Comments 9

Why I Teach

The germ for this post sprouted in the aftermath of the death of Dr.Kalam.

In the deluge of Kalam-related information that dominated the media after his death one small bit struck a chord — his love for teaching. Of all the things he was — a teacher, a scientist, an advisor to the government, the President — it was the role of a teacher that he cherished the most.

On first meetings, people usually ask, “So what do you do?” The only reply I want to give when faced with this question is — I am a teacher. Everything else — my stint as a business owner with IMS, my current role as the Chief Learning Officer – IMS, are  around this core.

Teaching at 21

The first paid job that I took up was teaching.

I had completed my engineering as mechanically as possible and graduated with a software job, whose joining date got deferred in the bloodbath that followed the dotcom bust. I had taken the CAT in my final year and contrary to all expectations (including my own) I failed to get a call.

I was more than determined to clear it the second time around and was offered the chance to teach Analytical Reasoning to GRE students (back in the day GRE was out of 2400 with Analytical Reasoning being one of the sections) at the institute where I had prepared for the CAT.

The feedback for my classes was good but back then I did not really think much of teaching as a profession. I can distinctly remember thinking that it can become a really monotonous thing — the same sheet, the same problems, and the same jokes.

It would take me more than a decade before I really understood what teaching was all about.

Teaching, now

During my first teaching stint, I received very positive feedback was good and I had no problems in class, but there would rarely be students queuing up to ask me doubts or speak to me after class. But since I started teaching again in late 2012, things have been different.

It was around that time that I realized that in the decade that I spent since I first taught, my approach to teaching had changed completely. I realized that at 21, I was only a good problem solver with good communication skills. I was not a teacher.

At 21, I looked at teaching from my own perspective — what is in it for me? Am I getting a kick out of it? I laughed inwardly about the monotony — the same sheet, the same problems, and the same jokes.

I failed to see the most important and unique aspect of this whole process — the student.

The sheet might be the same but there is a set of completely new students experiencing those problems for the first time.

Once one sees this, the sheet no longer remains the same; in fact it is no longer about the sheet, it is completely about the student, forging a connection with them and helping them absorb everything to the fullest.

The teacher always gets more in return

I can confidently say that teaching has actually taught me and given me a lot in return. My successful second attempt on the CAT, had a lot to do with the clarity of thinking I developed because of taking classes.

I learn to solve better because I learn to teach better. I learn to teach better from the students. There have been many cases when the same problem and the same explanation with the same energy fail to help a particular student understand. You notice a face in the class that has not really understood it.

It is then that you are forced to come up with a more creative way of explaining the problem. It goes without saying there are also cases where students come up with better solutions.

While these are the very specific benefits, there are others that my fellow teachers, mostly freshly-minted MBAs who take time out on weekends to come and teach, have mentioned:

  • one says that he has to teach after a long working week,  just to refresh himself
  • another guy says that his wife says she likes him more when he returns home after taking a class at IMS than when he returns from his full-time workplace
  • yet another teacher says that no matter how rotten his day or week might have been all he needs to do is to take a class and he is back to feeling great again

My favorite part

It was around April 2013, the GD-PI results of the first batch of CAT students that I mentored were expected at any time. One of the students with whom I had spent quite some time called and said — Tony…a pause…IIM-B…another pause…converted! I leapt out of the chair and screamed YES!, my other arm outstretched.

This is always the best part, the moment a student succeeds. Nothing tastes like success, only in this case, it is not your own but somebody else’s.

When I look back, I did not leap and scream years ago, when I came to know of my own admission into an IIM.

The world needs great teachers

There was a time in this country and in our culture when being a teacher was a mark of distinction — the word guru itself means the one who dispels darkness; we have hymns equating the guru with all three gods.

Not just in myths with Dronacharya & Arjuna but everywhere there have been legends of great teacher-taught relationships from Chanakya & Chandragupta to Socrates & Plato.

We live in a different world now, a world that talks about technology, inverted classrooms and self-learning. I am more than sure that technology can really make things better but that does not mean that we can do with fewer teachers.

