Sachin Kumar Badkas '08 (India): The Class

Europe has been a time for many personal landmarks - cooking meat or flying minus airport counters, for instance. Another recent first, but by far more important was an officially assigned class. In the past, it has been I who offered lectures to an audience that was captive to various degrees. Last year's class on Policy Memos was an official affair, but still entirely my idea and counts less as it was to my peers, each of whom could teach me a lot back. No, the classes I gave that week meant more. They were not my initiative, the students engineering undergraduates and it was part of their formal visit to IIIEE. Though it will not count towards their grades - that would be another landmark, but probably not more remarkable than landing a tenure teaching position.

Predictably, I enjoyed it more than any other endeavor for a long time. That is of-course often also a reflection on how polite and eager the students are. The fact that my Russian was much worse than their English rather than complicating things, actually brought a very interesting dynamic to the class. At moments where a certain question would lead to an intense discussion, I would have to wait for the issue to be settled and then point at people whose contributions I wanted translated. I would turn to the volunteer student and say "Help me here!" That has never happened before.

Another incident I wish I never forget was in the second class, at the end of one such discussion. I heard brief translations of arguments 4 students had actively made about lead. (On the slide were 4 alternatives, of which they were asked to name the one that could not be classified as a 'pollutant' by common definitions of the term.) One of them said little and had his eyes focused on a spot on the desk. Before commenting on other opinions, I abruptly turned to him and asked, "Maksim, which is not a pollutant?" Instantly, he gave the correct answer and reason. I was impressed - not sure if more with him or with myself. It is not the usual way I want to hear the correct answer from a class, but one that makes me wonder. What was my confidence based on?

This is a group that I will never forget. Especially since a small bunch of them visited my rooms later and on the eve of departure left me a bundle of gifts the nature of which I do not wish to put on public record. They broke a long standing record right there - I do not easily accept gifts. Part reason was of-course that explanations would involve more English than it is fair to impose. The other part, however, was the sheer simplicity of it.