FaculTea with Prof. Usha Ganesh of ILS Law College, Pune [Part I] : Teaching English in a Law School; Vernacular Students

Mohona Thakur, Campus Manager from ILS Law College Pune hosted an interview with her Professor for the FaculTea (tea with FaculTea) series started by us.

Mrs. Usha Ganesh has been teaching at ILS Law College, Pune as an English Professor for the past thirteen years. She has done an M.Phil in English and cleared SET. Mrs. Ganesh is also the resource person for English at the Competitive Exam Centre of YASHAD, to train IAS aspirants. Her interests lie in reading non-fiction, writing, classical dancing, listening to soothing music and listening to lectures on iTunes U.

1. Hello Prof. Usha. Tell us something about yourself? 

As a person, I am confident about my abilities, candid, determined, simple, warm, full of life and I come from a very close knit family.

I hate being micromanaged and believe in the positive aspects of negative thinking. Have you ever heard of the latter?

 2. Describe your childhood in brief. What have been your sources of inspiration and your driving forces?

Vacations were not to exotic places but to hometown among grandparents and innumerable cousins.

Childhood was just fun at school and with the family.

The absence of cell phone, internet and television made me a voracious reader.

Sister Claudia at Mount Carmel Convent trained me to be a good speaker.

While everyone found grammar lessons dull & boring, I found it a beautiful crystallization of the structure of language.

So my love for the English language was sown here.

Tuitions were unheard of then, but there was pressure at home to score hundred in Maths and get a good rank in class.

I cycled, wrote poems, plays.

Vacations were not to exotic places but to hometown among grandparents and innumerable cousins.

My grandfather introduced me to the dictionary and made me read ‘The Hindu’ everyday.

To be honest, no one one in particular inspired me then and neither did I have any role model .

3. How was your college life like? Was the college you attended different from ILS, if so, how was it different?

My college life was poles apart from ILS in some aspects. I attended Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College (SRC) in Tiruchy – a girls college.

We had a strict dress code – half saris; prayer sessions in the morning where we were made to sing Carnatic songs (at school I used to sing  English songs).

Proxy attendance was unheard of, not for the fear of being reprimanded but no one felt the need to, since classes had only a few students and the professor knew every student. Even if we found the professor boring we just kept quiet.

It is in college where I gained a lot of popularity and recognition.

I won innumerable prizes in intercollegiate debates, wrote, acted and directed plays and at the end of my graduation, I was declared the most outstanding student of the college.

Junior chamber declared me as the outstanding student of Tiruchy.

 4. Did you use any strategies to be successful in college? If so, what were they?

I took part in all the activities and I was always assertive. Academically I did not have to use any special strategies to be successful because we had limited opportunities and resources.

We did not have quick market notes and this turned to be an advantage as we had to read extensively and make our own notes.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What incidents do you perceive as your failures?

My greatest strength is my passion for learning and the quest and thirst for knowledge.

I believe that –“Age is just a number, it should never hinder you from accomplishing your dreams.”

I still dream, and this makes me wake up to a new day everyday.

No one is perfect and my weakness is that I need a ‘pygmalion effect’ constantly to spur me on. Sometimes the rest is too long and I feel that I need to wake up and act quickly.

6. What made you choose this career line? Any particular people who inspired you to enter the revered teaching profession?

Strangely I did not choose this career nor did I ever dream of becoming a teacher.

After graduation, I worked as an officer in a bank for nine years.

Then I took a break to take care of my children, then a two-year stint as General Manager of the city magazine of Madras ‘Aside’.

Soon after, my family relocated to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and here I was asked to teach at an Engineering College nearby since the teacher had suddenly left.

This was the turning point in my career and I felt I was tailor made for the profession and enjoyed teaching at the tertiary level.

7. What gives you greatest pleasure in teaching?

Teaching for me is making my lectures pleasurable to attend and locking eyes with every student right up to the back benches so that he or she feels connected to me.

It feels good when  a smile cracks across a face, as learning all of a sudden happens.

Its about the former student who says your inspirational lectures motivated him/ her and changed his or her life. It’s about another telling you that your teaching was the best and that certain misconceptions in language that they carried were cleared.

8. What is the best thing about being an English Professor in a law college? And what’s the worst?

The best thing about being an English Professor in a law school is that it helps me to make future lawyers understand that they have a professional obligation to learn how to write correct English whether it is effectively negotiating a contract, examining a witness in court, preparing an appellate brief, or just grasping the exact meanings of legal provisions.

A lawyer must understand the precise meaning of words.

The first year prepares them for it but unfortunately some students take English very lightly and this is the worst part.

They think that if they can speak well, they can write well too.

The best thing about being an English Professor in a law school is that it helps me to make future lawyers understand that they have a professional obligation to learn how to write correct English whether it is effectively negotiating a contract, examining a witness in court, preparing an appellate brief, or just grasping the exact meanings of legal provisions.

9. What do you like best about teaching at ILS?

ILS came as a boon. Good feedback from students ensures that there is zero interference by the management and this academic freedom helps me evolve as a better teacher.

ILS attracts  the pick of the crop and it is challenging to teach bright, inquisitive and sharp students who are eager to learn, unlearn and relearn some aspects of grammar that they found incomprehensible or boring earlier at school.

It makes me feel immensely happy when I meet former ILS students in places like New York, London, Kolkata and see them doing extremely well.

Another aspect that I find satisfying at ILS is the positive response I receive from  the remedial class students who are from the vernacular background.

I help them strengthen their base in the first year after which they march ahead confidently in the following years and never fail to express their gratitude for bringing a change in their lives.

On the whole, students at ILS have showered me with immense love & respect for which I shall be ever grateful.

I help them strengthen their base in the first year after which they march ahead confidently in the following years and never fail to express their gratitude for bringing a change in their lives.

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Comments Till Now

  1. Kokila Ravi says:

    Hi, Usha,
    Pleasure to meet you here. It is interesting that you mention Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College as your alma mater. May I know when you graduated from SRC? I graduated from SRC in 1980 – same major as yours, English. Completed B.A. in 1978 and M.A. in 1980. Wonder if you were there then.

  2. Sunil Vaidya says:

    It was quite interesting to read the interview. More so because my daughter ( Radhika Vaidya ) is currently a second semester student of ILS & always appreciates Madam Usha Ganesh, her teaching style & how she has inspired her. Also, law octopus is a good platform for all those who like to hear from knowledgeable people.

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