A souvenir of love - Chapter 1
Teacher's Day dedication.
I usually write blogs in my native language Malayalam because I feel emotionally connected to that more than any other. There is a comfort and my expressions are more profound while writing in that language. This may be because I was a Malayalam medium student and English came to me as an acquired language where I had to overcome many hardships to learn it. Am still learning. However this one I decided to write in English as I want all my fellow colleagues to read and relate. I wish to reach out to most of the parents as well. So, I hereby take an anticipatory bail in order to do the same!
On this September 5th, Teacher's day I dedicate this blog to the teaching fraternity with much respect, gratitude and loads of love. A huge shout-out to those teachers who understand their students, who don't differentiate between their students, who still believe in compassion, who have not given up hope on the worst child in their class... This is a small gesture of gratitude from my side for all those wonderful souls. I thank all my co-teachers who have given me tremendous support throughout the years. I will definitely be writing about them in the upcoming chapters. To tell you the truth, I have also met with teachers who were lethargic and temperamental which is not advisable for pre-primary level. Let's talk about them later. I would rather prefer to have more positivity today.
If you are a teacher, this is for you to cherish and sonder. If you are a parent, you must read this to know your child's teacher and probably what your child might be doing in his/her class. And if you don't have a child yet, please read this so that you will feel relieved and relaxed (trust me! no need of Yoga and Yogam for you today! You will definitely say "Oh God! am saved...") I am sure, least of all you could take your mind for a walk to your old school days!
Once a teacher always a teacher! That's how it is. The memories are countless. I want to keep each one of them close to my heart. Every teacher (especially those teaching in lower grades, though I do have a few for higher grades too) would be able to relate even to the tiny bits of these episodes!
Children are innocent, funny, naughty and sometimes agitating as well. During my teaching tenure (though it's not a long period), I had encountered many of these kinds. I bet you did too. Some were unforgettable and chucklesome. Some were totally rib-tickling. Some were eye opening. Some were heart wrenching. Some were misty. I would love to save all those moments forever, hence these write ups. Just read and relax and it will be my pleasure if you get motivated at any point.
P.S : Dear Parents, This is not a blog to glorify teachers but it's all about children. This is to get to know them better and to let all know that there exist teachers with endless love and compassion.
Dear teachers, at any point of time if you feel like reading anecdotes or remarks it's quite normal! Excuse me for that ;)
MOL (Moments Of Laughter)
The best thing about teaching in lower grades is you will get to see a lot of MOLs. These tiny ones are so innocent, non-judgmental and open as a sky. They are not worried about what others might think about them. That's what makes them funny at times.
You know that children are highly observative. When it comes to class, they observe their teachers and imitate a lot. Not only girls but also boys notice their teacher's clothings, earrings, watch, sandals etc. I do remember one boy told me once, "Ma'am your lipstick and dress colour is matching-matching."
Am gonna tell you the heights of observations. It was the day when we had co-ordinator's observation. If you are a teacher you might be knowing what are these observations. For those who don't know, I'll give you a miniature picture. Usually these are to understand how the classes are happening, whether teachers are following the curriculum, which are the areas the teacher lag behind and of course to know the students of that class. This happens without any prior notice. Anytime they can come and observe our classes. So in short, this is where we get to score our marks. Exactly like you appear an exam most of the teachers will have symptoms like tension, stress, black out, trembling hands, raising pulse etc. How much ever your boss tries to comfort you, am sure there will be at least a pinch of stress remaining inside. And another truth is, the real class differs from the observation class as you tend to lose your natural way of teaching if you are being watched by someone.
This incident happened during one such observation in our class where the word 'observation' really came into life! My co-teacher was a perfectionist and in that process she used to get a bit more anxious during these observations. That day it was early morning, first period our boss(Co-ordinator) walked into the class. She sat on the teacher's chair. We three along with our 10 children in three different corners settled for some activity. My fellow teacher's corner was just next to the co-ordinator. Boss could clearly see and hear what's happening in her corner. This made her more tense. At that moment, our inquisitive hero...(let's call him Manish) came up with an interesting doubt. "Ma'am, nice smell ma'am. Which cream do you use? I like the smell very much ma'am."
"Aiyaayoo... yen daa intha maathiri kezhviyellam kekkereenge? athum intha timile! unakkithellam thevayaadaa?" (why are you asking these kind of questions now? is it something important to ask now?) My friend exclaimed in her mind. Then whispered in his ears, "will tell you later darling. Now you complete the activity." But he is not ready to leave the topic. "Tell ma'am please ma'am... which cream?" By this time she seemed like someone poured a bucket of hot water on her. Sweating all over, she thought it's better to tell this boy the name of the cream else for sure all ten are going to ask the same like sheeps. She muttered the cream name and told, "darling, today itself go and tell your mother to buy it." His mother was also a teacher from our school and this incident gave all of us a MOL together!
