Swapna Nair on motherhood, teaching, and learning

Rohan: Of all the people who have inspired me in my life, my mom has ‘tenure’ of sorts. Aside from the tiny detail that she’s the first person I ‘met’ on this planet and the other tiny detail that she got me started on my journey here, she has been a source of continuing inspiration.

She has always taken what she has done to a whole new level. As a teacher, she was consistently chosen as among the city’s, the state’s and the nation’s leading teachers giving her opportunities to visit the United States and Singapore on various programs. In fact, it was after her 1st program thanks to which she spent a month in California that she decided that I should study make it a point to study abroad and get exposed. And, thanks to her push, I did.

Aside from being a teaching superstar, she is, in my mind atleast, the true traveler. There may be many who have traveled to many more new lands, but few I know match her curiosity, openness to culture, love of history and love of new cuisine. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt from my Mom is her openness. The adage ‘The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one’ is one she epitomizes. Forever open to trying new things and new technology, she is now at home with an Android phone (soon to be converted to iOS :)), an iPad and has her own blog as well. Probably most importantly, she has always been comfortable around people who know more than her because she is the ideal student in many ways – always eager to absorb and forever humble. It’s that quality that makes her the outstanding teacher that she is.

An amazing storyteller, a great poet, a very passionate person with a great sense of humor, she has been adding joy and learning to the lives of her students for 22 years now. And all the while, she has been a fantastic mother who lead our family through some very dark moments and also been an extremely cool Mom and friend to all my close friends as well. Quite a person, quite a story.02

I feel it is fitting that we begin this interview with a teacher – for it is a profession that truly deserves the highest respect.

And like everything else, her answers to my 3 questions touched me. Thanks Mom, for..everything.


Interview Transcript

1. What energizes/inspires you?

Each day as I enter the school I work in, I am energized. The eager faces of my students, the challenges awaiting me boost my energy levels. Each day is different. The experience of teaching the same subject to different groups is amazingly different and varied. The challenge of accepting each child as he or she is adrenaline to me. Each mind is an enigma. Each little heart holds abundant treasure. I feel so magical when I am in their presence.

2. Looking back, what has been the most defining experience in your life?

The most defining moment in my life is definitely the birth of my son. When I held him first a new vein of life surged through me. I was born again, in a new role,. The role of a lifetime, being a mother! Every moment has been a poetic journey so far. The roles have reversed. Today he is my mentor. I am once again in a new role, his disciple.

3. What is your advice to leaders who will be reading this?

My passion is teaching and every waking moment I decide to be the most inspiring teacher. Each day I learn something new. This excites me. I have realized that to ‘learn’ we must be like a sponge ready to absorb. Some may be positive while some maybe negative, nevertheless it is ‘learning’. Learning can come from anybody. It may be from a child, a colleague, the the elevator guy, a vendor….

Somewhere, sometime the learning will come of use.

Leadership is also often about delegation of work. This builds the team. If every leader can nurture and train future leaders, it is the sign of positive leadership.

A doctor cures, an engineer builds, a trainer trains, a teacher teaches while a leader inspires!


Real Leaders Team