Kirsten my "waiter" son.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Making a Difference – Part I

I once received a ‘forward’ which demonstrated that just one key of the typewriter could make a difference to the meaning of an article. To illustrate, here is one sentence of the entire text-“But somxtimxs typists havx troublx with onx particular kxy”. The message one gets is that each one of us can make a difference in whatever field or profession we are in, even if it is only being a ex-teacher, home-schooling Mom like me.
I started my career as a teacher way back in 1992 when I was a spinster, fresh out of SXIE, Mumbai. Being an idealistic teacher, I strove to make significant dents in the profession. I found very few takers, with my colleagues rebelling as well as the parents of my wards. Learning took a back seat as we all worked hard to complete portions and ‘look good’ in the eyes of the management - and the Education Dept, that paid us our salaries.
We had to shepherd large flocks, sometimes as overwhelming as 74 children in one class. It was a Herculean task, one we were never trained for. Class control was my Achilles heel, and it ate into the precious time that should have been rightfully spent on set induction, content matter and application. We could never go beyond knowledge, comprehension came once in a blue moon, application had been thrown out of the dust-covered window long ago so new ideas just couldn’t see the light of day.
I would spend my afternoons after school, struggling to correct note-books that were bad copies of the text, and I usually landed up correcting spelling mistakes instead. By the time I was through, the book had more red ink than blue! Little wonder then that the poor guys never scored anything higher than pass marks. But they were never saddened, only relieved that they could move ahead to the next class. Education was all about getting to the next and then the next rung of the ladder that would lead them to that coveted degree and later a prestigious high-salaried job.
I couldn’t make the personal connection that I longed for because of the sheer numbers. I had developed a method to get their names right, though. Every year, I would ‘study’ my attendance list by heart, matching roll number to name. By the time the first test came around, I was ready to identify the ‘good, bad and ugly’. Fortunately the ‘ugly’ ones were few in number. These were the confirmed rebels, who never completed books, even after repeated remarks and being kept out to adorn the corridors. They were the ones who failed, and that reflected badly for us teachers. It was the ‘bad’, however, that drove me crazy. I wanted to educate them and they only wanted to ‘PASS’. They were so many in number and so unconcerned; their parents too were the same. One parent would come only when her son needed grace marks to clear a subject. Another would stand near my desk, as I lectured to her on how her ward could improve his scores, with such a vacant expression that I longed to give her an electric shock. There was no self-worth in these boys; they just hovered between life and death - life if they passed and death if they failed.
The ‘good’ boys were the ones I either ignored or used. I ignored them because they ignored me. They only revered their tuition masters and coaching classes. I was an ignoramus to most of them. But they were a useful resource when it came to mass corrections. I would assign each of them a handful of books to check for completion of books; a necessity, since that signature at the end meant the teacher had done her job and the student was now ready to answer his exams. Till today, I cannot say with confidence what my students wrote in their books. For all I know they could have written love letters to the girls of the convent school just a furlong away. But my ‘good’ boys knew and I relied on their goodness.

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