Day 67: St. Anger round my neck 

Why do you take everything so seriously, S?“, she asked, puzzled.

Because I did not give up a career of ten years and a steady, fat income, to not care, acting like it’s all OK. Ms. JK“, I retorted and an unplanned stream of tears trickled down my cheeks. Breaking point.

For the last year in college, I’ve been working with teachers to point out gaps in the syllabi and identify ways to make it tighter. During that period, I’ve continued to hear all the popular education-specific jargon in class. We’ve studied about everything, from student-centered learning, to individualized teaching, to comprehensive assessments and modern, innovative teaching methods. We’ve heard about all of this in theory.

Because, in reality:

  • We are still forced to study that same outdated syllabus because it seems to be etched in stone and unchangeable. “Your feedback will be incorporated into subsequent years’ syllabi“, I hear
  • That outdated syllabus is so spineless that teachers themselves comment about how the intended hours are not at all required. They’d rather have us sit in class and work on ‘something’ because there are many more classes to use up
  • In a class of three, we are still taught from an ancient PowerPoint presentation that some alumni must have made as a part of their assignments – poorly researched and outdated
  • Until I brought it up as a teaching method, most teachers did not even consider the option for us to research and present or teach some topics. It would have been 100% teacher-driven, if not for that
  • Almost every teacher on roll takes a defensive stance the minute a point of discussion is brought up. Questioning an ideology or stereotype is effectively looked as a questioning of their subject matter experience
  • None of the teachers have an educational specialization. Our sociology professor is a expert in History
  • We learn meaning, definition and all such synonyms of a concept for 4 hours, because apparently we are providing individualized instruction to the weakest in the class. What about the others that are ready to move on?
  • All instruction is limited to the four walls of the classrooms. We’re, after all, not English literature students to take the teaching to the garden
  • Experiences through workshops and seminars are awarded like candy to a diabetic. In measured and restricted doses
  • You’re expected to continue with your research and data collection, while they continue to have theory classes through the day. Data will magically appear if you pray hard enough.

The experience of trying to change the archaic ways used to deal with students, and content, especially of the Masters courses, has been demoralizing and soul sucking. In the last two days, I’ve questioned every single decision in my life that has led me to this point. I moved from an industry where we were pioneering BYOD and digital nomadism, to one where technology equates to PowerPoint presentations and nothing more. I moved from a group discussing through brainmaps and deciding their work-wear based on their day’s meetings, to one where concept maps ‘do not have the continuity of language’ and the dress code is set by a senile lady to not distract the Fathers on campus.

Every career has it’s pitfalls; my past life had enough for me to up and leave. So, maybe I’m just living the phase where everything in hind-sight is 20-20. But it does seem that as an industry, or specialization, the education department is the most resistant to change. We are tasked with equipping the bright minds of tomorrow, for tomorrow, and yet we are the most deep-rooted in the past. The content and the teaching methods are so aged that the student teachers graduating will be left in a state of shock when thrown into a class full of technology addicted 10 year olds.

11 years ago, my Civil Engineering degree did not land me a job in an IT multinational. My reading outside class hours did. Would this degree follow suit and be just another degree? Would all the learning happen outside, in my own time and under my own direction, again? If so, then what is the while point of having taken two years off to attend a full-time course?

“Relax, S. Sometimes it helps to go with the flow, enjoy life, and see what tomorrow has in store for us. 

Now, can you share some of that wonderful egg, please?” Scotch

Day 60: 2 months of Journaling

It’s Day 60. Except for a few days where I had to hold off the blogging for another day, because of work, stress or lack of motivation, I’ve written (or ranted) consistently for the last 2 months. I is definitely been fun. I think I see enough value in this little project to keep going.

They say old habits die hard and there are a number of these ‘old habits’ from my past life that have followed me into this new one. They’ve been mostly received with appreciation, and some amount of awe, and I think I’m not letting go of those in the near future.

