Teachers’ Day was celebrated earlier this week in Malaysia. The date chosen to observe this important day varies around the world, but it usually commemorates an important milestone in education or in conjunction with an important date associated with an inspirational person.
In Indonesia, for instance, Teachers' Day is on the 25th of November, and is observed on the same day as the formation of the Indonesian Teachers' Association. And since 1915, Teachers’ Day is celebrated on the 11th of September in Argentina, to memorialise the passing of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento who was a writer, statesman and its seventh President.
In Malaysia’s case, the Federal Legislative Council of the then Federation of Malaya, accepted the Razak Report on the 16th of May, 1956. This report has formed the basis of our nation’s educational policy ever since. Hence, we celebrate Teachers’ Day on this date.
Why celebrate Teachers’ Day?
Your school teachers were your first important point of contact to the world at large and they made an indelible imprint in your psyche. You remember your favorite teachers, don’t you?
Through their efforts and imagination, teachers inspire you to reach out and move beyond your comfort zone. Their challenge is to make sure you that have knowledge, and become forward-looking citizens that are capable of assuming the mantle of leadership in the future. This is a gargantuan task, and their efforts are lauded through the celebration of Teachers’ Day.
I grew up with teachers. My folks were both teachers. My mother was a primary school teacher and my father is still a professor of education.
My wife is a veterinary surgeon. Ten years ago, she opted to forego conventional western medicine for holistic medicine, with an emphasis on traditional Chinese veterinary medicine. You can imagine the amount re-education that is required. The bulk of her time is spent teaching.
I studied law at university but my first job in Malaysia was teaching pre-university law subjects at a college. Since then my career has taken an entrepreneurial slant, but at core, I am still a teacher. The only difference is that I ply my trade in the corporate environment.
This year, Teachers’ Day was very significant for me.
Mohan Ganapathy is possibly my oldest friend I have known since the age of ten. We grew up together. Mohan’s house was my favourite place to hang out. There was always food in the fridge. And the latest television set and stereo systems were often found in his house, first.
The coolest part of being in Mohan’s house was my interactions with his father, Mr. N.G. Ganapathy. As kids we were always cautious of each other’s parents. I found the parents of my friends welcoming, but they all maintained a distance from us. I am sure my folks were seen in the same vein by my pals. But not Uncle Ganapathy. He had no issues hanging out with us kids.
He was a school teacher and had a way with young people. He was funny without intending to be, he was kind and warm, but most importantly he felt the need to educate us, all the time. He would constantly be talking about stuff. Anything and everything. I always enjoyed his musings.
His interest in us was so great that once, when our post-school tuition teacher was ill and couldn’t take a class, Uncle Ganapathy, much to the annoyance of Mohan, decided that he would take over the class. It turned out to be a fun class.
On the 16th of May 2017, Uncle Ganapathy passed on. Many cried upon receiving this news. He had touched the lives of so many people through his kindness, warmth and genuine interest in people. But essentially, they cried because they had lost their teacher and mentor. Befittingly, he passed on Teachers’ Day.
At work, learn to be a mentor that others will turn to, for guidance. If people come to you, it will be because you have greater knowledge and experience than them. You do not need to do their job for them, but if you can demonstrate a task, guide a colleague through solving a problem, or offer constructive feedback on their work, that simply attests to your high personal value.
When you mentor a colleague, you will help them feel less isolated, and encourage them to interact with others in the team. This will certainly contribute positively to the bottom-line of your company and this in turn, increases your value in the eyes of your bosses.
Aside from this, you will also personally gain from a mentoring relationship. The opportunity to teach others will increase your own confidence and offer you significant job satisfaction.
When you mentor a colleague, you will also learn to listen to your mentee, and you will develop better, stronger communication skills. And of course, you increase your supervisory skills when you start teaching.
Therefore remember, even at work, being a teacher will help you grow your reputation and also to add value. Ultimately, being able to add value is the most rewarding pursuit for any employee.
SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”