Weal And Woe A teacher experiences all.
In the good old days, teaching was considered as the noblest profession. A teacher was regarded as an image of god and treated with respect and reverence. For students, teachers were their ideals and they hero worshipped them. It was their dream to become a teacher in future. A teacher occupied a prominent and respectable position in society.
But gone are the good old days. Now teaching is the least preferred job. With flourishing professional courses and glamorous jobs in software and MNCs, no one aspires to become a ‘mere teacher’.
It is now considered a dull, boring and mundane job. At the same time, teaching has become the easiest job too. If nothing works out, the teaching line is always open. With hundreds of schools mushrooming everywhere, there is always a scarcity of teachers and one can easily get into the teaching profession. It is now ‘ a teacher by chance’ rather than ‘ a teacher by choice’.
With globalisation and modernisation, even the students’ respect for their teachers is dwindling. It is no exaggeration to say that in some elite schools students ridicule their teachers. At the same time, there are still students who touch their teachers’ feet for any important event or occasion.
Whatever said, I still consider teaching as a noble profession. The fact that all great and mighty people were once students guided and moulded by their teachers cannot be ignored or ruled out.
And teaching is not a mundane job. It is an exciting job. A teacher has to deal with lively characters with varied natures, attitudes, interests and temperaments. Everyday brings in a new experience. There is a different drama happening with one student or the other. There is no dearth of excitement and liveliness with a bunch of 40 to 45 students in each class. Of course, there is the stress of handling indisciplined ruffians but the entertainment we get from comic characters compensates the stress.
In my 31 years of teaching experience, I had experiences of all kinds. Some hilarious, some comical, some emotional and some tragic. Some of the experiences are indelible and ever etched in the memory.
when teaching is fun!
One day, while teaching antonyms, I asked the opposite of ‘pain’. One enthusiastic student immediately stood up and blurted out, ’injection’. What he meant was that when we have pain we take an injection and it gives us relief. His answer may be logically correct but grammatically incorrect.
We were having a group discussion in Gr. X on the topic, “Co-education”. One boy said that his grandmother is against co-education and wants him to study in a boys’ school. When I asked the reason he said that she was afraid that he might fall in love with some girl and marry out of caste. I asked him straight away if he had any such plans. He blushed and replied, “ Right now nothing but I can’t tell about the future.” The entire class burst out laughing.
It is a known secret that students give nick names to their teachers. The young, robust computer teacher named Hardik was soon given the nick name ‘ hard disk’. The SS teacher who had the habit of giving a lecture on any topic under the sun was nicknamed ‘ Baba Gyandev’. A senior teacher of B. St. became ‘Dadaji’ and Ravi who had a feminine touch in his speech and walk became ‘ Raveena’. I have the habit of tucking a rose in my hair. So I got the name ‘Rose Lady’. It is one of the characters in their English Literature text. How smart they are! Why don’t they show this smartness in their studies?
The question paper for Summative Exams ( old pattern) for Gr. IX and X comes from the Board. There was a question in Gr. IX English paper. It was “ write an article on the Dalai Lama’s visit to your school.”When we started checking the answer scripts, we came across various descriptions which baffled and amused us. (With all due respects to the great Monk, the ignorance of the children is to be forgiven), examples:
Dalai Lama is a conservationist. He visited the school and planted trees. He gave a speech on Nature Conservation.
Dalai Lama is a singer and a musician. He came with his band and performed on the Annual Day. Everyone enjoyed his rock music.
Dalai Lama is the food inspector. He visited the dining hall. He supervised the hygiene and cleanliness maintained. He checked the quality of food and its nutrition value.
Dalai Lama is the education officer. He visited all the classes and observed the teaching of all teachers. He checked their certificates.
Dalai Lama is the health inspector. He came with a team of doctors and conducted a health check up of all the students.
And on and on and on…..
Out of 90 students, only three students wrote that the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader and gave an inspiring speech.
