Thursday, June 23, 2011


Day before yesterday, that is Wednesday brought some bad news.  Having been away for four years, I was out of touch totally with my students.  Reason being obvious - all I could think of for the four years was research, finishing it up.  Besides, nothing else interested me except the occasional visits to see some handicrafts exhibitions and eat something outside(to escape the messy mess).  During my second year, I heard about Srikanth passing away -  that bright, enthusiastic, I can do it guy.  Not once in all those years of teaching did I think I would hear, that I would come across that moment where you have to think of a student in the past.

It happened again.  Chatting with a colleague about how stress affects our life(I had a migrane that day), we shifted to how students of today have to face the harsh IT world outside.  The news of Alphonse Manoj's death came as a shock. My colleague asked me if I remembered him. How can I forget him.  He did his MCA here.  A soft spoken, naughty guy(in small ways) with that smile always on his face.  I don't remember seeing him any other way.  He was an above average student with reference to studies and was always willing to go that extra step to do things.  The cause for his death was said to be stress.

What are we teaching our students, I wondered ?  Instead of teaching them technical stuff, which they will learn anyway, we need to teach them life skills.  To prioritize, to understand what is important.  At 1:30 that day, when my class approached me to have an extra half an hour in the lab during lunch hour(I had given them a deadline to submit work the next day), I went very reluctantly.  In the lab, looking at their faces, I wondered if it was worth it.  Was it worth taking away 1/2 hr from their lunch break(they had only an hour's class in the afternoon after which they were free).  Still, was it worth it ?  It made me postpone their submission date.  The same thought carried me to class.  It was the same classroom where I had last taken class for Alphonse last(I left afterwards for my PhD) and I remembered the place where he usually used to sit.

Forget taking class, I couldn't put my thoughts together.  The question that came back again and again is - what am I teaching them ?  Am I a teacher in the real sense of the term - a teacher also has the responsibility to prepare you for the world outside.  Where is the time after all the stuff that is cramped into a day.  The IT world - a world where everyone speaks about the money made but there is no statistic to show the side effects - suicides, broken marriages, stress related issues, loneliness, health problems during and afterwards and the outdated date that comes when you are in your late forties.  It is worse than the film world in some sense.  Do the 20 somethings know it - do they know where to say stop and take a breath.

Lot of questions, very few answers.


sss said...

I wish to share an incident with you professor. Once we(Me,Sathish and some other class mates) came to meet you to inform about that "we got our internship" by that time we only got nice scoldings from you because of not submitting the assignments. We told you that "We are Completely Stressed" (since its our 6 Semester, all heavy papers, Internship Preparations and many didn't get their interns by that time,that stressed them mentally,also our mini projects in the labs, Mastering all these our Certification classes also added to it)". By that time We got reply from you that "If B.Sc Why not M.Sc?". I wish to say you that in that list only first two were there for B.Sc. By that time we all thought that "No Professor will understand Student". But now i am proud that there are some Professors exist in teaching society who really remember the students even after they leaves to heaven before them,also who can understand students burden.

bg said...

comes down to the wrong and right priorities of life...

bg said...

on a different note, looking at you writing about your students makes me wonder what you might write about me, if at all.. :-)

Leonardo said...

Hi Sapna, lovely post as usual. I guess I'll start asking the same questions from august when I start lecturing for the first time. I'm a bit nervous about what I'll find out there and I think this is not what I want to do for ever, but still I want to do a good job, and I can see me asking myself the very same kind of questions you do. Wish me luck!

By the way, do you know any good textbooks for first courses in algorithms and programming?

Brazilian cheers!

Sapna said...

I have got a comment from my own student about how they got a scolding for not submitting assignments on time when they came to tell me about their internship placements. About how they were compared to the B.Sc. students.

This is what I have to say to it. First, the assignment submission dates were never decided by me alone. It was discussed with the class. Again, if the class found it difficult, then they could have informed in advance about it and changed the date, which did not happen. Instead, they would not submit on the date or would come on the day and ask to be excused. There is a responsibility on both sides. Just as you have a schedule, we have a schedule too. A change in schedule(correct 40 assignments is not easy), has to be discussed. It can't be from one side.

Secondly, the B.Sc. students have similar theory and lab papers(most papers have the same syllabus and the same weightage) along with their final placements. In the class I was taking, there were people who had to get placed as things back home was difficult. Still, they would try out the assignment and submit them on time. Not that all of them were right or it was completed. Many had tried 2/3/4/5 out of six problems and told me that they had tried. That was good enough.

Certifications is a personal addition that you take dependent on your capacity.

Prioritizing is very important and there is no excuse for not trying. I do not wish to place here the quality of assignments in the class either.

Anyways, it was not meant to hurt. Having seen M.Sc. S.E's enthusiasm and their go get it attitude from 2000 - 2006, I have found that passion and enthusiasm missing in the students today. Maybe, we as teachers expect each batch to excel their seniors, not in the same way but by putting their best effort. And when that does not happen, we wonder what we are doing wrong ? or if we are not trying hard enough ?

Anger is not a justification. So, I apologize if it hurt. It was not meant to be. It was the outcome of hitting a wall and not knowing where to turn to make things better. Not an excuse, but the truth.

sss said...

Professor, there is nothing to apologize. I meant that comment in the otherway,"Its Surprising that still you remember your old students".Also even today i was totally stressed in my due to some issues while coding. By that time i exactly remembered you post. Excited to see your New Posts :)