The professor and the student

Piccole letture in chiave umoristica e/o filosofica

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One day a young man bumped into an older man as he was walking down the street.
“Do you remember me?” asked the young man.
“I’m afraid I don’t,” replied the old man after looking at him carefully.
“I was one of your students a long time ago,” said the young man.
“Ah!” exclaimed the old man. “And what do you do now?”
“Well, I became a teacher in the end,” replied the young man.
“Like me,” said the old man with a big smile.
“That’s right,” said the young man. “Actually, it was you who inspired me to become a teacher.”

At these words, the old man became curious and asked the young man what exactly had inspired him. The young man looked down at his feet for a moment and then told his story.

“One day, one of my classmates came to school with a really nice new watch and I convinced myself that I deserved it more than he did. So, when he went out onto the sports field to play football that afternoon, I went into the changing rooms and stole the watch from his bag. My classmate soon realised that his watch was missing and complained to our teacher, who was you. Your reaction was immediate. You addressed the entire class saying, ‘This student’s watch was stolen during sports this afternoon. Would whoever stole it please return it at once.’

“I kept quiet and said nothing. I had no intention of giving back the watch.

“At this point you closed the door and told us all to stand up and form a circle. You were going to search our pockets one by one until the watch was found. But you also told us to close our eyes because you would only look for the watch if we all had our eyes closed.

“Obviously we did as you instructed and closed our eyes.

“You then went from boy to boy searching in every pocket. But when you came to me and searched my pockets and found the watch, you didn’t stop. You carried on until you had searched the pockets of every boy in the classroom and then you said, ‘All right boys, you can open your eyes now. We have the watch.’

“You never said who had stolen the watch, you never punished me and you never even took me to one side to give me a moral lesson. In fact, you never mentioned the episode again. That day you saved my dignity forever. It was the most shameful day of my life. But it was also the day that I decided that stealing from other people was not for me. I had received your message very clearly. Thanks to you I understood what a real educator needs to do.

“Do you remember that episode, professor?”

“Yes, I remember that incident very well,” replied the old professor, “but I didn’t know that it was you who had stolen the watch because I also kept my eyes shut while I was searching.”


This is the essence of teaching:
if to correct you must humiliate,
then you don’t really know how to teach.

[read more stories]


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