8 “Greatest” Teachers: No high marks, No degrees!
The country celebrates, every year, Teachers’ Day on September 5, the birthday of Dr S. Radhakrishnan, one of the most erudite Presidents India has ever had. Students all over the country, this day, pay loving homage to their teachers who spend/have spent hours of their precious time with them, guiding them to heights of excellence. SHREEPRAKASH SHARMA, an experienced teacher for many years, tells us of some of the “greatest” teachers of the world who continue to teach us values for life with their well-lived lives, without coming to classrooms, without scoring high percentage of marks, and without having degrees tagged to their names. Some of them were even dropouts!
Let me ask you a very easy question — what is the one wish that is uppermost in the minds of all the students in the world? The answer is simple: they all so earnestly dream of achieving a high percentage of marks and excellent grades in the examinations.
But sometimes, things do not happen the way we desire and this turns out to be the reason for disappointment for many. So, here comes another question of serious self-introspection: does only high echelons of marks and grades make a sure-shot formula of professional and personal successes in life? Do good marks alone make or mar one’s life?
World history is replete with great personalities who rose to the pinnacle of success without having any outstanding academic excellence and even formal education. They were self-made people who brought about incredible changes in the lives of the common people. They braved challenges, fought hardships and struggled against a host of adversities with indomitable courage and resolute determination.
These great personalities are like milestones that will keep on motivating future generations to realize their cherished dreams despite challenges and critical circumstances they will face.
America’s most famous writer and humorist, Mark Twain, is immensely popular for his beautiful classic novels. He started his life’s journey with the ordinary job of a printer. He had only minimum formal education in his early life. He used to spend his entire evening reading books in a library after the day’s work. He had a very short stint in the Confederate Army after which he travelled across the country. During this period, he started writing what proved to be the beginning of the historical odyssey of an internationally famous writer. His life is an epitome of the plain truth that formal education and high percentage of marks are not all that is required for a promising career.
Do you know that he did not even complete college education? But he was blessed with a superb and exceptionally sharp technical mind. He had only six months of college education but this did not prove to be a stumbling block in the introduction of sophisticated devices like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. It was the result of his unfathomable will-power to rise to the apex of success in spite of insurmountable problems.
He was not only a noted U.S. industrialist and entrepreneur of his time but also an extraordinary visionary who single-handedly created the automobile industry of the United States. He too did not have a high formal education. He left home at the age of seventeen and worked as an apprentice in Detroit. Very few people then might have imagined that Henry Ford’s job of an apprentice carried the seed of the dawn of an industrialist and entrepreneur of global fame and fortune. Lack of formal education never came in his way to the journey of making Detroit (USA), the Motor City.
He is considered as one of the greatest political figures of the twentieth century in the United Kingdom. He is also called the “quote machine”. He was born in an affluent family where he was provided with all the facilities for a formal education. But he was very poor in studies, and had no interest in formal education. He used to be punished for his dismal record in school. He suffered in the military services, too, due to a poor academic performance.
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Known as the Missile Man, the former President of India, Dr Kalam spent his childhood in abject poverty. He used to sell newspapers in his hometown, Rameshwaram, to supplement the expenses of his education. Specialized in aeronautical engineering, he wanted to be a fighter pilot which was his ‘dearest dream’. But he could not realize it as he came in at the ninth position in the qualifying test while only eight slots were available in the Indian Air Force.
The 16th President of the United States is the most unique example of a person who bravely suffered an array of predicaments and tragedies in his life before getting elected to the helm of affairs of the most developed nation of the world. His life is the story of a self-made and self-educated person.
An anecdote goes that he got a job at a junk shop where a lawyer sold a few old books of law. He went through those books and as a result he turned out to be one of the reputed lawyers of his time. He rose to become the U.S. President and the credit for this achievement goes to his forbearance and self-taught lessons he learnt from his life beset with difficulties and misfortunes. Marks and percentages never prevented him from reaching the highest office of his country.
The great scientist, Nobel Laureate and internationally-known physicist, Albert Einstein, was truly a genius with more than 300 scientific papers attributed to his name. He propounded the ‘Theory of Relativity’ which made him one of the legendary figures in the realm of Physics. Can you believe that a man of such spectacular achievements was a school dropout? Yes, he was! He wanted to go for a university education but failed in the entrance examination. Finally, he joined college and got a degree but the fact that the greatest intellectual super-mind of the 20th century was a high school dropout is too hard to digest.
Thomas Alva Edison
The great U.S. inventor and thinker of the 20th century, has to his credit many inventions that earned him unprecedented popularity. Yet he had only three months’ formal schooling. He was sent back home by his class teacher with a written note saying that he was not fit for formal education. But his brave mother took a vow to teach him at home, and she patiently taught Edison, who also had a hearing problem, everything that he needed to know at that age. The rest is history. Edison rose to become the greatest scientist of his time. His quotation about a series of failures in life has become the source of inspiration for millions of people who fail in their endeavours despite their best efforts: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
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Shreeprakash Sharma is the Principal of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Mamit, Mizoram. He writes articles in Hindi and English for a number of magazines and newspapers, and also contributes to All India Radio (AIR).