Monday, 16 June 2014

First day blues!

"How was your first day of school?" This question has a deep significance in my life! An introvert, average student and an overachieving class, I never liked school that much. This question was very difficult to answer for me.
After all the years of transformation, friendships, love and other happenings, school became the center of my universe again. As I embarked upon the journey of being a transformational teacher, I realized that this daunting question would need a positive answer if I had to stay put for 2 years. So, I would expect you to ask, "How was your first day of school?" My answer has two words: Exhilarating and Overwhelming.
I woke up late on the first day of school, because I was too excited and anxious to get proper sleep! As I went about my morning business, I realized I had an upset stomach. Now, if it was the (spoilt) tofu of the previous night or the anxiety of teaching 30+ eighth grade students, I am not to sure. Anyways, I did what I had to do, drank a bottle of water and got ready to leave. I walked to the bus stand with fast pace (I was excited and impatient to start my school!) and fortunately caught the bus on time. The bus picked up my pace and I reached school 5 mins earlier than I had planned to.
I didn't have breakfast on the first day of school, because I was too late to make something at home and too late to pick something on my way. (Mom, if you are reading this, I will make breakfast from tomorrow and take) I kept feeling weak throughout assembly, not because I was feeling sick, but because 9 other children fainted, probably because they had not had breakfast this morning.
The assembly was straight out of my memory of St. Agnes' Convent School, my alma mater. 11 years of the prayer "Our Father", bible readings, stand at ease and stand attention, one-hand distance and wear proper uniform came flashing back as I saw an almost dramatic rendition of the same in my school. The difference, I was a teacher now! I had the power.........and the responsibility!
I was thoroughly confused on the first day of school, because I kept wondering about my class, my kids, the school timings and my plans. Confusion is my strongest weakness; if I get confused about something, everything related to it goes haywire. I had my plans with me (written out in detail on my notebook. I would make me proud!) and I had my material. What I didn't have was the confidence, which I lost as soon as I entered the class. Resilient, I still went about executing the plans I made, knowing that I would gain my confidence back soon.
I was overwhelmed on the first day of school, because my kids (every one of them) are a handful. Smart, clever, mischievous and loud-mouthed, they were exactly what I was told they will be. I saw 20 of the smartest kids I have met in Pune, in a classroom where I could do wonders with them. I knew I could learn a lot from them and teach them about the world, but today I knew I had underestimated them. I had planned a 3-hour activity day where I would let them show me what they are and how they behave, without my rules and values. I had made one thing clear that I am here to stay, no matter what they do and gave them one rule that they need to follow my directions. With that I started my day.
My activities had a scaffolded approach. Introduction game, Guess the action, Scavenger hunt and finally a debate on Which sport should I learn(cricket or football)? Their interest kept wavering but when they completely dove into the activity, they were brilliant! At the periphery of the activity(the beginning and the end) they lost their good behavior and culture of achievement and went back to being rowdy and unmanageable.
I almost broke down on the first day of school, because I suddenly felt I couldn't do anything with these kids and that I would break my promise on the first day. That very first dip in confidence in the morning turned into a ravine of depression and I wanted school to get over. I took 30 seconds to pull myself together while I watched them being the adolescents they were and creating a ruckus in class.
I was relieved once school got over and I went for the teacher's meeting. There my mighty savior Anuja Miss sat with me and listened patiently while I vented. I was surprised how positively I vented out the terrors I felt and how I gave solutions to the problems I was narrating. She told me her stories and gave me descriptions of the students of the class. Her earlier description of the class being 'Good' was good enough for the first day, but I needed more for the next 2 years!
In retrospect, I am happy I had this day as my first day. Having complacency as a weakness, I welcome small failures as they keep me on my toes. I already knew what was good and what needed improvement when I sat at my Debrief with Shalini. I would give the credit to my continually reflecting brain and Anuja Miss. I found my solutions being simple and easy-to-implement from tomorrow itself:

  • Set a structure in the class and have expectation setting with the students
  • Ask them to suggest rules for the class (mind you, they are smart enough to do that)
  • Stick to the rules and be firm
Apart from that, all I had to do (which isn't that simple) was continue making my content strong and highly engaging (make it as high as Mount Everest). As planning is my thing, all I had to do was now plan for my students to never be left empty handed.
20 of the finest students, all in one class; I have won the student lottery! I have a great task at hand and very little time to successfully complete it! I have to show them what they are capable of and help through the path of fulfilling their potential. 

I am troubled by who I was and who I want to be, but I am untroubled about who I am now.

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