - Thank you for your comments. I am sure what you suggested can be done...with a little drive, as you mentioned.

KP - Thanks ra. This is one incident I can never forget. I am amazed at his zeal and energy to teach even at this age. I agree with you completely.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2005 8:18:00 PM, Blogger RS said...

I know a Dr.F (maybe the same as your Dr.R :) ?) who is one of the best teachers that I have seen. He taught me what I did not know about the English language and the admiration that I have for him is to be exceeded only by my admiration of the language itself.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2005 9:59:00 PM, Blogger subramoni said...


Thank you for your comment. Your Dr. F and my Dr. R are the same person. Couldn't agree more with your observation.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2005 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous Satheesh R said...


Awesome post da. Just when we yall forgot totally about that. Great !!

And yeah, a right time for us all to remember our teachers.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2005 6:49:00 PM, Blogger subramoni said...

Thanks da, sats. Teachers form a very important part of our life.


Post a Comment

<< Home