Vishal always had a jocular way of expressing his thoughts. He often added some witty comments to any topic in class. I remember once we were teaching about festivals and that day it was about Diwali. Teacher was narrating the story behind the festival i.e, about Lord Rama. The part came when Ravana abducted Sita. Teacher was getting too emotional and acting out the scenes with her heart and soul. Full drama going on. All of a sudden, Vishal interrupted with a very thought provoking and practical question.
"Arrey, why can't she at least give one slap on his face? ek laakh aise maar dena chahiye tha...(she should have given one strong whack...)"
For a second, all of us were dumbstruck as we didn't know how to respond! We couldn't help but laugh for a moment but then, we appreciated the little human for showing his concern and giving that fantastic idea. How can we kill the fire inside him by telling his idea was not practically possible during those days and these are nothing but mythical stories.
While talking about mythology, another one came into my mind which was totally hilarious. This took place in the school bus. As usual the evening shuttle was more noisy. Sometimes to get some peace I make some of the chatty heads sit next to me so that I have a control on them. This story has one hero and two heroines. One of the heroines was my ex-student and the other two were her friends. All three were first graders while this was taking place. As usual I was taking a nap and these three began murmuring. After sometime the murmuring became some kind of long-winded conversation. I was half asleep and could overhear their talks. Actually after a point I began to sneak peek at them ;).
Let my student name be Charvi (girl1),
Girl 2 is Tina and boy is Rishi. Let me tell you all three are outstanding in academics and possess excellent linguistic skills. Come, let's overhear them, shhhh......!
Rishi : "Tina, when I grow up I will marry you ok?"
Tina : "eee .... yeaaa..." (full happy)
Charvi : "What about me?? Am her friend. Why don't you marry me too?!" ( She is ok with him marrying her best friend. Only worry is why not her too?!!)
Rishi : "Oh! How can I marry two girls? that's not possible naaa..." (If given an option then definitely he would!)
Charvi : "Of course it is possible. You see, Krishna has more than ten thousand wives and Ganapathi also has two. Shiva too had. But she died. If they can have more than one, why can't you?!"
Rishi : "Oh really!! Then I have no issues. I will marry you too.." (double happy)
Charvi and Tina seemed to be in great joy and gave hi-fi. (Hence proved 'best friends').
I just couldn't control my laugh and managed to have a giggle turning my head to the other side. I was looking for someone out there whom I could share this with and laugh my tears out. But unfortunately there was only my bus aunty and driver uncle who were busy with their own tasks at hand. The gabby talks continued until one of them got down at the next stop. My adorable funny tiny tots!
Let's move to the next.
I remember one child who raised her hand during one of the storytelling session of "Monkeys and cap seller". She was amused to find out that her father snores exactly same as the capseller!! We even had a mock snoring session later :) Children are keen observers and they share literally everything with their teachers! Beware parents ;)
Now, let me share a few witty names here. These children had difficulty pronouncing the teacher's names and we always had fun listening to them.
Hold your breath and get ready for a good laugh :)
P.S : (Please do not get offended if you see your name below. It is the children...not me!)
1. Co-ordinator Ma'am - Coriander Ma'am
2. Raman Ma'am - Rabad Ma'am (Rabad in Hindi means eraser)
3. Lakshmi Ma'am - Chapla Ma'am (that's my name)
4. Kakoli Ma'am - Thakali Ma'am
5. Trilotna Ma'am - Anaconda Ma'am
6. Chitra Ma'am - Chithala Ma'am
7. Vidya Ma'am - Vidi Ma'am
8. Indira Ma'am - Indra Ma'am
If you have something in your list please do share with me.
The Indispensable Changes
My first year of teaching was more of learning than teaching I would say. I will keep those stories for later. Now let me begin with some cute ones.
I was appointed in Junior KG (L.K.G) with two other teachers. In a class, there were 3 teachers and 30 children. There was this boy who sat in my corner along with the other nine. Let's call him Vedik. He looked very poised and matured. The first month is very crucial for children as well as teachers because they have to remember the names of each other. Sometimes we mess up names with faces, so do they. Unlike most of the children, this boy had a very clear pronunciation. We usually get a handful of those kinds. So we were really happy.
We repeated our names in each class. I was excited to hear these little tots calling me “Lakshmi Ma'am”. But Vedik never called me for anything at any point of time. For months he did not. And to my surprise, one fine day I was sitting as usual in my corner surrounded by 10 naughty heads and suddenly I could hear someone tapping on the table and calling my full name “Sreelakshmi...”!! I turned around to see this tiny gentleman sitting there looking at me asking “pencil...” I was stupefied by this act at first. But from then on I was getting used to it though.
