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Viva-voce Experiences and Anecdotes

Viva-voce is an essential and integral part of any professional curriculum. Its supposed to be just as scary as a theory examination and sometimes even more as its an oral examination. Though I had given viva voce at school level I don’t remember anything about it.  You can read Ishmeet’s experience of a school viva here. In a field like Engineering or Medical, practical knowledge is much more important than theory. Viva-voce tests just that.

I don’t know about all but in many private engineering colleges viva-voce serves as a source of entertainment and frustration for the external and the internal examiners respectively rather than an ordeal for the students . The increasing disregard in students for studying before practical exams and the decreasing sincerity and quality of students in engineering can be attributed to cropping up of engineering colleges like mushrooms and the trend of not failing anyone in viva in private engineering colleges.

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Duties Of A Good Teacher

Brahmaanandham Parama Sukhadam
Kevalam Jnaana Murthim
Dhvandhvaa Theetham Gagana Sadhrisham
Tathvam Asyaadi Lakshyam
Ekam Nithyam Vimalam Achalam
Sarvadhee Saakshi Bhutham
Bhavaatheetham Thriguna Rahitham
Sadhgurum Tham Namaami.

Meaning/Translation: This sloka tries to describe the qualities of a true Guru. A real Guru experiences the supreme Bliss of Brahmaananda (transcedental divine bliss). He enjoys and confers changeless supreme happiness. He is beyond space and time (there is nothing higher than him). He is the embodiment of wisdom which is the basis for all types of knowledge. He transcends the pair of opposites (such as happiness and sorrow, gain and loss). He is more Omnipresent than space itself. He is the very embodiment of the Divine principle, which is the inner meaning of the four great pronouncements Prajnaanam Brahma, Aham Brahmasmi, Thath Thvam Asi and Ayam Aathma Brahma. He is One without a second (ekam). He never changes under any circumstances (nithyam). He is without any type of impurity (vimalam). He is steady and motionless(achalam). He is the witness of everything. He transcends mental comprehension and verbal explanation. He is beyond the three gunas (sathva, rajas and thamas). I offer my humble salutations to such a Guru who possesses all these qualities.

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My Dual Life

Its been two months since I again became a student to do my second Master of Engineering in my core branch i.e. Electrical Engineering. The first day of M.E. (Power Systems Engineering) was a portent of what lay ahead. Getting up at an unholy time (6.45 am), bathing so early in morning, attending class from 8 to 11 and taking classes after that till evening are totally draining me out mentally and physically. For those who remember my earlier post on categories of students and those who were curious to know my classification, nowadays I can be classified as

# The First Bencher :- One of my Professors in M.E. writes on the board in such a small cursive handwriting that it is not resolvable or readable from the first bench even with a pair of binoculars. Though I admit I haven’t tried using a binoculars yet. Maybe I would one day. When I was the class monitor in school, then only I’d learnt that one has to write for the audience not for oneself on board. Another speaks in low voice and another’s subject is so boring that I have to sit there to avoid sleep. :P

# The Yawner :- Just as the Professor turns his back to us, I yawn and stretch. 6.45 am is like dawn to me. :(

# The Stimulator :- In all the 5 subjects, there are only two which really interest me and I’m active in that class. Whether I’m fun to teach or not , that only my professors can tell. :D

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Classification of Students

Children emulate many people in their growing years, often those who leave a strong impression on their minds. I was quite impressed by my teachers and used to play teacher-student at home with my sister. Another profession I was impressed with was that of vegetable sellers (sabziwalis). After my Dad had brought weekly groceries, I used to pretend to be a vegetable seller and go to each family member to sell my vegetables. :D Thankfully after doing my B.E. I chose to be a teacher or rather a lecturer as they call in technical field. After more than 3 years, I’m still loving it!! I’ve seen lecturers shake head to toe before their first class ever. But since the day I stepped in to take the first class of my life and to teach a subject like Network Analysis which was one of the scariest subjects during my student life, I felt totally at ease. And after leading a dual life i.e. a student as well as a teacher for a while now, I have been able to observe both sides closely. I have already written about students from teachers’ point of view and the professional hazards of being a lecturer. Time to pass on some more pearls of my wisdom based on my experience. Now I have classified students of a class in some categories. I may have missed one or two categories. A student at a given time may belong to one or more category.