So, I decided to run one of those process – oriented tools on my blog. I went ahead and did a Start-Stop-Continue analysis on the journal.

Start

  • Writing on a daily basis
  • Including more research-based data (yes, even day to day observations can be backed by research)
  • Observing and reporting on the little things that matter

Stop

  • Putting off for tomorrow what can be done today
  • Making every post sound like a rant
  • Chasing Scotch around with a phone camera

Continue

  • Chasing Scotch around with a phone camera
  • Using Scotch as the anti-ego to all posts
  • Having fun while blogging.

What surprised me the most about the blog is the readership, something that I did not anticipate when I started off. Some of you have been regulars, following me, reading every post and sharing your thoughts and opinions on what I write about. You’re my new best friends. Hang around and I promise to give you that fast pass into my thoughts. Some of you have popped in once in a while, caught up on things that matter to you and me both, and left your love behind. Do keep coming back.

A strange aspect of my Indian upbringing, something that I wrote about as early as Day 2, is the importance I seem to associate, albeit unknowingly,  to competition. I see this part of my psyche act up when I look into the Insights section and see a spike in the visitors. I am slowly getting out of the mindset that a quantitative assessment or a number can help judge the value associated with an act. I am trying to slowly look away from the Insights feed, and qualify my experience through the few that do go on this journey with me and the kind of relationships we build over time.

So, here’s to 60 days of journaling, and at least 60 more to come.

Yes, Fun! Journaling! Exciting! Whatever! Can you get those kids off the water tank, Please? Irresponsible parenting, I say. I’m going to bark my tail off until they get down from there.” Scotch

Woof!

Day 48: Fear

An episode in Modern Family got me thinking about fears. What am I scared beyond my wits about? I have two biggies, actually.

One: Water. Don’t get me wrong. I love the ocean and any other water body. The beach will always be my favorite spot. But, the water scares the living senses out of me. I tried to go to swimming classes to knock the fear out. Couldn’t get myself to do the back float, and there ended my struggle to conquer that fear.

The fear is a weird one because it hasn’t stopped me from jumping into the water at the first opportunity I get. I remember jumping into the turquoise blue waters off the coast of Key West and having a blast. Turns out a life jacket could save me after all. I had nightmares about drowning for a month after that. But was completely worth it. I remember our canoe toppling over and stranding us on a sand bank, mid river in the Boundary waters of Minnesota, and the view completely blowing my mind off. That stayed with me a while too.

Two: Confined spaces. This one is a biggie, because it completely ruined spelunking for me. I still dream about this little hole on the floor of a cave series in Minnesota, called the Dragon’s jaw, that I did not go into, because I was confident of getting stuck. The beauty of the jaw is that it’s accessible only one week a month. On other weeks, the water from the stream rises up, completely submerging the entrance to the caves on the other side.

I still see the entrance in my dreams sometimes, and feel the eerie silence from them. I sat in that cave, all alone, waiting for my friends to come out of dragons jaw, and couldn’t decide if this side was better than the other. I could hear giggling, and splashing, and fearlessness from them, and yet fear from within. I felt the walls closing in for the first time.

I hate the water. Period. No baths, no rivers, no sea, not even drinking water for me. 

Heights, I’m OK with. That’s actually fun.” Scotch 

Day 46: Quiet Cracks

Quiet

We walked into the Special School today and immediately knew something was amiss. An eerie silence had replaced the usual cacophony of bawling and yelling. Turned out that the whole school had driven over to the main school, to do a stage rehearsal of the skit. I was excited and dejected, all in one. We hadn’t seen a single rehearsal this far and were hoping we’d see them practice today. Turns out we’ll directly see our skit performed on stage.

With the kids gone, and no constant questions from Jeslyn to worry about, we got a lot of work done on the props today. We colored the car, cut out the scooter, colored its tyres and the seat. I even managed to make little number plates for both before the kids came back from practice, jumping with excitement.

Mum had donated 7 of her sarees that were never getting worn but were presentable. I brought it to the loom so the kids could do their magic and give me 2 big carpets. I’m looking forward to their call in September to pick up my finished product.

