Tag Archives: School

Waiting: Story 2


Occasion: School assembly – World Environment Day .

Anchor: Coming up next, a group song by H and party!

Well, that would be a relief. We were intrigued too – environment day… song? Soon H and ‘party’ were on the stage – H in the middle and two girls each on her either side. H had on many previous occasions entertained us with both her solo and group performances. And it began –  another typical school group song. The main singer, H, started with a song that did justice to the topic of the day. Her open, bold voice was a sure entertainer. Thus it went on.

So far, so good.

But soon the song ceased to ‘entertain’. H was still singing, but ALL ALONE, yet to be joined and supported by the chorus. It was almost half way into the song, but there was no sign of it being a ‘group’ song. We could no longer pay attention to H’s song. The other four girls stood rooted, perplexed, like the audience who by now were impatiently waiting for the other four to open their mouths. After all why were they there? What was their role? Were they simply accompanying H? Or did they forget their lines? Did they suddenly give up their plan to sing? Was it some kind of a sweet revenge on H? Was it the ultimate WE Day prank?

Within minutes the group/solo identity-confused performance was over. They were courteous enough to thank the patient audience before leaving the stage. Mesmerized by the nature of the performance, even the grade one students (most sincere applauders) forgot to applaud.

*   *  *

I knew the answer would come my way, and it did, shortly afterwards. H and party dropped by with the explanation. Yes, it was actually supposed to be a group song. They had all learned the lyrics. But due to lack of time they could not get a rehearsal together. The poor chorus had no idea when to take out their lines. And thus it ended up a solo! We had a good laugh.

Ever since, the English teachers of the school are found to be using this example for the Third Conditional (Gr.):

If the girls had practised the song together they would have ……… :) 

Waiting: Story 1


“Good! Next, you there, read out your answer, please.” F stood up and started preparing to read. Everything looked just fine, so far, but nobody knew those were the initial peaceful minutes of a slight thriller. Seconds passed by, and she was still preparing to read. A chuckle started to spread all over the class. The busy teacher became curious, and before losing herself to anger, confirmed F had been (physically and emotionally) all right. The friends had no evidence to prove it otherwise. F grew more pathetic and looked at her neighbour helplessly. The teacher, holding on to her last vestige of self-control, tried to encourage her to read. But alas, nothing happened! F was alarmingly quiet as if someone had accidentally pressed her mute button. She miserably gestured something to her friend who failed to decipher it. Already about five precious minutes from those final periods of the Term had been spent in anticipation of an answer that seemed infinitely remote. The  chuckling had by now given way to a perplexed, uneasy silence. Ms. J. , unable to take it any more, stormed out of the class passing this verdict – “Call me when you are ready!” The confused class almost let out a cry, shocked by the disconcerting turn of events.

***

Ms.  J. was at sea. Unlike many previous occasions, that day there was no homework defaulter, leaving no reason for the girls to worry about, or the teacher to take out her vehement sermon the nth time in two months. What must have gone wrong?

As Ms. J. sat there in her room, they arrived – F escorted by the beneficent school leader who of late had been sincerely carrying out her role as the helping angel for the ill-fated ones. “Teacher, she will read it.” Ms. J. readily agreed to the compromise. The angel was asked to leave. F looked desperate to let go the only shield against the  likely onslaught of the annoyed teacher. Having no time to risk that favourable twist, F was released too.

***

No other story might have had a smoother ending. The teacher got back to the class, F read out her answers and the teacher continued from where she had stopped as if nothing had gone wrong.

But Ms. J is still waiting – for F to explain it all to her, someday.

The Silent Bell


“The bell is not ringing!” This was a frequent complaint during the last two days from the annoyed teachers.

To understand the extent of the problem you need to be a teacher. In a school the absence of bell means a standstill. This is how one teacher reported, “I came prepared for the 40 min class, but even after completing it, together with some activities I concocted just now, it’s not getting over. 40 minutes,  this long? What’s going on?” I looked at the clock and sensed trouble. The bell!

The fed up teachers longed to flee the thoroughly enlightened class; the bored students awaited the next teacher for a different kind of replenishment.

Who was responsible? Who had been ringing the bell all these days? Kaka, a hapless victim of the new laws, used to do it. The bell had been punctual all these years and we never noticed the presence, the effort of a human being behind it. We took his service for granted. Now the person has left, leaving the bell dumb and the whole schedule upset.

*       *      *

The attendant is reminded once again, the bell goes and the each one heaves a sigh of relief.

The situation rings a bell and I recall O. Henry’s The Pendulum:

 Nobody heard the click and rattle of the cog-wheels as the third-floor front of the Frogmore flats buzzed its machinery back into the Order of Things. A band slipped, a spring was touched, the gear was adjusted and the wheels revolve in their old orbit.

I reflect: We miss you Kaka. Grateful to you. May God keep you safe, wherever you are!

[Thank you, Julia, for the inspiration!]

Come get roasted!


   “Hurray! Summer is here!” the dust storm announced last week.

I surfed to find out what my friends around the world are up to. The sporty ones are playing games, the foodies trying new recipes, and the fashionable after the fads of the season. Lucky people… I envy! But we, the desert people, have a different story to tell.

