That’s a question to which I’d have to bite back the answer that’s usually raging to burst forth in my frustration. Before I began teaching, I pictured all I’d do as a teacher. Writing about my students figures among the many things I still haven’t done yet. It’s been 3 months since I last posted here. It’s not that I didn’t have time or stories to put up here, it’s that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be voicing all I felt in the past 3 months.
The first month was ok. I was in ‘observer’ mode. Even if days at school were horrible, I’d cut myself slack because you know..”It’s only the beginning.”, “The kids are just testing you.”, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”, “It’ll get better.”
Pushed through to the second month and I realised that waking up in the morning to go to school is still not easy. Until I became a teacher, I had no idea that it’s not just students that try to avoid coming to school. Teachers with a class of seeming juvenile delinquents will find themselves hoping for floods, transport strikes or the apocalypse every morning before school.
Two months in, I hadn’t yet reached the point where my students became people I wanted to meet everyday. They seemed like a terrorist-training camp waiting for me in class 8-C so that they could unleash their evil on me. I hoped students would be absent. I hoped that school area would be flooded. And I’d thought it was only students that dreaded school-day mornings.
I’d also think a taser should be in the teacher kit handed out to teachers in my school. At least a pellet gun. Interrupting a nice lesson a zillion times to discipline a student had become a major piss-off – on some days, my tolerance levels would hit the floor and I’d go batshit crazy on them. At the end of a school-day, getting them to leave class in an orderly manner was the bane of my existence as a school teacher. Other fellows had told me to make them stay back and repeat exit procedures till they did it right..but OH GOD,on most days all I wanted was for them to LEAVE ALREADY! The nicer students, to make sure it’s ok to exit through the door which I guard like a mental dragon on PMS, would ask me very diminutively, “Didi, can I leave?” And then I have to topple many levels down to smile a ‘kind teacher’ smile when my head is screaming ‘PLEASE LEAVEE. LEAVE ME AND GOO! Go far faaar away.’
By this point I’d reached the point where I was very aware of how much my students would benefit from having books to read, trips to any place outside of their slum, a blackboard that didn’t reflect sunlight, a projector to view videos and pictures during lessons. Obviously, I had to reach out for aid. But, I was still so bummed- at their behaviour, at their community, at the school system. I realise now that I was wrong then, but on many of those days you’d find me saying “They don’t deserve anything.” because I was so tired and frustrated. A more-experienced Fellow would gently tell me I was wrong, and that tiny sensible voice in my head would agree but fail to be loud enough to drown out the exasperated voice. In my calmer moments, I’d plan on acquiring funds for my class, but there was never a window of calm wide enough that allowed me to objectively relate my classroom experiences, and act on any ambitious intent I had. So, I waited out that turbulent period and I’m here now.
I’ve now completed 3 months as their teacher, and just as they are not yet the students I wish they’d be, I’m still not the teacher I want to be to them. But, I know I’ll get there sooner than later. And now, three months in, a little worse for wear, but wiser nonetheless, I can tell you what my class is like –
They are not a bunch of small evil persons. They are a classroom of 12,13 year olds who can be incredibly funny, witty and even considerate.
They are not a pack of dogs attacking a wounded pigeon. They are just students who don’t know if a new teacher like me will care about them enough to stay with them.
They are students who like the little boy that pulls the little girl’s pigtails while wanting her affection, rock the boat while waiting for the day when I manage to steady it. (They have very helpfully suggested throwing kids out of our boat. A very practical lot. 🙂 )
As much as my class with it’s fights and gaali-flinging can sometimes look like a zoo gone crazy, they are still only children, and not animals- impressionable children who can be guided down better paths.They are students who have physical and verbal abuse thrown at them and around them daily, and are then asked to choose values of non-violence and respect in the face of all that.
They are students who ask for extra-classes- post school and on weekends because their time in the classroom is better than time in their one-room house in the slum.
And lastly and most importantly, they are students who are certainly not undeserving. I had to try much, much lesser to access the education I was given. And at least my education amounted to something..what they’re offered is a sorry excuse for an education and yet, many of them are there every day grabbing at whatever is offered. If I were in their place, there’s no saying if I’d even have stuck it out till 8th standard. So, this class of mine- they deserve everything I can give them, and more.
This was a chaotic class in progress. That big chart was transitioning from being used as a shelter for 3 students to being a cape. It later became a walking cone in the classroom and finally a floor mat for the cape-wearing, cone-boy who chose to be a homeless beggar in his last act.
At this point, I had the camera out and said I’d be showing the recording of their class behavior to both the principal and their parents. Not such a cool move, but 15 minutes later I had my class in place – as seen below.
One day, this state of calm will last longer than 3 minutes. One day. Soon!