I must have guided many hundred BE or MCA student projects. I have enjoyed the experience chiefly because it is a win-win situation: the students are grateful to have a sympathetic guide (it bothers me that many engineering colleges make no effort to find internship opportunities for their students; they just like the fees these students pay!) and I have the great joy of interacting with so many bright and enthusiastic kids.
I can now distinguish three types of students: the first are the rich and good-looking who drive in on flashy motorbikes or scooters (without helmets), carry a mobile phone that rings once in 10 minutes, are extremely confident and articulate (with a special fondness for words like ‘basically’), know how to make stylish PowerPoint presentations, but usually falter when confronted with even a simple mathematical expression.
The second type is extremely studious and hard-working, always punctual, very attentive and respectful (and mindful of every word uttered by the guide), a trifle timid, nervous while making presentations and still rather confused with math equations.
The third type could be, at first sight, classified as ‘plain dumb’. They don’t understand what you are trying to say, they don’t appear familiar with any concept that you mention … they appear sincere but are truly exasperating.
It is easiest to guide students of the second type. This type can be trusted to do very well with well-defined problems. You show them the next step and they follow diligently (but if you ask them to be adventurous they are confused). As a guide, one of my tasks is to instill confidence in them. If they can be led beyond the limiting threshold that they set for themselves, they will truly blossom.
Students of the first type have to be reined in; they have to be firmly told that crossing the Rubicon is basically not as simple as it seems. The good ones eventually appreciate this instruction — and once they do so, they can do outstanding work because they have the daring, and often also the flair.
The third type is very fragile and must be handled with great care. They come from small towns and poor families and are severely disadvantaged. One soon discovers that they know nothing, because they have been taught nothing! But some of these students are very strongly motivated and have the will to crawl out of their abyss. As a guide nothing gives me more pleasure than to see such students come good. The warm glow of gratitude in their eyes when they come with sweets to announce their first job cannot be described with mere words.