Sunday, September 23, 2007

Caught in the Cold

Ailments are many, but none trouble you as much as the simplest of all, yet the one with the potential to cause the maximum disruption in your routine – cold. There were many things happening around me last week, which I felt I should write about, but my incessant cold has beset me to such an extent that it demands the priority.

I have had two kinds of problems with this intriguing common cold virus. First of them is the sneezing fit, which I attribute more to my hyper-allergic nature than the virus itself. Staying in an environment which Mumbai offers only makes things worse. Second is of course, the issue of a blocked nose. You feel choked, heavy under and above the eyes, and are often left gaping for reasons not worth it. Worst of all, there are no medicines which guarantee a cure for cold, except time. As the adage goes, “If you take medicine, your cold will cure in a week, if you don’t it will take 7 days.”

Now I have no intentions to explain what Wikipedia can about common cold. The whole point is trying to interpret how and why is it as big a problem.

Imagine that you have planned a date with the girl who you have had a silent crush on since eons. Finally the much-awaited day arrives, but the only glitch is you have a blocked nose. Yes, it will be very romantic, interrupting the conversation by blowing away the trumpet that your nose has become every 3-4 minutes. If you want to avoid the ignominy of the situation, the option might be not to talk at all, but then rather not go on a date if it has to be a silent one. They say eyes can talk, but hello, people are looking for more these days.

Another nightmare situation is a job interview in 15 minutes and a sneezing fit which refuses to stop. “Where do you see yourself five years down the line? Achhooo…What are you looking forward to the most in this job? Achhooo… Do you want us to reschedule the interview to a later time? Achooo… It was a pleasure meeting you. We hope we can strike a conversation by the end of the day.” You have literally blown away your chances of getting a job.

Even a thing like writing an exam paper becomes very tedious if your cold has taken dominance over you. Every time you sneeze or blow your nose, it seems that all the blood supply to your brain is momentarily cut off and you again start off blank, trying to assimilate your thoughts.

I can go on and on about what a common cold can do to you. Murphy’s Law says that if things have to go wrong, they will. However, there can also be a corollary to this- If things have to go right, they surely will. So the next time, try and time the period where you catch a cold. The eventualities might not be so dire, perhaps! Atra du evarinya ono varda. (That's Elvish, whatever Paolini has taught me)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Teacher Teacher

There used to be a time when the word ‘teacher’ used to evoke a sense of admiration, respect as well as authority. Even now, it brings to mind the same emotions, but the trouble is that you don’t find someone worthy enough to call a ‘teacher’. On this teachers’ day, I pay a tribute to some of the wonderful people, who have entertained me during the three years of my engineering, who at times have made life miserable for me, and who in this process, have always tried to ‘teach’. I’ll call them teacher here on, just because of the status attached with their job and not because I associate any of the above mentioned emotions with them.

I will be doing great injustice if I say the same things for everyone. It is only fair that I categorize my teachers before talking about them. So here goes:

1>Dedicated teachers who know their subject and how it is to be taught:
This is the rarest of the rare breeds, almost nearing extinction. Out of the 30 some teachers that I have had, barely 2 qualify in this category which explains what I mean. These teachers exemplify the archaic definition of teaching. They are the types for who teaching full of ideas rather than stuff it with facts. They are updated with trends and want their students the best in the lot. They are the ones because of whom the tradition of teaching lives on.
I Say: Thank you.

2>Dedicated teachers who know their subject but don’t know how it is to be taught:
These teachers are masters of their subject, but generally don’t know how to connect with the students. Sometimes, it is the lack of proper communication skills, at other times, lack of control over the students. They don’t make learning fun, though they are of good help when handled individually and with some background knowledge of the topic.
I Say: Not bad, but innovate and improvise.

3>Exam-oriented teachers who don’t know the subject but can teach well:
They are the ones who are your ladder to scoring more in exams. Their in-depth analysis of how to score well in papers supersedes the need of in-depth knowledge in the subjects in a university like ours. They, on most occasions, strike a chord with students and use tests and assignments as a tool of helping students prepare better for exams, rather than mere 25 marks of term work. Students sometimes prefer type 3 over type 1, for their sheer disinterest in concepts.
I Say: No one's complaining. Something’s better than nothing.

4>Teachers who don’t know anything and can’t teach:
This is the most abundant variety. For them, teaching is reading out from a text book, or may be, making notes from another senior’s book and dictating them during lectures. Their sole motive behind taking lectures is to spend time and get salaries. If students bug them, they are always ready with weapons of mass assault, like extra assignments, tantrums during submission, test and re-test, mock viva, etc. Their lectures are the most ideal lectures to bunk, unless your luck is so bad that they happen to be very particular about attendance too.
I Say: You are not welcome in class. Why even bother to teach when the students can manage themselves?

5>Teachers who know the subject, can teach but have big egos and heaps of attitude:
These are mutations in the fraternity of teachers- Masters of their subjects. They feel it is against their pride to get down to the level of their students to simplify things for them. They are the ones who care as much of students as Queen Antoinette did about her people. They expect miracles, without putting in any inputs and like making things difficult for the students, when there is always an easier and better way out.
I Say: God bless students who have to bear their brunt.

To conclude, I have compiled a potpourri of quotes by great academicians.The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. Today, however, a teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary. There’s nothing happy about teacher’s day.