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All In A Day’s Work

The duties and responsibilities of a technical lecturer comprises of teaching, instruction in laboratory, students assessment and evaluation, assisting in departmental administration and so on. Some may think teaching is a boring and dull profession but the truth is that the nearer one is to the youth, the more exciting life/job is. Now before I narrate an incident you must know that I work in a private college and many influential people’s sons & daughters study on management quota. Few days ago, over a girl; boys of two different streams (IT and Mech) had a fight which led to serious injury to one of the boys (Mech). Police came to arrest the main accused (IT) and our Jt.Director of college is said to have slapped him too. But the student turned out to be the nephew of a big politician and somehow construed the slap as politically motivated. So on 6th Aug around 100-150 boys (goons??) came to college and wrecked the administrative building. They even hit the Jt.Director with stick and manhandled the Chairman and Director. We all thought the repercussion had ended there.

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The Other Side of Bench

All of us have been students but few have got the opportunity or have chosen to be on the other side of the benches as a full time job. It provides a different perspective, an understanding of the things which seemed to bother as students, some shocking realities, some realizations and some funny moments. And it helps if one doesn’t forget his or her time on the bench. It helps not only to connect but also to see through many tricks of one’s students. These are few thoughts for all students out there from the Other Side of Bench.

#1 Some of us are always aware what each one of the class is doing and can make out who is faking writing down the lecture or looking out of window lost in thoughts or ogling at a girl classmate. We can make out when a student starts to press calculator buttons just to show he/she is solving the given numerical when we approach his/her bench.

#2 Don’t think the invigilator won’t know what you are up to when you crane your neck forward or when you lean back sliding little on the seat. We know that’s when you are going to asking your friend answer to a question. All other tactics ( I’ll not mention here) are also known to us and sometimes we just pretend to ignore.

#3 Writing absolute nonsensical/irrelevant stuff or repeating the same words over n over again and making the pages of answer sheets look filled is not going to work because we read before giving marks.

#4 Literally writing Ramayana in Hindi for 5 pages just because you had time to kill in the exam room is not going to help either. We are secular when valuating answer sheets.

#5 Why do guys need to write in scrawly handwriting and draw horrible diagrams? Even if the roll number is hidden we know which one is a girl’s copy and which one a guy’s. And girls, please don’t use glitter pens. We don’t like our palms and faces to shine.

#6 Writing “Sir, please please ( 5-10 times) pass me. I’ll be eternally grateful/I’ll touch your feet/You’ll get my good wishes” in the end of your answer sheet is not going to help. Firstly a Madam may be valuating your answer sheet and she may get offended by the presumption of Sir. Secondly, unless you have written enough to be passed no pleading will work even if you write “Om Sai Ram”/”Om Ganeshaye Namah”/”Jai KaalBhairavi” at the beginning.

#7 Some of us are merciless and some are generous in valuation. So, once you have passed, even on border marks, DO NOT apply for revaluation. 95% chances are you’ll fail.

#8 We have a personal life too. And sometimes we are really busy personally or professionally and unable to give time to solve your doubts. That doesn’t mean we don’t care.

Click to enlarge and read

P.S. Wish I could take and post snap shots of some classic answer sheets I recently valuated but that was against my ethics. Cartoon images (except C&H) credited to clipart.net

A Teacher’s Reward

Come to think of it, I have always been a teacher. And had wanted to become one since childhood as seen in this diary entry at age of 10 years. [yes I know my handwriting is bad :) ]

A teacher’s best reward is when a student goes out into the world and makes use of the knowledge gained and acknowledges the one who imparted it to him. As a child I used to teach all sorts of things to my first student…right from alphabets to dances of India [inspired by geography book] by pulling the student’s cheeks in different ways to explain difference between Kathakali and Yakshagana and of course practical demonstration by the teacher inspired from “Baje Sargam Har Taraf Se“!! I had subscribed to a children’s magazine TARGET and it had all sorts of tidbits in it..[Has any of you read it? loved the mag but it got converted to TEENS TODAY and then got discontinued] It had a travel section and in one issue it covered China. The author had given 7 Chinese sentences and their meanings…like Xia Xia (Thank you), Ni Hao Mar (How are you), Dui Puchi (Welcome) etc etc [I don't remember the rest 4 sentences]. I took it upon my little shoulders to teach those as a foreign language to my student. I used to take oral tests to make the student memorize but as the student was more interested in pulling my frock and leg, I gave up.