Time and again we instructed him to call me “Lakshmi Ma'am” but he never changed! He always behaved like his friend, not a teacher. After several repeated instructions, somehow by the end of the year he began to call me “Lakshmi Ma'am”. And at that point of time I realized how much I missed the old version! There are many small things in life which you want to change but once it changes you will realize how much you miss the former. Isn't it?
Another year, Arjun Wakure (the only real name I've used in this blog) , who is my friend's son, was in my colleague's class. During one storytelling session he gave us a moral which took me to a pensive mood that day. The story was 'The enormous turnip' which is a famous one. Hope you all know the story. If you don't, aunt Google can help you with it. At the end of each story session we ask children to give their version of 'Moral of the story'. And that day Arjun stood up and stated, "Moral of the story is, it's always better not to grow big. Being small is good. All these problems happened because the turnip grew so big!"
Later when his class teacher told me about this I was wondering, how can these children talk so sensible sometimes! How many of us would have wished to be a child forever? Unfortunately some changes are inevitably indispensable, right? And it's amazing that children unknowingly know this truth. Oh! That's an oxymoron!
Each year was challenging and entertaining. I had enjoyed each moment inside the classroom only because of these cutie pies. There was this child, Athul (not real name) who was very stubborn. He used to fight with other children and got moody quickly. Even if we insisted he say sorry he never uttered a word. He hated writing tasks and was a fussy eater. He communicated in Hindi and never responded to our conversations. Even a slightest change in our tone made him upset and he cried aloud. Throwing tantrums became a daily show. We had a tough time with him. As a whole, if you look at him there stood a perfect 'problematic child' for a teacher.
He was sitting in my corner and I slowly began to get acquainted with him. One thing I fathomed was he responded positively to physical touches. If he is angry/sad he screamed and punched whoever went near him. His eyes were flooded with tears. One day at one such instance I ignored him completely. He couldn't just take it and after a few minutes I could see he was asking my co-teacher for me to attend him. I went near him and spoke with him calmly and asked him to say sorry. Me saying literally, "open your mouth and say so....rry...." . For the first time, I heard him mumbling the word 'sorry'. (This kind of teaching to say sorry I've learnt from my senior co-teacher during my first year and it works!) I hugged him tightly and appreciated “You are such a nice boy”.
From that day we could see gradual changes in his behaviour. But he listened only to me, not to the other teachers. It took a while to make that happen but we succeeded in that too. Whenever he cried I hugged him, even while scolding him I kept one hand upon his. I fed him in the initial days by playing Tom and Jerry which he loved to the core and later he was able to self feed following my instructions. The funniest thing was the way he called me. Till the end of term one he called me “Chapla Ma'am...” as he couldn't pronounce 'Lakshmi'. I couldn't control my laughs each time he called me that name. Whenever I scolded him, he pouted his face with tearful eyes and said “Katti with you”. I conversed with him in Hindi as well as using small English words and sentences which proved right later, as he began to respond in bits and pieces of English.
We trained him using sand trays for writing and gave extra homework weekly twice. I was surprised to see that he neither complained nor denied to write. His mother played an important role by giving daily writing practice at home. I must appreciate their priceless efforts for him. It is a clear cut fact that without the support of parents we teachers alone can't do any miracles. When I say support, it could be emotional as well.
At last, we could really see the real miracle happening. Eventually his fine motor skills became more polished. His books were not scribbled anymore. He started writing following the correct formations and began to understand the number concepts. His behaviour changed drastically. He listened to all three teachers unanimously. He learnt to control his anger. To my surprise he began to call me Lakshmi Ma'am. By the end of the year he was awarded with the certificate from the school for “Tremendous hard work”! It was a proud moment as a teacher. You don't really need anyone's appreciation to get motivated. This is what we call instant job satisfaction you receive but in very few professions like these!
I personally do not like the concept of 'favourite child' because it won't do justice to other children in the class. But amongst all these years, my heart still skips a beat for this child. I had tried my best not to show that in front of my class. He proved teaching is not only being strict but also being compassionate. Love, compassion and patience can do wonders. Even the worst child would have some point where a teacher can start with. Only thing is you should have the patience to dig it.
The Learning Curve
The learning curve is different for each child. Let me explain it to you. By learning curve I mean from which level the child has begun and to which level he/she has reached. I have seen many teachers do the blame game saying " last year teachers did not teach him/her properly. Now we are struggling." I seriously believe in most of the cases this is not true. That's where you must dig out that child's learning curve. You can always go back to the previous year's teacher to know at what level the child was when he came to her class and how much time did he/she take to reach the final stage. You must not forget about the two months vacation as well. This is a huge gap for these children. I will give you an example.
Take Athul's case from the previous story. He came to us with no recognition of numbers and alphabets. Forget about writing! Fine motor skills were at zero level. When we compare his learning curve with other children, his curve is way far better! He learnt alphabets (to read & write), numbers till 10 clearly (rest of the numbers were a little tricky for him though he recognised many but he wrote them neatly). Apparently there was another child in my corner who was also at the same level but she took more time to come to the class's average.
