Dr. Anil K Rajvanshi often takes on the role of a guest lecturer for students of a rural school in Maharashtra. Here, he explains why he believes every one of us should become a teacher.
Long ago (late 1970s), I was a student in the US doing my PhD in Mechanical Engineering. A very popular programme on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel that we used to watch was Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos – A Personal Voyage.’ Carl Sagan was a famous astrophysicist and a distinguished professor in Cornell University. In the 13-part series, he explored the cosmos, the solar system and the universe. It is reported that this series, first broadcast on PBS in 1980, has been watched by 500 million viewers in 60 different countries! Carl Sagan became a very popular TV personality and was generally looked down on by mainstream scientists who thought that his fame was because of his penchant for self-promotion. Today, however, the general trend the world over is for scientists to engage with the public and popularise science, no matter how esoteric it is.
In one of the interviews that Carl Sagan gave after his Cosmos series, he said that his interest in cosmology and science was awakened by a lecture he attended when he was in high school. That interview always remained at the back of my mind and I always felt that children can be inspired to do great things in life during their school going age. The impressionable age, together with a powerful mind, is a sure-
shot recipe that will allow a child to create wonders, if exposed to great ideas.
In my own case, the desire to go to the US was kindled by a film that I saw in school when I was 12 or 13 years old. The film was a documentary on New York’s International Fair of 1939 and showed the wonders of the US’s industrial might.
Image Source: Wikipedia
I therefore feel that those who have done great and wonderful things in life should make it their duty to talk and give regular lectures in high schools in the city they live in. By doing so, they might inspire children and help in creating better citizens of tomorrow.
There are lots of schools who have programmes inviting such distinguished persons to give lectures to their students. However, for schools which do not do so, we should ourselves get invited so that the students benefit from our experience. It is also not necessary that the lecture or speech be given by a great or important person; what is important is to expose the children to great ideas.
One of the aspects of exposing them to a world of ideas is also to impart education about ethical behavior. Children need to be continuously instructed, cajoled and inspired to follow ethical behavior in their lives.
In Phaltan, a rural town in Maharashtra where I live, we started a school for our children in the early 1990s. The school, called ‘Kamla Nimbkar Bal Bhavan (KNB),’ has classes from kindergarten to Class 10.
My younger daughter, Madhura, who passed her Class 10 exams from this school in 2001, did her Masters in Education from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and now teaches in KNB and runs its ‘School in the Cloud.’
She occasionally asks me to address students of Class 8 and 9. In these classes, I talk about things that are not covered in their syllabus and together, we explore the romance of research. We have also slowly introduced these kids to TED talks, using the school’s internet. Sometimes, we even discuss the talks in detail.
In a small rural town, in a Marathi medium school, these children’s exposure to TED talks opens up a whole different world for them and broadens their horizons.
Image for representation only. Source: Flickr
I feel that some of them may be inspired by these talks to do wonderful things later on in life.
Madhura is a great example of what a teacher should be. She is very passionate, not only about the subjects she teaches, but also about her students. Even when her students have graduated and left school, she keeps in touch with them and they turn to her to share their experiences and ask for advice.
Unless we have more teachers like Madhura, we cannot expect students to develop a passion and desire for learning. It is not necessary that all the students will be inspired by such talks and exposure, but even if one of them is, then he or she will, later on in life, go on to do many great things. For our part, we must look at this as giving back to society and helping India.
For more by the same author, click here.