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Prakash Iyer’s advice: On Sept 5, gift your teacher a pencil

THE other day someone told me an interesting story of an imaginary conversation between a pencil and an eraser. 

“I am sorry,” said the pencil to the eraser. “Whatever for?” asked the eraser. “I am sorry because you get hurt because of me,” continued the pencil. “Every time I make a mistake, you are there to erase it. And every time you make one of my mistakes vanish, you lose a bit of yourself. You become smaller and smaller. And a bit dirty too.”

“You shouldn’t really worry,” responded the eraser.

“I was meant to help you whenever you made a mistake, and I am happy doing my job. And I know one day I’ll be gone and you will find someone else to do my job. While I am around, I take pride in knowing I did my bit to help erase your mistakes. Keep writing. ”

‘Erasers’ in our lives
If you think about it, you’ll probably recognize that our teachers were the erasers in our lives. We were the pencils, sharp, and colourful. And every time we made a mistake, the teachers were there to correct us. They gave a bit of themselves – so that we could emerge looking just a bit better.
As we moved from school to college and then to work, we found new teachers. In this month when the world celebrates Teachers’ Day, let us spare a thought for those selfless human beings who made a difference to our lives. Let us thank all those teachers who happily got a little dirtier to keep us clean, who didn’t mind losing a bit of themselves to make our work error-free. And who were happy to fade away and watch our work with pride as we moved on to newer worlds, and newer teachers. The pencils might get all the glory, but it’s the erasers who made it all possible.

Discerning gardeners
There’s something else about teachers that makes them truly special: their ability to see the genius inside every child. I recall a friend telling me about an interaction she had with her children’s school teacher several years ago. My friend was worried about her second son, who didn’t seem to studying as much as his elder brother. His grades were poor and his Math skills were weak. My friend was worried for her son’s future.
When she raised the issue of her younger son’s performance, here’s what the teacher told her. “Don’t worry about his grades. He’s an extremely popular, well-adjusted kid. You can’t expect mangoes to grow on a guava tree. Different trees bear different fruits. Enjoy each fruit. Parents and teachers – we are just the gardeners. Our job is to water the plant, give it nourishment, and allow it to grow into a healthy tree.”
And guess what? Both those boys have grown up into fine young men. Different folks, different fields, but good human beings, and successful in their own right.
Say you are grateful
We would all do well to remember those lessons. Never be afraid of making mistakes; there will always be an eraser at hand. Don’t worry if you couldn’t become an engineer or a doctor. Just be the best you can be. Mangoes don’t grow on guava trees.
And yes, as a Teachers’ Day special, do yourself a favour.
Pick up a pencil and send a message to an old teacher to thank him or her for being that wonderful eraser in your life.

You will do that, won’t you? 

Prakash Iyer is MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever and Executive Coach. For more inspiring life lessons, read Mr Iyer’s new book The Habit of Winning.

Post your queries and comments below this column, and Prakash will respond!

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