Here’s a challenge for you – come down to this part of the world at this time of the year, if you dare!      

  (On the way, don’t let those showy Bougainvillea flowers mislead you. They are kind of rebels, pretending to be cool with their shameless paper smiles. What right do they have to be called ‘flowers’?)

Keep this in mind – I won’t let you have a cool time within the air-conditioned rooms. Because you MUST be where the real Summer has been unleashed on:

* the streets where the laymen drudge,

* the growing buildings where the less privileged/deprived expats work their fingers to the bone, just a few feet below the bloody sun,

* the stuffed classrooms and the tin-roofed playgrounds, where the commoners teach, work, study and play….

(Sorry, I can’t enlighten you on the summer life in the other parts of the desert as I am not so familiar with it. But I guess it must be much worse.)

No, no, that is not enough to get the heat across. What about a dash of lava on my post? Step back!

Into some bitter realities at least a few of the schools have to face during summers:

  1. Summer schedule – it’s awesome! The glad news is that one should be up by 4.30 (usually this is time I will be chased by a lion in the land of Nod, or stupefied by an exam paper I am not prepared for.) to get into the school bus by 5.30 and reach the school by 5.55 a.m. Don’t worry, the nasty, insomniac Sun will already have lit up the whole city.
  2. As the mercury rises steeply on certain days we will have to turn off our AC’s to keep those in the class rooms running. (We do it without grumbling – call it dedication, sacrifice or such equally noble, dignified terms.) That means others who are not in the class rooms most of the time, including me, will be left with a few options. They can get 1. melted down, 2. roasted, 3. boiled, 4. simply evaporated. That depends on the stuff they are made of. I think I am wax – I am melting.
  3. After the first two or three hours of the confrontation with the heat, we will start getting hallucinations and see mirages. One may feel like a soaring hot air balloon, then gradually floating… It’s a wonderful sensation.
  4. You may be wondering how we cope with such hostile weather conditions. Thanks for the concern, but it’s just a matter of two-three days, after which …… we will get used to it. Invention’s mother (you know, Ms. Necessity) is a pretty good teacher. We have become wise enough to realize it will feel better with the computers and lights turned off – like ‘from the burning fire into the frying pan’. Ah, that’s a different version of the same experience. Just for a change.
  5. Advantages? Yes, I have ferreted out one. We can completely forget about the loo – our bladders will usually be empty, as the skin might have become too leaky to hold any fluids in. We only need to sponge up the sweat from the exposed parts of our body. So keep boxes and boxes of tissue papers handy.
  6. We have eked out one more advantage. Even in the school compound we usually wear the abaya, the full length black robe. But since last week we have thrown them away, because the heat is that unbearable! Now most of them have taken out their collections from the last vacation. Blessing in disguise. Lewd eyes go to hell.

I am sure this won’t scare you away and you will definitely include this ‘hot’ spot in your itinerary. On the other hand, if your summer schedule has already been fixed, in your prayers request Him to cut our summer short. And for your kind information, we have decided to stay back here for the summer vacation as part of our declaring solidarity with the local community in their misery. (Don’t be amiss that it has something to do with the skyrocketing airfares.)

Long live our trees


 Our little environmentalists from grade five did their bit towards creating awareness among the students on the World Environment Day. Aren’t their posters cute?

1. DEFORESTATION

2. SAVE EARTH

3. CHIPKO

4. COME TOGETHER

5. CHIPKO

6. AGAINST DEFORESTATION

Once again my favourite tree quote:

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Indian Proverb

Editing Nostalgia


How do you make use of your past, I mean, your distant past whose wounds are long cauterised?

We merrily let ourselves stray to the (so-claimed) picture-perfect days of our distant past, only to dwell upon the deterioration of modern times. How many of you could solemnly assert that, in every sense your past outshines your present?

Some recent insights have gainsaid a few of my long-cherished convictions, the most striking one being those about my school life.

It’s true that my school used to obsess my thoughts as a green pasture. But ask me what I enjoyed there, and you find me groping for words. All I could dig up is hardly a handful of such jolly instances juxtaposed with a longer list of scathing or scary ones!

No resentment. No plans to pay back. Because if things went wrong for me they were merely the reflections of my attitude – years later I am mature enough to say so. Now looking at the educational system from a teacher’s standpoint, it is quite lucid why the abilities of timid students are rarely ferreted out and thereby go unsung, especially when they have no feathers of academic excellence to sport on their mortar boards. I was one of those few diffident lads later doomed to repeatedly chant “If I had been more …

Then why all the hoodwinking, while reality has always been plain as day?

This is how my conscience puts it across. “You feared getting stamped and sidelined as the black sheep when it is customary to exalt school life. The easy way out was to feign a happy teenager and keep on crooning: Oh, how I wish to be a school girl once again!”

  • Nostalgia is an emotional state in which an individual yearns for an idealized or sanitized version of an earlier time period.

That well expounds it. We idealize or sanitize our past. Communication experts term it Selective Retention. We retain only what makes us happy while we connive at the bitter ones. When the present turns grim, our conscience turns to the past for solace.