Later, in the next academic year I heard that his teacher was not so happy with him as he was a bit weak compared to other children. So, this is where I told you to apply this theory. Instead of sitting and reading the previous year files of children, just approach the previous year teachers to know about the child and his learning curve. I believe this will definitely give you some idea of where to start. Maybe some really need individual attention for the time being and that time would definitely help them reach the level of a peer group.
I am sure, most of us as teachers would have gone through this. It's ok to feel that way but next time try to make an effort to talk to that teacher if needed and trust me you will see a difference.
Lost in the Abyss of Love
Shashank joined a month later that year. I still remember the day he entered the class with a face full of smiles without any 'first day of school fears'. He spoke less as he couldn't communicate in English where he was a gabby in Tamil. We didn't know much about the family as the first PTM they did not attend. Next time we were lucky to meet the family; father, uncle and aunt. Missing mom! They said my mother is in Chennai. The family was so caring and loving towards the boy, especially the aunt. But as time passed and we came to know that his parents are living separately.
He was a happy child, a quick learner. Within a few months he picked up the new language and began to converse. He possessed beautiful handwriting as well. Things were going smoothly and one day he was absent in class. The next day and next to next... he didn't turn up. No news from their side. We were wondering! One day, the news flashed. He has been taken back to Chennai with his mother. Only at that time we came to know that his parents' divorce case was on-going and the court's final judgement was to give the child's custody rights permanently to the mother.
In each class I searched that little happy smiling face among the other twenty nine. Though he left us abruptly, it was not easy for us to leave him from our hearts. In one or other class children kept asking "Where is Shashank ma'am?" and my heart mumbled to myself, "We lost him in the abyss of love, my dears..."
I will tell you about Sahaana now. She is a book which I half read and lost somewhere in the dark. Obviously I wouldn't be able to tell you the climax. Let me introduce her to you. A perfect tomboy look. She had a boycut hair, no earrings. Tallest one in the class. Her cognitive skills were extremely bad, to the extent that she herself was not aware of her whereabouts. She used to compare herself with the boys in the class and believed that she was a boy. Whenever the teacher asked to form lines of girls and boys (this was only to make it easy to take headcount, they sat wherever they wanted inside the class) she always stood behind the boys line. We reinforced to her that she is a girl and by the second term we could see a little change.
She didn't even mumble, not even in her native language. Eye hand coordination was really bad. She never bothered to ask to go to the restroom and kept wetting her dress during the first term. We potty trained her slowly and she got better by next term. We felt the child needed individual attention and wanted to discuss it with her parents. Unfortunately, we noticed the parents were least bothered about the child, especially the mother!! The father at least was ready to listen and made few promises. But the mother's attitude gave us a shock. She sat on the chair half turned, no eye contact, with an 'I don't care' attitude. Whenever she spoke she defended us outrightly. We were miffed. Mother and father didn't seem to be on good terms. Sahana had an elder brother who seemed to be a perfect active child. We tried in many ways to help her with zero support from her own parents. Her homeworks was either not done or half done by her brother. We could have helped her in a better way (as we needed parent's permission to begin with other methods of teaching) but the parents were not at all ready to cooperate. She discontinued next year. That was a moment we felt helpless as teachers. I still hope to read the other half of that book somewhere sometime!
Let me compile:
I've seen different types of parents in these cases. A few are here,
1) Parents who understand their child's learning difficulties and are ready to give any kind of support for their betterment.
2) Parents who know their child has some issues but are not fully supportive.
3) Parents who know their child has problems but are not ready to admit it. They do not even agree with teachers or school authorities regarding the same. They keep defending and leave the school when they feel there is no improvement. Unfortunately they are unaware of the fact that the improvement and parent's support are interrelated.
4) Parents who are not aware of their child's disabilities. There are mixed responses when we tell them about it.
5) Parents who are aware about it but wait for school to tell them about it first. When we talk, they agree with us. Imagine the huge amount of time teachers/counselors would have spent on this! Yes, we need to observe, make anecdotes for weeks and send reports. If the parent had told it earlier all this double work could have been avoided.
Now, as a parent you decide which group you want to join. Apparently, if you find out that the teacher is not doing justice you must report it too. I am not saying to accept them blindly but think over it, differentiate and decide the best for your child. We all know parenting is not an easy task. Once you are a parent you owe to take up the responsibility. Fact!
I have never thought that I could teach children other than mine, in any of my distant dreams. I always believed it is the toughest job ever to make thirty children sit inside a room listening to you. I am done with handling two at home and don't even tell me about thirty! That was my attitude. I have a huge respect towards this profession and felt this would be a never achievable job for me. I have seen how fabulous it is to be a teacher from my grandmother, her two sisters and my mother-in-law who all were Government school teachers in Kerala. Wherever they go there will be some or other person who was their old student. They were so content each time they met one.
