Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Basawaraj the great!

If there was one memory I would want to keep forever it would definitely be one where Basawaraj asked me to come to his school in 2015 and teach him in class VIII.
I had Eid celebrations to attend in my Epiphany School kids' houses and I thought I would use the holiday to go visit my students from Summer School. Hadapsar was a long way away and I was feeling lazy but my determined students made me come anyway.
I got a call a day before asking me if I was coming. Before I could answer he said "okay so what time will you come?" When I answered "2 or 3 pm" he said okay and hung up. The smart fellow he is, he didn't give me time to make up an excuse or say no. The day of Eid, he called me with instructions to cal him once I reach the bus stand. Again, I wasn't given the opportunity to bail out on him or be lazy.
Now you must be thinking that I am a hopeless heartless person who didn't care about her student's feelings, but I got holidays to sleep and the working days were very tiring. You have got to cut me some slack!
So after the Mela (Refer to IWBAT.... blog) I left for Hadapsar. On reaching the area I was lost because I forgot the address. I called up the mother and she told me that Basawaraj will pick me up. In 2 mins I saw a lanky dark boy with bright eyes riding his cycle in full speed. He was wearing (his favourite) red shirt and was grinning his best grin. At that moment I forgot all my frustration with my class or my struggle to teach. My mind went back to teaching him phonics and appreciating him for his math skills. I recalled the amazing perspective he gave to every discussion we had in class and his speed when he solved a math sum.
As I sat in his house he told me about his school and how he is looking forward to the chess competition. He gave me ideas for my classroom and for my student's behavior management. While watching Chak De India, he took out his science book and notebook and asked me to help him with his homework. Looking at his handwriting I remembered the hopelessness I felt when I corrected his notebook during summer school. While his math book was fun to check, his RC, writing and SST worksheets were a decryption exercise.
We started with science but gave up because he realized I am not going to give him answers but going to make him read and find answers himself. He seemed happier that I refused :)
Once the hour was up and I was fed some very delicious Poha and tea, I left Hadapsar to meet a very angry Snehal. Her mom and she made me promise her that I would come again and visit them soon. I sat in the auto (with a heavy heart) and left, with Basawaraj racing with me. As we left him in his house I felt sad that was returning home.
It was refreshing to meet him. I don't know why he has a very special place in my heart but he does. The great boy that he is, he reminded me of my little brother Dhruv and I felt that love I had been yearning for from my kids in school. I guess we don't get what we want, and we don't know how to work towards getting the things we yearn. He made me realize that all the love and happiness is all inside me, I just need to start expressing it and that will make all the difference.

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

IWBAT experience love and happiness

After days of complaining and whining abut insensitivity and disinvestment from my class, I chanced upon Eid, a day which meant something completely different for me. One day in which I was with them, surrounded by them, loved by them, fed, fussed over and bullied by them. I felt like a friend and still like a respected entity in their life.
Dressing up I was skeptical about going because I have been a monster in school (at least I thought that, but the children had a different story to tell their parents). I ventured out in the pouring rain and searched and hunted to find Rahat's house. A comfortable home in a centrally located building, Rahat's house was decorated with beautiful carpets and bedspreads. Everyone was dressed in Kurtas and churidars. The men were wearing caps and the women has their head covered in an interesting fashion. I was greeted by everyone and looked at with affection and a certain reverence. Never before had I felt more like the teacher I had grown up seeing. The tone with which Rahat's grandfather spoke to me reminded me of my grandfather who would talk to my teachers about me. Her father slyly asked me about her academic performance and gave me an account of her past achievements. As she stood blushing and smiling, he praised the quietest girl in my class and spoke about how talkative she is.
The sheer korma was a delight to taste. A foodie by heart, stomach and mind, I had the best time in my life. I (expected some biriyani and other stuff but was not as comfortable with them to ask for it straight away..) ate two bowlfuls of the milky seviyaan mixed into roasted dry fruits. I  almost asked for the recipe twice but was always stopped by Mahima's non-stop chatter. (Another hero of my class, Mahima is my measure of success during Math class. He question-face is my only enemy during Math lessons. I work hard every minute to get rid of it and in most cases I succeed :) )
As Rahat's relatives came in to wish Eid Mubarak to the family, it reminded me of the Diwali Greetings we gave to friends and family when we visited them during the Diwali season. It suddenly felt strangely like home.
After that we all left for Afiya's house. Full of sheer korma, I was sure I would say hi and leave. But as I entered Afiya's house, her grandmother came and sat with us (I am sorry I forgot to mention. I carried with me a train if VIIIA students: Mahima, her sister, Samruddhi, Riya, her brother and Rahat). Her mother showed off the dresses she bought for her and spoke about the celebrations in her area. Mominpura had the area around their house was explained to me with details of every shop, mela and masjid present. As a result, being so happy with the closeness she expressed, I refused to refuse the sheer korma she offered! That my students bullied me by calling me a well and saying that I would become fat was pardoned for the day..
Post the eating fest, we all went to the mela. I was about to offer to get them tickets when they started insisted that I try a ride. I literally ran away to save my life :)

