There’s an interesting story of an imaginary conversation between a pencil and an eraser.
“I am sorry,” said the pencil to the eraser.
“Whatever for?” asked the eraser.
“I am sorry because you get hurt because of me,” continued the pencil. “Every time I make a mistake, you are there to erase it. And every time you erase one of my mistakes, you lose a bit of yourself. You become smaller and smaller. And just a bit dirty too.”
“You shouldn’t really worry,” responded the eraser. “I was meant to help you whenever you made a mistake, and I am happy doing my job. And I know one day I’ll be gone and you will find someone else to do my job – but while I am around, I take pride in knowing I did my bit to help erase your mistakes. Keep writing. And remember, never be scared to make a mistake. There will always be an eraser around to set it right!”
If you think about it, you’ll probably recognize that our teachers were the erasers early in our lives. We were the pencils, sharp, pointed, colourful. And every time we made a mistake, our teachers were there to correct us. They gave a bit of themselves – so that we could emerge looking just a bit better. And then as we moved from school to college and then to work, we found new teachers. But there is no mistaking the fact that we are what we are today, because of those teachers, those wonderful, magical erasers.
That conversation between the pencil and the eraser could well be a conversation between a corporate leader and a protégé, a mentor and a mentee. Good leaders never forget that one of the key roles they play is that of a teacher. Folks who help young managers become great pencils. Who erase the mistakes that help the pencil’s work look good. People who give up a bit of themselves to help the pencils get better. And most importantly, leaders are the ones who give their subordinates the freedom and the confidence to make mistakes – secure in the knowledge that they’d be around to correct mistakes if and when required.
And there’s something else about teachers that makes them truly special. Their ability to look at every student, every child, and see the genius inside. They know that each child is different – and that there is a unique skill or strength inside each and every one.
And yes, as a Teachers’ Day special, do yourself a favour. Pick up a pencil. And send a message to an old teacher or leader to thank him or her for being that wonderful eraser in your life. Do that. You will, won’t you?