When I joined this gang, post one year I could reminisce about their experiences. While walking inside a mall or a shop I get to see at least one student from my class or school and they come running to me just to say "Hi" or 'Ma'am, do you remember me?". My husband was hit by this and wondered, "Am working in Bangalore for more than twelve years now. None of the strangers came to me and said 'hiiii...' like this!! You just started working in a school and this is the scene! Lucky you.."
Of course, I am lucky enough to work as a teacher. I have worked in IT/ITES and HR and entertainment media (Part time Radio Jockey) fields for 9 years. Never have I ever got the job satisfaction which I've got from this profession. There are many. But most of all, it helped me as a parent. It changed me as a parent. It helped me to know my children much better. So for me that would be one of the best parts of it. Before joining this field, I haven't observed any child other than mine so closely. I know my elder one is really good at academics. When she was in Junior KG we got feedback from her teachers that she was excellent in reading and comprehension. I felt it's quite a normal thing for a child to read at that age. I've never appreciated her for that. Moreover, if you go to any house in Kerala you will see a shelf full of books. Reading is a part of our life or in better words, a way of life for us.
Later we relocated to Bangalore. Joined the new school. She was in first grade. I was with Jr.KG. When I got to know about my class children there were only 2 in my class who could read. And in other sections they didn't have any. At that point of time I realised not all children at that age could read. So my child was doing great and I never did appreciate her. I felt guilty. Days passed, I was busy with my job as usual and never had much time to teach her. Trust me, she learnt herself from school and from her library at home. I have never taught her even a single English word. Such a careless mother I was! That year she appeared for Spell Bee exams. I told her, "Dear, mom won't be able to teach you anything. If you want to appear for the exam you do. It's up to you. No pressure from our side. This is your first competitive exam. Do well."
I haven't seen her sitting with any books particularly for this exam. And when the results came through a diary note I was shocked!! First rank in the whole school!
I told this story to let some parents know how we underestimate or overestimate our children. Also to reiterate the importance of reading habits (I will write about it in detail later).
I will share one more incident. There was this boy named Vinayak in Jr.KG who was an introvert. He cried for almost a month in the beginning of the academic year. It took more time for him to open up. He was smart and responded well later. But during every PTM his father was worried about him only because he was an introvert. The main reason for the worry was his elder sister was an extrovert and extremely good in academics, where this boy turned out just opposite. During one such PTMs his father went to the extent of saying that, "If this is the case, in future how my child is going to perform in the market!? Am worried about that."
Unbelievable right?! Are you developing some product to sell in the market or are you raising children? We tried convincing him about his child's best qualities but nothing went into his brain. I pity that child for he might have to suffer those comparisons throughout his life. These are a few scenarios we as parents can go wrong but a good teacher would never. Even though you disagree with them, at times listening to your child's teacher is not a bad option at all.
There was this incident which was a learning and eye-opener for me as a parent. My elder one was in Grade two. She had difficulties in learning Hindi. Her Grade one teacher was super awesome (Pooja Ma'am) and made the basics thorough. But as you go further there are more things to study and the teachers usually talk only in Hindi. For those who don't understand, they translate in English sometimes. As I know how to read, write and speak(not so well) Hindi I could help her to an extent. But many days she came from school saying the same complaint as "I can not understand anything Ma'am is talking in class. She only speaks Hindi."
So, we also felt there should be some kind of system for non Hindi students as for them it's a new language which they haven't heard or spoken ever before. At Least few words they can translate to English. One day me and my husband was discussing about this and he told that we will send a mail to school regarding this. I said, do not send now. We will first talk with them directly during PTM and still no changes we will think about mail. She overheard our discussion that day. From that day she had been disrespectful towards that teacher in the class.
Next PTM we came to know about this. We felt really really bad because we believe that every student must respect their teachers regardless of whether they are good or bad. I know my child is outrageously outspoken. If she feels something is wrong she shoots her questions straight from the shoulder. She never hesitates to talk her mind in front of anyone. Most of her teachers and Principal & Chairman of her previous school always appreciated this character. They advised not to refrain her from this as in the current world scenario our children must find their own voice. But respect also matters because it shapes their behaviour and character. More than anything else, firstly I want my children to become good human beings. That matters because these things are directly connected with your own happiness. I have experienced the fact that rather than anything else, being human makes you happy and content! I teach my children that nothing is more important than education and humanity. Remembering the quote which I read somewhere, "Knowledge gives you power but character earns respect." No matter how religious/rich/powerful you are without education and humanity you will not obtain real happiness and success.
Am I preaching?! Ohh! Never mind... Let's take a U-turn to where we halted.