Cracks

There was an underlying cold air amidst the three of us through the whole day. While we were able to keep some of the differences aside and work professionally, it was clear that there was a crack in the China and no amount of mending could fix it.

I drove with Ms. RS to college earlier today and caught her up on the Religion’s drama. Having been an alumni of the same program that I am in, she was able to relate to similar issues in her senior batch, her own batch and her junior batch too. I remember, AA was frustrated by the time he reached the 4th semester, and couldn’t wait for the ordeal to be over. Would I be in a similar state in half a year too?

All these data got the two of us wondering if the teachers in the department were catalysts to these discernments in a huge way. A majority of the teachers here are catholics, in a catholic institution, teaching sisters like SrA every year. Say what you might but there’s only so much objectivity they can bring in. Teachers definitely pick favorites early on, their little caddies to run their errands and play administrative staff. I remember this from school too: the popular kids that ran behind teachers with their bags and books. Would you really grade you caddy poorly and continue to expect him to pick up after you?

When bound by their duty to their profession and to their religion, what would the teachers pick first? There lies one key problem in our secular, but not so secular, education system.

Sigh! Why are you so caught up in this religion blah, S? 

Relax. Do your karma. Give me some food. The rest will follow.” Scotch 

Day 45: Growing up right

I have still not recovered from the drama yesterday. SrA walked into class expecting everything to be normal. Nope, it will never be. When I leave the class, she tells A that she sat till 8PM the previous day (the BIG day), and two of her friends from the B. Ed class did the screenshots for her. “DID” it for her. And that’s exactly what we didn’t do, remember? Because we only ‘told’ her how to do it. She was seen in GD’s cabin till very late last evening, crying her heart out. I can only imagine the flow of conversation there.

Apparently the reason she broke down was because I told her to press “fn + PrtSc” to print her screen, where as in her laptop, she just had to press “Print Screen”. Yes, I am supposed to know every model of laptops out there and their key pads. If she had spent 3 minutes of the time she spent bawling like an imbecile, she would have realized what the right method was. 1 minute to figure out Fn + PrtSc dint work, 1 minute to figure out Win + PrtSc dint work, and 1 more to just hit the Print Screen button. OR, 3 minutes to google how to take a print screen for her laptop. Nope, a more productive way to use every body’s time was to cry like a three year old that did not get candy at the fair.

I am reminded of my dad’s response to my crying when I was in my tens. I invariably burst into tears at the slightest rebuke. Discussion, argument, point of view, were all unknown to me back then. And the minute he saw those tears roll by, he’d say, “I don’t see a reason why you are crying right now. Maybe we should give you a valid reason to cry”. This was, invariably, followed by a quick, tight slap. And I stopped crying. Us girls have abused the tears for too many years to get our way around, and as a feminist, it worries me. I’ve seen a number of women at work tear up because their code did not execute, and have had a team-full of men sit with them through the night to fix their buggy, poorly written code. I’ve been in heated arguments with ex-boy friends that completely became one-sided (to my benefit, of course) when the tears rolled down. I was, in fact, asked to fake-cry recently, when my Uber had an accident with a speeding auto and other women in the auto were up to take all my money.

“I Love You” and “I am Sorry” are the most abused 3-words. I’ve added the “I am crying” to that list as of today.

“I am going to cry now if you don’t fill my dinner bowl already. What do you mean I already ate dinner 1 hour back? I’m still hungry, yo!” Scotch

My bowl is empty! Again!

Day 44: Religion’s Drama

Buoy, did the Tuesday end with the drama of the century!

We had a group presentation that the three of us split the work into, SrA, A and I, and we were due to submit it today. We reviewed all our work and started consolidating before the class, when we realized that SrA had done a lazy-ass Copy-Paste, and did not pull up screenshots that we really required. So, I explained the simplest Windows function, Print-Screen, to dearest SrA. 15 minutes, and no progress. A went a step ahead, walked up to the board to replicate the keyboard, and drew it out. Of course, SrA had shut down by then.

