Learning never ends

Usha Chandrasekaran

Last summer I met Prof. Wesley Sundquist, at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA. After the meeting, I decided that I should take a leaf out of the professor’s book to have a better relationship with my students’ parents. Teachers and parents can make their relationship more meaningful at any level of education if only they go beyond a hearty handshake and welcome nods when they meet.

kid-&-dad My husband and I were invited to a party organized by the professor as parents of the Professor’s research scholar. The Professor admirably established a cross cultural communication channel between his research scholars, post-docs, tenure track professors, lab managers, and us. The Professor who was leading the field did not throw his weight around. He sat with us and recalled our visit two years ago. He wanted to know why we were not eating anything. When we told him we were fasting that day, he wished that he had the determination to observe fasting.

The Professor said he knew that we had come to Salt Lake City to attend our son’s thesis defense. He apologized for having to postpone the original schedule. He carefully explained the complexities involved in experimental research without making us feel out of our depth. He made us understand that genuine research outwits the time projected for completing it. Writing a dissertation again is time consuming.

In his talk, the Professor referred to eminent scientists of Indian origin. He spoke to us about the symbiotic relationship between science and ethics. In fact, he put in extra effort to articulate words distinctly for fear that we may not follow his accent. His objectivity and scientific bent of mind was revealed when he said that Indian students showed a lot of potential for research in science and maths. What surfaced in the meeting was the respect that the Professor had for a different culture and education system.

teacher We returned to India shortly, having had to skip our son’s defense, sticking to our original travel schedule. The date of the defense was finalized thereafter. The Professor wrote to us saying he was sorry that we were not present on the day of the defense. He promised to tell us how he was going to introduce his research candidate. We were touched by the Professor’s passion for his work.

The whole episode has a bearing on the teacher-parent relationship, which is crucial at every stage of a child’s education. Teachers at times resent parent intervention. This intervention can be turned into a resource for teacher knowledge. Parents look up to the teacher for information on syllabus, methodology, and teaching techniques.

As the learned Professor established the ecology of his lab work, teachers should create a repository of information to be passed on to the parents. This way of educating the parents will reduce their fear and lack of trust in the education system. The meeting with the Professor was a very important lesson for me on the parent-teacher relationship.

The author is a freelance educator and teacher trainer. She can be reached at ushaaims@gmail.com.