Passion to mentor early stage researchers
As a martial arts enthusiast and practitioner, martial artists like Mr. Miyagi and Bruce Lee have had a great impact on my life. Mr. Miyagi, in the Karate Kid said, “No such thing as a bad student, only bad teacher”. This line had a very deep meaning and even as a kid, I already understood that. It also resonated with the Indian culture where teachers are respected as one would to Gods meaning that the role of teachers in the upliftment and development of the society as a whole is very significant. Another quote of Bruce Lee that is very dear to me states, “A teacher is never the giver of truth; he is a guide, pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself.”
While I have been practising martial arts since the age of six, I did not have Mr. Miyagi to impart lessons but I did see my parents applying the similar principles in their lives. From the very early ages, I used to see my mother tutor students for almost negligible charges. She used to put in a lot of effort in coming up with real-world or toy examples to explain the concepts but I did not understand why she would not charge the students for the efforts that went in to design the study material. When asked for the reason of having such low rates, she always used to say, “I charge money so that only serious people join but I do not charge high rates as my reward is their success and not the monetary gains”. Having seen my mother help even the weakest of the weak students outperform the best in their class, I realized that the true motivation of teaching is to see the disciples succeed. Backing up the concepts with examples, illustrations and intuition was her way of guiding the students to master the concepts, as opposed to rote learning where spoon-feeding them would have been the alternative. This prepared the students to apply the concepts even in novel situations which is what is mostly tested in examinations.
To add to that, my father also obtained a Ph.D. in Occupational Psychology and in the last few years I have seen him apply his skills to his job as an H.R. personnel. His understanding of the human psychology proved very handy in several incidents where had to resolve union strikes at his work place. In such situations, often the union demands are not at par with what the employer is willing to offer and thus, reaching a settlement in such conditions is both stressful and challenging. But I have seen him time and over again, being able to not only reason with the union but also being able to calm down the furious masses. This experience taught me two things- firstly, how to apply the academic skills to solve practical challenges and secondly, how to adapt the information according to the audience.
Building on these learnings coupled with those of my own, I am developing a very hands-on teaching methodology that starts off with the intuition behind the approaches explained using real-world or toy examples. I then move to explaining the fundamental approaches in significant depth and also present the state-of-the-art approaches to apprise the students of the recent developments. This introduces them to a whole spectrum of solution available for a problem at hand. Additionally, to get the students to ponder and question the concepts rather than simply accepting them on their face values, I challenge them with several (voluntary) pop quizzes. Thus far, I have had interesting and positive experience with such an approach as I have seen some students putting in extra efforts to try and answer such quizzes and debate their reasoning either amongst the peers or with me.
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