So, we went to meet the Hindi teacher along with my daughter. There was this old lady sitting calmly. With so much love in her eyes she called "aao beta...". We apologised and made my daughter also apologise for her inappropriate behaviour. After talking with the teacher I understood one thing. I can't blame her at all. She is an old lady who might have specialised in Hindi with little knowledge of English at those olden times. She would have better fitted in a higher grade. Getting placed in a wrong space is not her fault. May be there are other factors too. Undoubtedly she was excellent in her area of specialization. She hugged my child warmly before leaving and said, "choti bachi hei...chod do". From then, whenever I see her at school I used to go and hug her because deep inside my heart I felt bad for what my child did. Thankfully, we did not hear any such complaints anymore. That year I took extra efforts to teach her Hindi. And my hardwork has never gone in vain. Still she struggles to speak fluently but she understands and writes without much errors. So, what I learnt from this is; you should never ever discuss related to school/teacher in front of your child. Sometimes they take it as a consent to behave disrespectfully towards teachers. We somehow made our child understood that you can be outspoken without hurting others feelings. I have seen tremendous changes from her third grade. Now she is in 5th grade and doing great.
Leena was in my last year class. It was clear that she suffered from lack of attention at home. Her father was busy with business trips and mother was working in the IT field. Grandparents were taking care of her. Her fine motor skills were good but you know what she used to do? Knowingly she would make consistent mistakes while writing. When I get angry and scold her she will look at me with a smiling happy face. She wanted me to call her name and scold her every time. She used to test my patience level badly. The problem was not with her. She had a serious lack of attention from parents. Poor thing is that the parents confessed it during PTM. Later that year she left the school as they were moving abroad. Hope she is happy with her parents now! Lack of attention reflects on children as behavioural changes. We should have our eyes wide open to see it and a heart to understand them.
Little Angels vs Little Devils
We always say that children are little angels and full of innocence. But at times they are excellent manipulators and can turn into little devils too. Let me tell you one each.
Children are innocent and non judgmental. They don't judge people on their colour, religion, language, poorness or richness. They only see humans. If they are being judgemental then we are the culprits. We, adults, are the ones who inject these thoughts into their brains. I had a child in my class, who was from an upper middle class family. She was the cutest and shortest one in the class, and looked like a princess. She was kind, pleasant, always ready to answer (ended up missing her turns many times for not taking the turns while answering). In one of those classes about different professions, we were discussing the topic "What do you want to become when you grow up?". We saw doctors, engineers, teachers, fire fighters, Ola drivers, electricians, plumbers, farmers etc. When her turn came and what we saw was something unique!! Confidently she stood up and said, "Ma'am I want to become a bus aunty". Yes! you heard it right. She meant the school bus maid who takes care of 40+ children single handedly. For her that aunty was a true hero! We appreciated her for giving a unique and honest answer without any inhibitions. I believe in angels who live amongst us. At that moment, she was one for me!
Now, listen. Children are not always angelic. They know how to manipulate us very well. They are excellent story tellers. I have seen many such harmless and fascinating story tellers. But at times some turn the other way around. They manipulate their parents so well and use it very cunningly against those teachers they don't like. Can't believe me right? Trust me, none of these are cooked up stories. I can name all these teachers and children anytime and they all are here somewhere reading all these! See, if your child feels that you as a parent are not in favour of the school/particular teacher then it's just a cake walk for them to make you believe their story. It's not the old school times where our generation did not have any control over our parents or teachers. Imagine you coming back from school and complaining about your teacher to your parents. My mother will chuck me out from my house first and only then she will speak the rest! I am not saying that is the right thing to do. You must listen to your child. When you compare, times have changed drastically and dramatically. Now most of the children possess good control over their parents and sometimes they tend to misuse it.
There was this girl in Junior KG who cooked up a story about her class teacher that she slapped this child on her face! It created a lot of chaos in school and mental stress to that teacher. Unfortunately, CCTV was also not in working condition. Hence no proof either. The teacher is my friend and I know the situations she had undergone which led to an extent of depression. It matters how you deal with your child as a parent. You must know to differentiate between their own weaven stories and the real ones. I know it's difficult but it's not impossible. I have met many such parents (working parents of course) where they used to tell us during PTMs about how their little boy likes to weave stories and they clearly knew which one to believe and not. Parenting is not an easy task. Children grow well only if you nurture and guide them in the right direction. It's true that teachers are second parents because sometimes we do differentiate between these stories better than parents! Lol!
Let me tell you something very sensitive. The language. The language that we teach our children and what they learn from outside. We really really don't have any idea what kind of words they use outside mostly when they are with their friends. We know most of the teenagers use these words as they feel it is trendy, stylish and makes them Western. I know as adults many of us use these words. But we understand the meaning and are aware that it's not a 'great' word to use often. As children they don't have any idea what these words are meant for. Small children are copycats of elders. There is room for enough exposure. In the school bus- they listen to older children, at home - parents or television, while playing outside - peers, inside the lifts - the graffiti walls etc.
