Day 14: Sore throats and floating conversation

The 6th graders are more fun to be with. They understand puns, rhetorics and my sarcastic sense of humor. Most of them do. So, I’m able to connect with them more through my language and my opinions, than merely through textual content.

After handing out a silly homework for the Geography class, I commented about how one couldn’t come up with a simpler homework than that, and the class lost it. Their creativity resurfaced and they challenged me with their silliest homeworks. Draw a circle was the winner – it could mean the earth, since it’s Geography after all, they said.

When I’d let the class run afree for a few minutes I commented about how easy it was to derail this class and how the sensible alternative for me seemed to be to make point-blank statements so the class stayed on point. Utter silence! A loud-mouthed Kris from the last bench, raised his hand and said meekly – We like your way of teaching, aunty. Please don’t become boring. Kids!

Aunty, what’s your age?

Why do you wanna know?

We want to know everything about you, aunty. Tell us.

Nopes. Why do you want to know my age?

OK! Where do you live?

Marathahalli.

Hmm. Then you must be in the 30s.

:O

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Day 11: Teaching good

Lunch chats: Girls seem more interested in connecting with you as a person than boys. Not to say the boys don’t come around, but they definitely don’t seem to be as comfortable as the girls are. Pre-lunch conversations have been interesting, so far, and have helped me a great deal in connecting with the kids better. Between reading my tattoo, and complimenting the earring of the day, they’ve told me stories of how they pranked their English teacher last year, accepted that they wouldn’t do it with me and complained about the latest groups in class. They’ve crivved about the canteen food, and the short games periods. Through it all, the bundles of energy jumped around, never standing still, and not pausing even to catch a breath.

The girls from the chaotic 6th grade have been very empathetic. Every time they see me, they appease me, reminding me that their class wasn’t all that bad. They apologise for their classmates’ tantrums and promise to address the problem soon enough.

Structure much?: We’re doing comprehension questions and answers with the 5th graders in English and I’m very uncomfortable with some of the instructions given to the children. While I understand the level of conditioning that the RTE kids need, I’m surprised that other children are out through a similar structure too. Today, for questions that test reference to context, where they havr to identify who said a dialogue and to whom, and in what circumstance, the instructions where to phrase the answer so that they always go from who to whom to when. And to never mix them up. When I started dictation in 6, the kids reminded me that they shouldn’t be starting the words with a capital since it was dictation.

I’m taking them all with an open mind right now, hoping that somene thought through these instructions and their impact on the children. The last thing we need is to be creating another batch of mug-bots who’ve lost all their innate creativity.

Aunty, my best friend and I were talking about how you are a great teacher.

Me? But my classes are so chaotic that I’m not sure I’m any good.

No aunty, the chaos is because we all want to tell you something and that is a good thing.

Can we please switch seats today, aunty? The bus is anyway very empty.

If you can convince me with your reason to shift, I will let you.

Hmm. There is no reason at all. OK! I get it.

Day 9: Empathetic teachers

I shared my story about the chaotic grade 6ers from last week. With the lesson learnt from there, I’ve been taking a different attitude towards the classes this week. And I must say that it has worked so far. I went in helpless and asked the students for solutions to address my problem. I treated them as equal partners in the process. I made them aware that I m knew when I was being taken for a ride and it didn’t benefit either of us in the long run. What I got was a bunch of collaborators who worked within their groups to see me succeed. And through this, it became evident to them that they were going to succeed too.

This strategy worked the most with the two kirana kids in my class that are the notorious boys. After the class, I pulled them aside and told them how kuch it hurt me to scold them. When they began protesting I made it clear that I saw through their dramatics. I lay it out that I was there to help and they were the ones to decide their fate in class. We ended the day promising that they would behave better in class.

And not a single decibel raised.

But aunty, what if we get super excited and our volume automatically increases? We can’t be soft and excited, no?

Aunty, are you wearing Fogg?

No, why?

You’re smelling nice. Like Fogg on TV.

Day 8: Questions galore

While I was mentally prepared to answer tons of questions when working with ten year olds, I wasn’t quite aware of how much was ‘tons’ until I truly started with them. They’re at the age where speaking trumps listening. They also require personal attention, even if that means getting an answer to a question already answered. Moreover, they hate surprises. All that makes absolute theoretical sense until you’re flooded with the same question over and over again and after you’ve answered it for the fifth time in ten seconds, your face no longer holds the same bright smile.

I was very disappointed with myself for losing my cool today when the kids pestered me for a silly question, something that I was anyway going to get to, if only they’d all settle down.

That’s when I noticed another great quality in some of these kids. They immediately caught the change in my tone and the frustration from my face, and they quietly settled back in their seats. Some even pulled their friends back and agreed that we’ll wait for aunty to finish talking before asking questions. It was very impressive to see ten year olds cued in so deeply to human emotions already. Now who can be mad at these sweethearts for too long.

Mentor comments: I received my first batch of comments about my English class from my mentor. It was purely based on this chaotic 6th grade class that I spoke about. So I wasn’t sure with how big a spoon of salt to take them. She had no complaints about the content, or delivery, or the plan at all. The only comments she had were about my classroom management skills. She recommended that I stop answering to every child individually and stick to plan, because the 11 year olds would be full of questions and a little encouragement and their imagination would derail the whole class.

