Remembering the unsung ‘teachers’ in our lives…

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A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind and touches a heart’ – Unknown

It was Teacher’s day on 5th September. As the whole world reached out to the teachers, coaches and guides who helped them navigate through the vagaries of life, I could not help reminisce about my first ‘coaching’ interaction as a young student.

I was in the 12th grade, and in the midst of studying for the most ‘important exam’ of my life. My performance would decide if I would get a seat in an Engineering college (we did not have many options then) and the pressure had been building on me. My father, who was a disciplinarian, was not really helpful in easing my stress. In his goodwill and caring attitude, he had been pushing me consistently to outperform myself.

I had just received my mid exam marks and had scored below expectation in mathematics, a subject I feared.

Returning from school, I sat down at my table, in a pensive state. The fear rising up in me as my mind seemed to feel hopeless against the ‘mountain of work’ confronting me.

I noticed that my mother had entered the room and was sitting next to me. As she rested her hand on my arm, I looked at her and could sense that she understood my pain.

I started talking, and she was listening to me, nodding her head…. Unlike her usual self, being busy in the kitchen or running errands, she seemed to have all the time in the world.

She started asking me about my study plan, the subjects, daily routine and how I could possibly make changes for the better.

We drilled down to what I could do in the next few days, and slowly, things seemed easier and manageable.

As I started writing down the new plan, she slipped out to get me a cup of tea.

As she put the cup down, she looked at the plan, smiled and said..”You are doing very well…. This is a great plan, and it will work for you.. I will work with you to ensure we follow it”…before hurrying back to her pending errands.

Though the size of the challenge did not diminish, that short ‘coaching’ session is like an ‘oasis in a desert’ clearly etched in my memory….

My mother had not heard of ‘Coaching’ but she demonstrated some powerful elements of coaching to help me tide through the situation:

  1. Empathy: There was a strong sense of understanding my pain, which helped me open up about my problem and what was going wrong. It was not a ‘you have messed it and now let’s clean up’ but more of ‘we are equals, and this could happen to anyone’..
  2. Listening: She was listening and not reacting with any opinion or judgement. Only a nodding of the head, encouraging me to share my inner thoughts.
  3. Exploring: There was no advice or counselling. She explored the situation and asked me how I could do it better. The message I received was that I have the capability to resolve the situation, and should think through it.
  4. Faith in my capability to win: I sensed a strong, unwavering faith in my abilities, as she quietly showed me what I had done right and what I was capable of doing.
  5. Action for success: Slowly, she helped me focus on what I had to do NOW to move in the forward direction and shift my mind from the ‘gargantuan’ task I was imagining.

All of us would have experienced such situations in our past, when someone, who may not be professionally qualified, reached out to us and supported us in difficult moments. These are our close relatives/friends or acquaintances who transform into ‘teachers’ for that specific time to guide us.

I also believe that these interactions create the ‘magic’ because of two underlying reasons……A strong empathy with the ‘coachee’ and a deep desire to transform his life.

This noble intent guides the ‘coach’ intuitively towards success.

As we grow and learn to deal with life and face challenges, these ‘guiding hands’ come along in the guise of different people to support us, open our minds, inspire us and help us build strength of character.

These ‘turning points’ are like emotional anchors guiding us even after decades have passed and our hearts silently salute these ‘teachers’ who made our life meaningful and fulfilling.

Comments are welcome !

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