There is something about being in the presence of a great teacher that makes us want to be better than the individuals we are. I have had the privilege of experiencing this a few times.

I hope that more and more youngsters seriously start taking teaching as a profession. It’s a very fulfilling profession and what better day to say it out loud than today — the birth anniversary of another President, another Teacher.

Happy Teachers’ Day my fellow mentors, motivators & guides!


  1. Prathyusha Chenna says

    Happy Teachers Day Toni Sir!!!!!

    On Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 12:02 AM, The CAT Writer wrote:

    > Tony Xavier posted: “The germ for this post sprouted in the aftermath of > the death of Dr.Kalam. In the deluge of Kalam-related information that > dominated the media after his death one small bit struck a chord — his love > for teaching. Of all the things he was — a teacher, a s” >


  2. Vedant says

    Hey, what an insightful story to the journey you’ve had ! Thanks for sharing and spreading some of that excitement with all of us out here . Wish you luck sir ji


  3. Harshal Jaju says

    Hello Sir,
    I am a 2023 CAT aspirant and have done B.T.ech in my graduation. I was not interested in the Technical field so I took a marketing job after my graduation. I worked in the sales field for 1.5 yrs after my graduation but I felt stagnation in my job. I am not interested in the technical field and in order to grow in the management field I need skills and a relevant degree. So for that reason, I thought to prepare for CAT. But, sometimes I get influenced and rather confused when I hear people saying MBA is not the only option and everyone is doing MBA.

    Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about what if this MBA decision goes wrong as it is a huge time and money investment and at the same time I am not sure about the specalization. What if MBA is also not my interest? My strength is communication. In my graduation, I had a few management subjects as electives like economics, HR, and Marketing. I was interested in learning them. I am sure technical is not my forte. How to understand that management is something I can do well In? Or is there anything else apart from management I can think about?

    Can you please provide some suggestions to come out of this dilemma?
    Would be highly obliged for your reply.


    • Hi Harshal,

      What is most important is to always look at the larger picture beforehand the longer term and proceed forward.

      Usually there are two routes open to people — one starts and remains a techie rising to become head Design or R&D (Jonathan Ives, Apple) or one starts or switches mid-way to the business side and becomes CEO (Pichai, Nadella etc.).

      If it is latter then an MBA is absolutely useless. If it the former then in most cases, not all because there are always outliers, an MBA comes in handy.

      And this is the way you need to look at the cost of an MBA as well. Over the medium-term itself it will start paying you back big-time. so do not get bogged down by a price tag, you are not buying a depreciating asset but an appreciating asset — your salary will increase with every progresses role jump with the rate of increase not being liner at all (my friend went from 55LPA to 75 LPA to 1.25 CR in a span of 5 years)

      Given your skills, it is clear that you are not a techie, you seem to be a fit for Marketing, which is not sales, our HR before taking up leadership roles.

      Also , one should never speak to one’s peers or recent MBA grads but those with at least seven-plus years of work-ex, by then people have a measure of themselves and the business world at large and will be able to provide a wider perspective rather than speak from their own personal successes or failures.

      For more on specialisations, you can watch my all about specialisations videos here:

      Hope this helps,

      All the best!


      • Harshal Jaju says

        Thank you so much sir. Just one last query. What is the difference between MBA and MMS. I have read in few articles that MMS is better for students who do not have any management background. I have done B.Tech in my graduation so which would be better MMS or MBA. Is it in MMS courses they teach theory to create strong basis along with partical whereas in MBA more emphasis is given on pratical only?

        As per you what is more suitable for me since I don’t have management background. How to decide b/w the two courses? What can be few of the clg to target for MMS? Can I take admission in colleges offering MMS through CAT only or is there any other exams also?

        Thank you in advance for your valuable time.


      • Hi Harshal,
        There is no difference between the two at all. Depending upon the university that offers if some degrees are called MMS and others MBA. All MBA programs have at least 30-40 percent freshers. All programs apart from Executive MBAs are 2-year programs only. So, no difference in course as well.

        All that matters is whether the program is part of the best management programs in the country.

        Hope this helps,

        All the best!


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