SUITE 1984 READING CLUB

How I Landed My First Job

Every life experience makes us stronger, and often, wiser

Photo by Erika Fletcher on Unsplash

1983.

My mother, a single parent and a school teacher struggled to make ends meet. She taught at one school from 7 a.m to 1 p.m, then, after a hurried lunch (or a missed lunch most days) traveled to another school to work the afternoon shift until 5 p.m. Then, she tutored our neighbor’s high school daughter from 5 p.m to 7 p.m.

By the time she returned home, it was close to 8 p.m. We would have a quick dinner and she would deal with school work that she brought home, and prepare for the next day before falling into bed, exhausted. And it would seem like we had barely closed our eyes when the alarm would go off at 5 a.m.

And she was back to the grind.

Graduation

By the time it was time for me to graduate from college in 1983, I was quite impatient. I was at a loose end as I waited for the exam results to be out and receive my Bachelor of Science degree.

I was impatient to get a job.

I did earn a little cash teaching high school French, English, math, and science during my college days. This took care of some expenses. I was also truly grateful to receive a merit scholarship for poor students. But I couldn’t wait to graduate and get a full-time job, earn a decent income — and make mom’s — our lives — easier.

Of course, I secretly dreamed of being a rock star, and my mom not-so-secretly believed I was one, although her perception of the phrase was different. I also had lofty visuals of a very successful me doing great things and naturally, changing the world and making it a better place. Naturally.

Looking for a job

And so, when one of mom’s colleagues at school had to take a three-month sabbatical to study for her exams, she requested me to stand in for her. I was skeptical. I had never envisaged myself as a school teacher. Maybe a guest speaker occasionally, but settling into the routine of a school teacher? Not me.

My mom, however, managed to emotionally blackmail me by pointing out how I’d really be helping her friend out and how could I decide about something without trying it yada yada, and I reluctantly agreed.

Back To School

So I got my first job. As a Lower Kindergarten (LKG) school teacher. One thing I believe is that nothing in life comes without its perks, no matter how tough we assume it to be. And this job was no exception.

For one thing, I love kids. I had four hours and a class of forty cuties for company. Most of them spent half their time cuddling up and filling my ears with baby talk or asking hilarious questions — all in Gujarati, a language I barely knew at the time.

One kid would ask me my name every day.

Another was so keen on homework, that she’d ask “gharey lakhwano?” a hundred times.

A little boy would keep asking me where I lived.

Then there were the quiet ones that just hung on to my saree and wouldn’t leave my side.

Oh, they also insisted I share their lunch, a little box of dry fruits! I enjoyed myself tremendously, playing pretend games with these little ones while my mom smirked with an I-told-you-so expression whenever she passed by.

My first day as a school teacher

I remember my first day vividly, all dressed up in a starched and neatly pressed cotton saree and being introduced to my class. I had a hard time not laughing at the forty cherubic faces looking at me in anticipation. As soon as the principal left, they started talking all at once.

Besides the babysitting — that’s what it really was — what else does one do with four- and five–5-year-olds? I also organized activities to keep them engaged. Coloring, playing, and, hold your breath, homework. I also taught them the alphabet, which was in the syllabus.

One thing they really enjoyed was washing their hands — which meant playing in the water. I often had to clean them up after their out-of-class activities and that included potty. Invariably the school “ayah” or maid was never around during those times.

And no, nobody wore diapers those days. They invariably informed me . . . after they were done — in their seats — in the classroom. The thought of that — and the “Miss! Miss! kakka!” still makes me laugh.

Teaching is a work of heart ❤

Other perks of the job?

There were so many!

Commuting with Mom.

Spending a lot of time laughing, talking, and window-shopping together.

Eating lunch together.

It was absolutely wonderful.

Since mom taught the higher grades, her day ended at 2:30 p.m, while mine was done by noon. I filled the time until she finished by helping out with other classes whenever a teacher was absent, shopping for the library, taking care of school trips, and escorting students who had to go out representing the school in some activity or competition. It really was fun.

Oh yeah, I also indulged in drawing on the chalkboard! It is like bubble wrap you know. Irresistible. (Yes, I still have a blackboard and a whiteboard at home!)

I especially loved Saturdays, when the school worked half days. The kindergarten wound up at 10:30 a.m while the rest of the school worked until noon. After that, mom and I would eat lunch with the other staff, and sometimes stay on to finish school work, or leave.

We’d walk around the area — a great place for shopping — looking at the shops, coveting sarees, and wrapping up with a few soft serve cone ice-creams at a particular shop. The cones were just one rupee each (back in 1983, 1 USD was 10 rupees, so do the math)

We’d then take the bus home. Arrive around 3:30 p.m. 4 p.m and make coffee.

Then I’d regale my grandma with my stories for the day.

And thus, the three-month stint sped by. I was almost sad when the teacher returned after her exams. In fact, the school was kind enough to offer me a full-time job. Tempting as it was, I chose not to accept.

I learned so much during those three months. Being a school teacher, especially to preschoolers is no cakewalk. Keeping them engaged and happy is a challenge. And when they cried, oh boy! Heart-breaking!

The memory of those little hands grasping their pencils to draw lines in their notebooks still squeezes my heart. The sound of the whole class reciting a poem after me in one voice — goosebumps!

I am happy to think I started off a couple of systems there, one of which included storing a set of spare clothes and art supplies, rather than depending on the little ones to carry them.

I landed my first corporate job in 1984 in a large group of companies and went on to build my career and did pretty well, quitting in 1997 to get married. Ironically, one of my areas of work in my last corporate job was Sales and Marketing Training.

As mom loved to say, life does come a full circle.

Naturally, my first job has a solid place of pride in my heart. It is true that every life experience makes us stronger, and sometimes, wiser. Spending time with the kindergarten class is good for the soul.

Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles ❤ Did you smile today?

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