Essential notes from a teacher’s diary
(to my students and Falguni Dattani, whose efforts inspired me to do the same)
My first year as a teacher will be complete in a month or so and naturally, it is time to look back with overwhelming nostalgia. Some of my friends and relatives still consider my decision to take up teaching as, how do I put it, “a lazy decision”. To be honest, I had my doubts at the beginning when I started with the first graders at the A-One School. I was this young, dreamy girl who looked like an upstart when tried to talk in English. I had big ambitions and even bigger confusions. Everything about my new job was frustrating for a while. Teaching a bunch of eight-year olds when you are in your early twenties is not something I would advise anyone, even my enemies. It requires an enormous amount of patience and love. In fact, I remember when one of the classes gave me a hard time and I went into the school bathroom and cried. After that day, I learnt that entering a class without a plan is as dangerous as walking up to a pack of hungry hyenas. Another thing I learnt from this job was how to control my anger. These three words,”Control your anger” works on a multiple level as an advice. An angry teacher can never teach. People very wisely advised me, “Look angry, don’t be angry”. I never really understood or even, mastered that feat until I joined the morning shift and spend a few week teaching the sixth standard. That was when I truly evolved. It is funny how my first impression of that class consisted of the word “quiet”; because when it came to that bunch of forty five students, I was going to learn everything the hard way. In fact, during the initial weeks, I would have gladly walked up to a pack of hungry hyenas if given a choice. But all that shouting and screaming made me understand something very important. I have to accept their nature and understand them and sometimes even respect them and only then, I can change them. They are human beings too and they expect a certain level of discretion from me too. They were a handful and did not understand what sarcasm was, which is a problem since I was still too immature to have patience with their nonsense. To an occasional visitor, they are cute, even adorable. But professionally speaking, to teach them English when all they wanted to do was run around was a formidable task. At that time, I was really grateful for the few kids who were intelligent and sincere enough to learn and grasp what I tried to teach and helped me restore some confidence in myself and my methods. A teacher is always silently thankful to the few good-natured kids who are earnest to learn. It is something that we never express but we are always indebted to them. If that is true for every teacher, it rings true for me too. I am highly indebted to the second graders of the noon shift. Those twenty students were the sole reason, on some days, why I kept coming back to teach. They were eager to learn, expressed in their own sweet ways their love for me when I least expected it. There were days when after a few lectures everything seemed meaningless and then I would enter their class and they would greet me with such vigorous smiles which made all my fatigue vanish in a matter of seconds. The fact that they were quick-learners made things really easy for me. It was after spending time with them that I vowed never to be boring around them. I owe them that much. Life was going smooth and I was happy with the number of tasks that I was juggling in the noon-shift. But, the real test was yet to come. It was only when I moved to the morning shift to teach the higher standards, I realized that there is more potential within me. Before I joined them, the new shift, I was scared beyond expression. I was soon going to realise that deep down inside, I crave to be one of them, to live their life and I really needed to let go of those childish desires. I became the class teacher of class seven and only after a few weeks, I began to understand how lucky I was. Why was I lucky? They are just students, right? For me, it was so much more. They were my responsibility now. Being a class teacher would be a trivial thing for those who have had the experience; but for a mere girl of twenty one, who has had an overprotective sister, over-caring mother and no experience with any responsibility whatsoever, this was a massive undertaking. I was never the one who took care of another, who had to be responsible of someone’s progress and presentation. In fact, until last November, I was still reveling in the “reckless teenager” mode and adamantly refused to give that up. I held it like a privilege. When I first walked into the seventh standard, I involuntarily put on a mask to hide all that crap. It was the students who made me realize that now, I was expected, not to act, but to become a responsible adult. Simple things like monthly place-change, weekly assemblies or even standing still for two minutes for the national song was challenging. Thirty eight students judging a skinny new teacher who came into their lives from nowhere. What did they expect from me? Will they like me? Have they already started comparing me with their old teacher? And the worst of all was, Do they resent me? But they were more patient with me than I was with them. I don’t remember the exact details but I saw each one of them as a puzzle. With time, I understood that patience was the key. Those were the times when I started to hate myself for being an introvert. I wanted to express a million thoughts but ended up with a bunch of good moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It is true when they say that when it is your first time, every experience has a magnified effect on you. For instance, they will probably never know how happy I was when I played football with them on the school picnic. It is one of those rare moments that makes you smile whenever you think about it. The first time a student of my class looked gloomy for not getting the desired results (I remember him as a strong and outspoken child), the effect of his sad face stayed with me for a week. I felt like I failed him. I think I will always remember some of the students of my class, especially class seven. When they created a havoc during my first paper showing session, I desperately wanted to gather the proper words and make them understand that it is what you learn for your mistakes, will stay with you forever. I can’t blame them for being short-sighted; after all, they are nothing but mere students. Every morning when I wake, I push myself to become better and it is easy to do that when there are students who are sincere and earnest. Every morning when they close their eyes to pray, I imagine all the great things they are destined to accomplish and how proud they will make their parents some day and then, I close my eyes for a second, and silently, in my own way, ask God for the energy and wisdom to give my best to them.