Two days back, that student called up from France and said “I met some Chinese people today and when I talked to them in the sentences you had once taught me they were very happy with me. I called up to tell you that today your first student has achieved success”. I was so amused and so very happy!! It made my day!! [Of course I said this too "See how it proved useful and you were never serious about it"]

Thank you dear student for humouring me and for being a wonderful playmate.

The teacher Reema in specs and her first & best student Didi
*************
Miss Wormwood: Yes, Calvin? You have a question?
Calvin: Yeah, I was wondering if we could stop the lesson here and adjourn to the playground for the rest of the day.

Miss Wormwood: Of course not. Now then, let’s all turn to page 24 and…
Calvin: Miss Wormwood?
Miss Wormwood: Yes?
Calvin: How about just me then?

**************

P.S. Knowledge never goes waste.

[Image credited to schoolclipart.net]

The Business of "UFM"

Firstly for those who are unaware of a very important term in an Engineering student’s academic life, UFM means Un-Fair Means (Some universities may use some other name) i.e. the tempting, illegal, sometimes lifesaving, mostly time consuming, always risky methods used by students during the exam duration. I, being a cog in the wheel of Education since I stepped into kindergarten and till I became a lecturer, have so many anecdotes to blog about but never got around to do so. This particular incident however just had to be told.

Gone are those days when kids in school and students in colleges used to just peek into their neighbour’s answer copies or ask around in whispers or bring hand written chits of paper. Due to the birth of Generation Y and Z in a world of rapid advancements in technology and economy, these kids and youth have understood the power and importance of technological applications and money fast enough. The extent of this was unearthed during the recent end semester exams of 1st year Engineering. The university provides with only one day gap between 2 papers (I guess to encourage regular studying and to end the famous tradition of studying in the long gaps by Engineering students in most private non autonomous colleges). But as usual with recent growth of private colleges like mushrooms and every other kid doing Engineering, there are many students who use UFM as their life jackets. The students are divided into two groups in 1st year and study different subjects. They have exams on alternate days. So on the fateful day (a cliche!) two students of one group were caught lingering near the bathroom with solution of the paper other group was giving. After strict and rough inquiry a whole organised scheme was disclosed. A student in higher semester was the kingpin and he took money from these 1st year students. A question paper after being distributed was smuggled out of any room by various ways. Solutions of various parts were made in small chits by several hired students and stuck in a single A4 sheet and then xeroxed into number of copies as per buyers. Students were told to sit with their mobiles in pockets. A sms used to be sent to inform that so-so guy is waiting there with solution. The candidate would then take permission to go out to drink water and take the solution. And this same solution was found in other colleges of the city. 19-20 year olds implementing such an ingenuine business plan comprising a strong network of finance, messengers, bikes, xerox shops, mobiles and even the sweepers of the college. Its like “hey I have to use UFM anyway. So why not make money out of it as well” and the policy of “You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” because its obvious any student who is busy giving such social service in the gap will need the same aid next day. This exposes the fact that studying has become the last priority and option.

In the pursuit of monetary investments, higher gains, possession of latest stuff, getting the desired results; have the older generation instilled such attitude and values in their children urging them to become rats in rat race be it of education or career? Is “The end should justify the means” the motto of this Gen Z?

I wont go into discussing the glaring shortcomings of the invigilators or exam conductors or the “Flying Squad” which comes from the university. Of course it takes two to tango. I have just focussed on the leading partner!

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post shall be construed as prompting the students to employ such means. The blogger does not endorse such methods. You hereby acknowledge that any use of such methods shall be at your sole risk.