On my school bus there was a girl from 4th grade who came and asked me secretly, "Ma'am, many children in my class are using this 'F' word. What's the meaning ma'am? Is it too bad?" I was frozen for a moment and somehow managed saying "Baby, it's not the age that you can understand the meaning. Of course it is bad. Better you don't use the word and don't ask anyone the meaning. You will understand once you grow up." Though she didn't seem to be satisfied with my answer she kept quiet and nodded. I know she would have found out by now because they are curious about these things and it's a worry for us how to make them understand at this age.
Do you think only the primary level faces these problems? Be alarmed! Pre-primary children as well pick these words without knowing the meaning. We've heard 'S***' and 'F***' words in classrooms and warned those children. Good thing is that, at this age most of them listen to you. They don't go digging in detail.
As parents we must know who our children's friends are and what kind of language they use. Atleast once in a while go with them while they play outside and keep an eye and ear open. If you are thinking that "my child will never do that", let me tell you it is not about how good your child is. Even good children pick these words and use them without knowing the meaning. Most of these cases are revealed while playing. If you are too busy to attend them now, later you will have to repent.
Memories are pouring in. I was wondering in these few years if I have so much to embrace then imagine those senior most teachers!
Our school is an inclusive school and also we have the system of 'Right to Education' for the underprivileged children. Inclusive schools have children with special needs or any physical disabilities along with the others. They sit together with all other children in the same class also they will have special instructors if needed. I have met different children with different special needs and all of them were really special to me. I remember Pratheesh who came to me during my second year. Special instructors doubted of ADHD / autism signs. He used to put stuffs in his mouth like pencil, eraser, chalk, sand and any non-food items that attracted him. Zero fine motor skills and no communication. He understood only Odia but he didn't speak anything in that language either. Within few weeks he began to mumble few sounds and pointed towards the park saying "paaaarrrkkk..." whenever he was prompted to talk. His parents were very co-operative and gave all kinds of support all the time. During the mid-year due to severe health issues I had to take a break. When I came back to school next year he was in Senior KG, next to my class. I was astonished to see the improvement. He began to converse in English, learnt to hold pencil and write. When he saw me he came running and showed his book "Ma'am...see". I remembered my previous year colleagues who would have worked so much on him, of course his parents too. His new teachers also took the time and effort which made him very much independent and talkative. Seeing him everyday reminded me nothing is impossible, nothing is so hard if you are ready to work on it. The results will assure you real satisfaction and happiness.
Saritha and Babitha were from my first batch. They came under the RT(Right to Education) policy. These children usually have a NGO who will be acting as a mediator between school and parents. Also these NGOs will be taking care of the responsibility of teaching, completion of homeworks etc as the parents are uneducated in most of the cases. I always felt thankful for having uniforms in schools when I think about these children. In uniform all children look the same, no poor no rich.
During their first PTM (before classes began) we met their fathers along with the NGO guy. They spoke Bangla mixed Hindi. As a part of knowing the child beforehand, we used to ask few questions. That day children were not with them so we wanted to know if the child maintained eye contact while talking. Maintaining eye contact is considered as very important for moulding a healthy social behaviour. When we asked, he proudly and confidently said, "nahi nahi...kabhi nahi. woh toh aisi nahi hein" (no, no..never. She will never do that). We understood how shameful it was for the girls in their culture to look into the eyes and speak especially with men! Later when these two joined our class we observed that Saritha is amazingly brave enough to speak her mind in front of anyone that too maintaining good eye contact :).
They brought semiya kheer or banana daily for their snacks break. After a few months seeing many others bringing junk food, at times we could see Maggi noodles or biscuits in their boxes too. They seemed to be very hungry by snack time as they traveled almost one and half hours to reach school by 8 am. They might be rising much earlier then! That's why in many classes we found them half asleep and felt pity for the poor little ones. They always reminded me of the luxury life I am living! In a classroom you are not only teaching but learning too.
A Parallel World
All this while I was talking about the stories from our world which are very much familiar to us. Now I am going to tell you one true story from a parallel world which we are not so familiar with. When affluent families are having the luxury of admitting their children in the high-cost educational institutions, where do you think the children of daily wagers go? One of my best friends, Sowmya, who teaches in one such institution shared one incident which she had encountered. Everytime I hear something from her it just shakes me as a teacher, as a parent moreover as a humanist. She teaches in plus one and plus two grades. The crowd is entirely different. The age group itself is a difficult to handle type. She says, if you want them to listen to you then listen to them first. Don't try to control them, just walk along with them. Gain their trust. Once you earn their trust and respect they will listen to whatever you tell them.