Now this blog might make even lesser sense to you because I have just written and not really expressed, but I was missing blogging and also was really wanting to document that day.
I feel that there is love in their hearts for their teacher (that is me yeeaay!) but it won't show until I express it for them as well. I have a new something to work on now and that's my "next-steps" for post-unit test plans.

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

Friday, 4 July 2014

Training a Child

3 weeks into teaching and balancing my sanity and my will to teach, I chanced upon this question yesterday: Do we teach our children to be better human beings or do we train them to be so? With parents telling me 'maaro inko agar zaroorat pade toh..kuchh time ke lie hi sahi' and my own frustration when I see them answering back and murmuring defiantly when I ask them to do something, I wondered whether hitting them would make a difference.
In my childhood, I drove everyone crazy. At home, I was the only kid and I was worth 10. I got scolded, shouted at, threatened, locked in and even slapped for all the damage I did and the words I said. At school, I was caned many times because of the dancing and shouting I did in class and also because of the defiant looks I  gave the teachers. All that beating and shouting did make a difference. I am more aware of my behavior now and I know right from wrong, but is it the best way?
I remember reading the chapter on the Gringotts robbery in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. They speak about how the dragons are trained to expect pain when they hear the clankers. They are blinded before the training starts so that their only sense of observation is hearing and feeling of touch. They are hurt during the training while the clankers are making the terrible noise and the pain stops when the clankers stop. Hence, when they hear the noise, they try to get as far away from it as they can, recoiling into a ball in the corner. They cannot make their decision based on their perception of master, enemy or friend, but by the sound of the clankers and the expectation of pain.
Now lets make an analogy. We beat our children when they make a mistake. We scold them to keep them from doing something wrong. We don't teach them right from wrong. Instead, we train them to expect anger, shouting and pain when they do something undesirable. It is not until they are teenagers that they learn right from wrong on their own accord. Till then, it is fear which prevents them from doing wrong and not the conscience.
Now I will come back to my 31 kids at Epiphany High School. (I am not calling it English Medium because what's in a name; they hardly speak that language.) There are days I want to shout at them (which I already do a lot) and then there are moments when I want to skin them alive. I would like to say it is their fault, but I know that it is mine too! Beating them, scolding them and being mean would definitely get me their attention and get my work done, but will I be teaching the value of learning, the need for education and the meaning of discipline? I asked the 9th grade what discipline meant to them and they said we are disciplined if we keep quiet and respect teachers and do work on time. However, none of them could tell me why they needed discipline and what discipline really meant. Did beating discipline into them help? I don't think so.
In conclusion, I believe beating and scolding is a good way of getting everyone's attention because fear is the most powerful tool that can be used to lead (read:rule) a crowd. I also believe that learning cannot be done if one lives under constant fear. How will you open your mind if you are afraid of giving the wrong answer? How will you explore your own thoughts and discuss if you are afraid of the hand which will come crashing on your face because you were talking? How will you expand your knowledge if you are afraid of asking irrelevant questions? Lastly, how will you discover glories of nature and invent life-changing instruments if you are afraid of fulfilling your curiosity?
It is not fear but love for learning, not fear but a strong conscience, not fear but the right perception of right from wrong which will build better human beings. We have to be teachers not trainers. Let us learn the difference!

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