While we two English teachers read out the answers, the other teachers became curious. This became an interesting topic in the staff room for the next few days. The other teachers wanted to know what other roles were played by Dalai Lama. We all had a hearty laugh. When the scripts were shown in class and when we explained who Dalai Lama was, they started grinning sheepishly. We gave them the additional work of preparing a project on the Dalai Lama which they did sincerely.
A heart touching experience
One day two boys of std. VI were brought to me with a complaint of writing love letters to the same girl. How can anyone feign to be serious in such a situation? I entrusted the matter to the PT instructor who is also the discipline in charge. He asked them for an explanation. The fellows were already scared out of their wits. Each one started blaming the other and had a long tale to narrate. The PT instructor got exasperated and shouted, “First decide whose girl friend she is and then narrate your story.” While the two boys turned pale, the teachers could not suppress their smiles. We even found “ I Love You” chits in Gr. III. We consoled ourselves that at least they wrote the spelling and sentence correctly. Some experiences are so heart touching that they make us emotional. We were having a speech round in Gr. XII. The topic was ‘My Mother’. Each student had to speak for two minutes. On the topic. I gave them that topic since they had the poem My Mother at Sixty Six written by Kama Das in their syllabus. I just wanted to see how well they can describe their own mothers. When it was the turn of one particular girl, she came up and stood without speaking a word. I encouraged her and even gave her extra time but all in vain. She stood like a pillar without uttering a word. I got angry and scolded the girl for not preparing and wasting our time. She started weeping and I became more irritated. After the class was over, the other girls came to me and told me that the girl had lost her mother at the time of her birth. In fact, she never knew her mother. I was distressed. I called the girl separately and talked to her. It was very simple to say sorry but I wanted the girl to come out of her mental block. I encouraged her to write an imaginary essay on ‘ My Mother’ and describe all the things she would have loved to do with her mother. She started writing a few lines everyday. Finally, when she completed it, I made her read it out to the entire class. When they all applauded whole heartedly, her eyes shone with tears. I was happy to bring her out of the mental block.
A bittersweet goodbye
We had a boy in Gr. XII Comm. He was very intelligent, studious and obedient. He was the class topper, class monitor and an active participant in all activities and naturally the favourite of all teachers. Suddenly after the Diwali vacation, there was a drastic change in him. He lost all interest in studies. He stopped talking to anyone. His notes and assignments were all incomplete. He became inattentive in class and always remained silent and aloof. When initial advising and admonishing had no effect, I sent him out of class to complete his pending work. But there also he was just standing and staring into the sky. I lost my patience and referred the matter to the principal. But I was shocked at the principal’s words.
The boy had lost his father during the Diwali vacation. It was not a natural death but a suicide. He had had an affair with another woman and when it came out, there was pressure from all sides to end the affair. But he was not willing for that. So both he and the other woman committed suicide. This was a big blow to the teenage boy who was just understanding life. He could not digest the fact that his father had discarded his own wife and children for the sake of another woman. Though they had no financial problems, it was a catastrophe which hurt his tender feelings and he went into depression. When I heard this, I felt ashamed of myself. Without understanding the trauma that the boy was undergoing, I had punished him. The boy was given some counselling but it didn’t solve the problem completely. He did not appear for the board exams that year and after that I did not get any news about him.
The saddest experience for any teacher is the death of his or her students. In all my experience I came across almost 10 deaths of my students, all untimely, sudden and tragic. When the face of each child flashes in my mind, it tugs at my heart.
