“My Ph.D advisor in Japan, Akira Harada, reminded me of what a great professor is about: someone who is curious and loves when others are curious, too. But he also knew how to stay on deadline; it was a combination of being able to diverge and converge. He loved teaching. One time, he told me a story about growing up during World War II as the son of a wealthy banking family. Nobody had any food; it all went to the soldiers. But his family was wealthy, so he had rice. In Japan, rice is the essential thing in a person’s life; the soul of Japan is rice. There’s this little pickled plum called ume, and, every day, my professor got a lunchbox from his mom with a bed of white rice and a red plum in the middle, like the Japanese flag. One day, he forgot his lunch, so he went to his teacher and told her. She said, “I made too much lunch this morning. So please come to my desk and we’ll have lunch together.” At lunchtime, he went to his teacher’s desk. She pulled out her bento box, opened it, and there were two tiny potatoes inside. She said, “Look, I made too much,” and he replied, “I’ll help you, teacher.” He remembered that later on and cried about how thankful he was for his teacher. I thought that was an important story; it made me think and believe in teaching as an intellectual philanthropy. It’s about doing something good for others. Professor Harada was a great teacher. Along the way, there have been many more like him who have made me more awake” – John Maeda in an interview with The Great Discontent
What a wonderful story from the great John Maeda to celebrate Teacher’s Appreciation Week. I love how he frames teaching as an act of generosity. When I think about the teachers and professors who have had a real impact on my life and learning, I now realize that generosity is what they all shared. Would love to hear your stories and anecdotes of the generous teachers you’ve had the good fortune to encounter throughout your learning journey.