This time when I called her, I met Kalpana from a bandit family. Unlike other girls from her society she was smart, brave and courageous. Her desire was to go for higher studies and reach heights. In their family talking with opposite sex and being friendly with them was forbidden. Considering Kalpana's broad attitude she was the black sheep for her kins. Her younger brother was also a student in the same school. He was an active spy and whenever he saw her with any boys he informed the parents about it by adding a little bit of salt and masala. Then for the next few days she will be absent. Teachers would give a call and then they would send her again. This was happening every now and then.
Like every other time, this time also the story repeated. She didn't come to school for one week. Then one day all of a sudden she appeared in front of my friend who was her class teacher. She had made up her mind this time. She was desperate and depressed, "Miss, am not going back to that house anymore. I can't live there. They will not let me study. Am under house arrest. Please let me stay here in school. I want to study. If you don't let me in then I will go somewhere else. But I won't go back home."
Sowmya was puzzled. As a teacher there is a limit to interference. But what they were doing was also not correct. Her thoughts were like "The family is full of villains, how am I going to defend them for her!". She somehow managed to call the family for a talk. She was literally scared to talk to those huge gangsters who were standing in front of her. Imagine a 5 feet lady standing beside 6 feet tall huge men! Shivering inside yet with a brave heart, she made the father understand what the girl wants in her life and how that is going to make an impact on their lives. She also warned she will send Kalpana home only if they promise that they won't hurt her anymore and allow to continue her studies. They agreed to the terms and she went back home. From the next day she was regular to school. Now she is getting ready for higher studies.
Kalpana and her whole family has shown huge respect and love each time they met Sowmya. Kalpana's mother one day held her hands with tearful eyes and a heart full of gratitude said, "We owe you so much. It's you who changed her life." Sowmya replied, "It's not me, it's Kalpana's bravery and courage to stand up for herself that changed her life. I was just supporting her."
This is another face of teaching. She had shared many such incidents. Once some children who did not have money bought a new dress for their 10th grade Graduation day and she bought it for them. There are children who work as gangsters, drug addicts etc. Each story is unique and touchy. As a teacher she is content that she is able to make at least some changes in their perspectives towards life. Like many of us, she was also working in a leading private school earlier but she confesses that the job satisfaction and love you receive from this new one is abundant. I was wondering, we are enjoying the luxury of life here and still complaining about each and everything. Each phone call to her makes me look at life more positively. Life is all about learning and unlearning. Just keep your eyes and ears wide open! Also teaching is not a job, it's a service...a great service only if you are true to it.
Let me conclude with one last and latest episode of online teaching which is the new fad. How can I forget it! Though I am not a part of it as I resigned from my job a few months back, my ex-colleagues call me often to share the new experiences. While some are struggling to cope up, some are easily winning over it.
Last week one of my friends shared this one. I was seriously thinking whether to laugh or pity her. Listen, she was taking online class. Only one child has logged in. She was enacting a puppet story. In one scene she was hiding under the table. The mother is feeding the child on the other side of the computer. All of a sudden, the mother says, "Ma'am, please let her chew the food. Only then you continue. Else she won't pay attention." Where is the teacher now? Under the table! She continued waiting under the table thinking "What am I doing here?? Am I supposed to do all these??" Hiding her feelings under the table she waited for the child to finish chewing!
I will take you to one more online class where the teacher is taking rhymes class. The teacher has to sing and sway her body along with the tune. Child is sitting on the bed. Behind the child's father is lying down as if 'laka laka laka laka' Rajinikanth wearing a baniyan and shorts enjoying the dance performance. (In Pre-primary parents are allowed to sit with the child). She was embarrassed to the core. You might have heard jokes, memes and trolls rolling over social media with a similar scene. I couldn't believe my ears that it was really happening! Am sure you will also be feeling the same way I do. To these kind of parents, you can show some respect towards teachers next time. My friend has complained about the same anyways. Hope it gets better.
I feel every parent must get an opportunity to teach once in their lifetime for better parenting, to understand their own children better and look at them in a different perspective. As parents we are under the shadow of many myths and taboos. For me this job was an eye opener along with my PG diploma in Pre-primary education. Am grateful for getting this golden opportunity and to use it wisely.
They say teaching is not a job, it's a service. Why? Because we deal with human brains and minds. We are capable of moulding them however we want. We are responsible for the future minds of tomorrow's world. So decide what kind of future you would like to see. Mould them wisely with love, compassion, bravery and humanity first! Education will follow.
Souvenir Of Love
Either as teachers or as parents, I hope you could relate to some of my thoughts. Hope this souvenir of love took you back to those old classrooms at some point of time. I would love to hear your stories and will try to collate them next time in Chapter two. Do share!
Consider this as a souvenir of love on this Teacher's Day! Happy Teacher's Day!
Let me sign off with my favourite quote:
"A good teacher teaches from the heart."