We had a boy in Gr. X. Very mischievous and hyperactive. In fact, he was a trouble maker. One day, while playing volleyball, he suddenly collapsed. He was taken to a nearby clinic. The doctor advised us to take him to a big hospital since his heart was beating at an alarming rate. He was immediately rushed to a heart institute. A series of tests revealed that he had a heart problem at an advanced stage. It was a big shock to us since the boy never displayed any signs of illness. He was a hale and healthy boy. The panic-stricken parents left no stone unturned. They took him to prestigious hospitals in Mumbai, Vellore and AIIMS in Delhi. But the verdict was the same. He was in the last stage of his life, maybe a few months. The parents were just devastated. One day, his father came to school with a strange request, the boy wants to attend school. The school authorities could not give permission as it was very risky. His condition was very precautious. Any slight exhaustion or exertion would make his heart stop. And we knew him very well. He was not the one to sit in one place. Moreover, his classroom was on the first floor and climbing stairs was also a problem. But father, with tears in his eyes, pleaded that he wanted to fulfil the last desire of his son. So, after consulting the doctors and a lot of discussion and deliberation, an undertaking letter was taken from the father and the boy was allowed to attend school. I don’t know if the child was aware of his condition, but he looked and behaved quite normal. He was attentive in class. He even wrote notes and insisted on getting it checked. But I must say, the way his friends supported him, was commendable.
They were given permission to have their lunch along with the boy in the classroom instead of going to dining hall. They skipped their activity periods and stayed back with him in class. They helped him in climbing stairs up and down. All this they did quite normally without making him feel like a patient. They even teased and joked with him. Almost for 10 days the boy attended school and was very happy. Then suddenly, he did not come to school for three days. We heard that he got fever and on the fourth day we got the news of his death. It was expected sooner or later, but we were happy to make his last days enjoyable
We were preparing for our English Club Programme. Each class had to present an item. Gr. V students were asked to enact a poem. I saw their rehearsal and suggested a few changes. One day before the programme, we even had stage practice. The costumes had already been decided. I remember one frail girl asking me about hair style and became very excited when I explained it to her. On the D-day, I saw the class teacher of Gr. V running around frantically but I was too busy to find out the reason. Finally when their turn came, I saw only four pairs of students instead of five. One pair was incomplete, the partner was missing. I was furious and wanted to give a piece of my mind to the teacher and the student as well. After the event was over, I asked the teacher why one student was not present on stage, though I exactly didn’t remember was the missing student was. She replied that the missing student was a girl and she expired the previous night. We were just stupefied! How could a small girl who was present for the practice the previous afternoon suddenly die? We were informed that she died due to a snake bite. It was even more intriguing.
The story that unfolded was like this. After school, the school bus dropped the children at their regular stop from where they had to walk a few steps to their societies. But instead of taking the regular cement road, the girl opted for a short cut that was full of grass and weeds. The other students tried to prevent her but she paid no heed to them and ventured alone. Half way through she saw a snake. She was petrified and ran home screaming. Her mother asked her if the snake bit her but she said no, it only passed over her feet. Still, the mother undressed her and checked every part of her body but there was no bite mark anywhere and she felt relieved. The girl said that she wanted to sleep for some time. At
4 pm the mother went to wake her up to feed her but found the child motionless and frothing at the mouth.
The horrified parents immediately rushed her to a hospital where the doctors declared her brought dead. Post mortem reports revealed that poison had spread all over her body. It was a mystery how no bite marks were found anywhere on her feet. Local people said that some snakes spit venom into the eyes and nails. I do not know how far it is true but a young life was lost. It was bad enough that instead of mourning and declaring a holiday we conducted our programme but we did not receive timely information. When we went to visit the family, we saw that they were living in a one-room kitchen that was dingy with no ventilation.
In spite of their poor economic background, they were sending their daughter to a good school. And buying a costume at the end of the month is not easy. The mother was holding the same costume and weeping inconsolably. I saw the photo of the child and recollected that she was the one who asked me about hair style. How cruel fate can be!
Well, Weal and Woe are a part of my profession and I have learnt to take them equally in my stride. How true are the lines of a poem regarding teaching, “ Rugged is the path and weary is the way but fragrant blossoms all through”! Years later, when a fully grown mature adult touches your feet, reminding himself or herself as your ex-student with a glint in the eyes, isn’t it just rewarding?