No amount of our telling anything to her on how to take a simple screenshot of the screen took us any closer to where we had to be. As GD, our teacher, walked in, SrA had gone into a trance, had completely tuned us out, and was staring at the same dot on the screen. GD checked on progress, we updated her about the only missing piece, a 15-minutes’ worth screen print, and how we’d finish it up in a bit. GD acquiesced, smiled, and noticed SrA’s trance. One small probing question, and SrA started the water works.

I haven’t such a dramatic wailing in years; assuming I did something like this when I was 5. For at least three long minutes, she was stuck to the door, crying like her life was at stake. When A brought her back, and GD started asking SrA to settle down, SrA went into this major ramble about not knowing SPSS, or anything technical, and us trying to help her extensively, but she not understanding technology at all, and having spent time till 2 AM the previous day, and not having slept at all for the last few weeks, and us being helpful and her not being able to reciprocate at all. Of course, GD was overflowing with concern for her mentee’s feelings, being a sister of the Christian congregation and all. The height of dramatics in the whole episode was unimaginable; hands flaying up in the air, falling body-front on to the desk, pulling GD towards herself and pushing her away; dramatic to the C.

The charade went on for 20 minutes, a class of 3 and of 45 minutes, completely disrupted by one person’s inability to learn how to take a screenshot on their laptop.

If I had any respect for the clergymen, and women, this drama squashed it entirely. I have seen a 45 year old mother of two come back to college to get their second Masters. I worked with a 65 year old gentleman pursuing his PhD at that post-retirement age. My mom, of 55, learns something new with her computer every day, and never says “I can’t do it!”. Aren’t they all working on the basic educational philosophy that we are all learners for life? Isn’t there a life philosophy that you’ve lost the minute you’ve given up trying?

When did it become OK for one to use their religion as a handicap badge to get a parking spot? Whatever might have been the reason that pushed SrA into entering the church, she chose it for life, spent 20-odd years preparing for her life in the seminary, and had to be vested in it entirely. Did that somehow give her a permission for preferential treatment? I understand she wakes at 4 AM, works towards the convent’s upkeep, attends college from 9 to 4, goes back to complete some more chores in the convent, finishes course work, and hits the bed by 10. I understand she squeezes in a number of rounds of prayer in the middle of all this, because it is after all the life she chose. Do you know how I know this level of detail about SrA’s day? She makes sure that she tells us about it at every possible opportunity.

Well, none of us non-clergical people (is that even a word? What’s the word for ‘us’? Normal people?), have an easy life now. We pay for our own education, we struggle with interviews and rejections, we see a life outside the four walls of religion, that may not be all that pretty as promised. We live with the harsh realities of life every single day. But do we wear it around our necks as a badge? Do we carry it around like the blind man’s stick, expecting the road to pave the way ahead for it?

Nope!

It’s no wonder that I relate to atheists the most. Religion has invariably become a banner for you to hold aloft and claim reservation, preferential treatment, when there are others spending their energy going where they need to. It has become that fast pass that you’ve used one too many times and yet never get pulled up far. Religion? Rubbish!

“You humans are weird. Religion? What does that even mean? 

If it doesn’t help you with ‘eat, sleep, repeat’, then why even bother?  No?” Scotch

Day 43: Meh!nday

I hate those Mondays where a lot gets done and yet you feel as productive as a sloth. This was one of those. Finished the blog entry for Pet A Project, wow up an activity for Akikaran, had a council meeting, wrote the reflections for the Special school trips, collected certificates, cooked one dinner and two lunches and watched GoT and yet the day feels uneventful. I even squeezed in an argument about the pointless attendance system and still the day didn’t cut it.

I think it’s time I took a break and went on a vacation. I think the monotony of our all is killing me.

Break? And what will happen to me then? You’re charged with taking care of me, remember? ” Scotch