But isnt that what education should be doing anyway? I remember JK talking about children distracted by a lizard in the ceiling while the teacher was trying to stick to plan and teach something way off. Would the child really learn when he is mentally disengaged? And at this age, are they really capable of parking their alternative trains of thought, to pay attention to what you have planned?

Additionally, aren’t we priding in individualized teaching? Then how can we conduct a class without hearing every child out and without answering every single question?

I realize that her suggestion was based on past experiences and the known expectations of finishing a preset syllabus by the end of the year. I’m still working on wrapping my head around ideals and realities.

Aunty, please drink some water. We’ll try to not frustrate you today.

I’m trying to save some space in my stomach, aunty. My mother had made chicken burger at home today.

Day 6: Troubled kids

I was introduced to two very differently abled children today. Ms. LineMonitor is a bubbly ten year old, who always greets me with a hug and doesn’t hesitate to tell me when the class is a bore. I’ve seen her play with an RTE child’s hair with absolutely no hesitations unlike a few others. And yet, she doesn’t write like a normal ten year old. Her focus and attention constantly waver and she needs constant reminding to stay on point. I see the mind map she’s copied from the blackboard into her notebook and it’s a squiggly mess that leaves me worried. Moreover, when answering to questions in class, she doesn’t hesitate to raise her hands and begins answering. But midway, she loses her train of thought, jumps to a different topic entirely and often leaves herself frustrated and confused. All these difficulties are masked when I ask her to read aloud and she shows brilliant control of intonation and pauses. I’m beginning to sense the areas where we’ll be working on through the year now.

Ms. Tender is my other find from today’s English class. We did some choral reading in the session and her finger followed along the lines of the textbook diligently, almost seeming normal. Except, they were following an entire line above the one we were reading. As I promoted her, she beautifully repeated what I read, with the same tone and pronunciation. But her reading, and her fingers stopped, when I stopped. She wasnt able to read on her own at all because she had no idea what these letters and words looked like in print. I picked up her notebook for corrections and her answers were absolutely wrong. She wrote about what she liked doing and about her family members when I had asked about an activity we’d done in class. Her letters and words jumped around the line, sometimes trailing from one to another. This was clearly another child that wasn’t reading or writing appropriate to her age.

Day 4: Diary, Nature walk and more

Diary: These kids seem to LOVE their diaries. It totally beats my adult brain but their love to note their timetable down in it. And mark their homework for the day in it, and to doodle all over it. Maybe it’s a little like us adults, holding on to little, trivial things; owning that little, trivial thing purely by writing our name on it. Maybe it’s them owning that little, trivial thing as their own.

Nature walk: I had my first nature walk today, with a part of class 5 and class 7. We walked over to the lake behind the school, single filing behind CoordG. As I brought up the rear of the group, two chatty 7th graders tagged along, telling me stories about a certain Sandy uncle in Bhoomi, who caught a rattle snake in this area once. Interesting personality, and I discover more of these every day.

Jumping down boulders and skipping stones on the lake is still on top of most these kids’ minds right now. Those and watching out for goat poop. So, the cynic in me is still ratifying the effectiveness of these activities in making them more Eco conscious. I’m hoping that since this is set into schedule to be once a week, they are repeatedly exposed to the outdoors and in the process, they’ll learn to attach more to it.

ShyTee: I’ve been noticing ShyTee from day 1 and I am more convinced by the day that the child needs some personal help. He is amongst the shorter ones in the class and yet willingly chose to sit in the last bench. He barely talks to his benchmate, or most of his classmates for that matter. I force him to converse as often as I can, and does so, crisply and with nil eye contact. He answers me to the point, while staring continuously at the ground. He tells me that his mom works too and his dad is away on an extended work engagement to Germany. I’ll be watching him more closely this year.

Day 1: Exciting experiences

A new year begins and a batch of bright-eyed 10 year olds move from grade 4 to 5. As their anchor teacher for the year ahead, I’m hopeful of a lot of learning and many many experiences. While the last week of planning and preparation was meant to ready me for this first–time experience, I don’t think it came even close. Because nothing can prepare you for the noise and the chatter and the sheer energy you feel in the room. For every question that you put out, every one of them has a response and some more than two.

The 10 year olds are ruthless. They watch every move you make and remember ever breath you take. And make sure to point out at your face if you’ve over stepped one line. They are also the sweetest. They yell for you and wave at you from the bus. They want to know what your mother tongue is so they can blackmail you in it. At the end of the day, I think they all want to see you happy

  • Boys and girls. As we shuffle them up to sit with kids of the opposite gender, they squirm and twist, still thinking that boys are ewww.
  • Write. They want to write, write, write. Even if it’s simple copying the timetable for the next day, they’re so excited. And that’s why they love their diaries.
  • RTE. There is a very obvious difference between the regular kids and those who’ve joined through SSA. No other boy of this age would wear a pink colored socks, or girl dress in knee high basketball jerseys. These children are definitely going to be in my purview all year, to see how far they travel.

My brother told me that the middle school boys washroom is haunted, aunty. Is it?”

“I don’t have a brother or sister. But my mother is a topper. And she told me that if I come home and revise everyday, then I will also be a topper.”

“Aunty, is middle school as boring as today was?”

“What are the breakable rules at school, aunty?”