But what if both past and present are equally despicable? Patch up the past, and tag it ‘nostalgia’. If you can make yourself fanatically believe in your renovated past, you are nostalgically happy. Cool!

  • Nostalgia is excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.

Nostalgia is the haven of the ‘excessively sentimental.’ Note that it is far from reality as it is just a yearning for something lost forever.

Even history has  repeatedly been subject to this sanitising process. So I can excuse myself, a ‘nobody’, for that fib about my school life.

What about the other places/persons in my nostalgia-list? Scrap them too?

Thank God I was not so ill-starred to go to that extent. I would rather accept my past with all its lapses, than laud them to utopian levels. We and our lives have never been perfect, so why should we strive to sanitize our past or feed ourselves on lies when that won’t, in the least, improve our present?

A wounded soul returning for revenge – that’s just fiction, I believe. The past won’t/can’t hurt forever.

Learn that nostalgia is a “sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present” (Sydney Smith).

I am not old, and I have proved it. What about you?

In Honour of the Tree


(‘If we could ask you a favour’ continued…)

Nature is at our disposal but not at our beck and call. The
people, especially the upcoming generation should realize this.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of the ninth graders, this time we
presented a handful of programmes appealing the students to be more responsible towards nature.

Many of the students have already started taking care of the
tree after I had discussed with them the plight of the tree. Another teacher
decided to shift her special one hour morning class to another room, hoping to
cut down its misery.

We inaugurated the special assembly watering the tree. Well,
today with this symbolic deed, we were able to spread the message to the whole school, I hope.

Let the students know something more about the whereabouts
of the tree.

Hey, look at the tree – doesn’t it look happy, being the
centre of attraction?

The tenth graders donated a potted plant to the school –
another meaningful gesture from the students.

Every student had something to do this Environment Day. Each
one was asked to bring a green paper leaf with their name on it. And with those
600+ ‘girl leaves’ we created this tree. Paper leaves are no substitutes for
the real ones, we know. But this was meant to be symbolic of what we need to have, for our survival.

And furthermore, to add a little bit of green to my own world….

A few days ago I received a gift from one of the students
who passed out with flying colours in the Board Examination. That was the greenest, coolest gift I have ever received.

Notebook or Art Book?


I usually wind up my advice sessions in class with this point, “These are merely suggestions. You need not limit yourselves within the lines I have drawn. Feel free, go to any extend to express your creativity – and that’s what I ultimately expect from you.” Majority of them happily follow just what I say. I call them good, obedient students. Many of them dare to be innovative. They are excellent students.

But geniuses incarnate rarely. Last year I got such a student (glad to have her with me this year too) – an avid reader and a gifted artist who thinks out of the box.

What makes her notebook stand out is her ability to artistically represent what she visualizes out of the lessons. Almost the whole lesson will be there in pictures and captions. If it is a poem, literally each and every image will come alive in her unique style of drawing. Each time she gave me her book for correction she offered me an intellectual, visual treat.

Take a look at these illustrations.

This is how she began.

A lot of details about the authors are collected and included.

This is how she illustrated the classic poem by Tennyson – ‘The Brook.’ Have a closer look at the details and you can see that she has included even the minute points from the poem.

Song of the Rain by Khalil Gibran

Anyone who has read Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Reaper’ would not need any more explanations here. What attracted me is her imagination to make the three singers stand on the victory stand, giving the first position to the reaper.

Finally this is one of my favourites – Pam Ayres’ ‘Oh I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth.’

These are the original creations of a 14-year-old girl born into an ordinary family. Are the parents fully aware of potentials of this prodigy? I am not sure. Anyway these days they are seriously thinking about her higher studies – she aspires to be a doctor. May God help her and all the deserving students like her.

I Shall Do That for My Students


I should teach better – that is it. For the past few days I have been thinking about the new methods and techniques I should adopt for the betterment of my students. Although about to round off a decade in teaching profession, I have no plans to settle down contented with the experiences of the decade.

Many of the methods that I mastered in the beginning of my teaching career have become irrelevant or outdated. The students who I teach today were born into the technologically advanced days. They are more proficient than we teachers in many aspects. But there are a few qualities that students expect from teachers irrespective of the age in which they live – the qualities that stand the test of time.

I respect all my teachers for what they have done for me. But just a few of them are adored – for the seemingly simple things they did for me.  

[I am immensely grateful to the following teachers of mine:

Mrs Annie, for the chance she ONCE gave me to run errands for her while I was in grade two!

Mrs Shobana, for the positive comments she ONCE made on my exam paper!

Prof. E. John Mathew, for the effort he took ONCE to comment on the good features of my essays!

Mr. Ramankutty, for appreciating my answers in front of a batch of aspiring journalism students!]

A personal touch matters a lot in any relationship. So why not bring that into the student-teacher relationship too?

All good teachers are not favourite teachers. And all favourite teachers need not be good teachers (considering the quality of teaching). My dream is to be both to my students.

Tomorrow onwards I will have to teach two large classes – class ten and nine with thirty-five and forty-five students respectively. Personal attention to each one of those eighty students – is that feasible? I take up the challenge – cheerfully!