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?” 

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Day 131: Class Bully

B for Bala. B for Boss. B for Bully.

My class teacher chanted, laughing at her exquisite sense of humor. I have to give the lady the credit for at least being man enough to say it in front of me. I heard today that it’s the general term that teachers use to refer to me when I’m not around – bully.

I don’t know what bothers me more – the fact that the very teachers teaching us about professionalism, and the negatives of labeling children, are the ones that are guilty of breaking that moral code; or that none of my classmates have stood up against the teachers’ “joke” every time they made it. It specifically botheres me because I feel strongly against bullying and bossing around and being called that when you’re not is hurtful.

I am definitely guilty of voicing my discomfort when I feel it in class. I’ve said this before; I did not quit my career of  ten years to put up with sloppy syllabi and teachers that don’t plan their lessons. I am also guilty of being the first to respond to teachers in class, because the other two have either spaced out or do not have an opinion on the matter of discussion. And if my expressing my opinions about things that I’m passionate about warrant a tag on my head, then guilty as charged. Put me on the chopping block.

Pics4mswiss: colors of a day that ended well.  

Day 106: It’s a popular symbol of feminism

I’ve been nose deep in literature to prepare for the upcoming end semester exam. I start off with the subject that brought out the true expertise of the teachers in the department – Sociological foundations of Education. After the high-charged discussions on social justice and socially relevant issues of education over the summer, at Bhor, I was excited when I found out that I had this subject this semester.

And boy! What a disappointment it has been!

A few things I remember being said in class, by the respected sharer of information.

  • I wouldn’t allow my son to find himself a girl friend. It’s against my culture and culture is our God.
  • All these live-in relationships and all must make your parents so sad and disappointed in you.
  • The sole aim or purpose of a family is to give birth to young children.
  • Social stratification is natural and it’s these strata that bring a sense of calm in the society. If we were all in one big societal class, we’d kill each other and die.
  • I don’t know why the syllabus has Economic studies as a part of Sociology. Let’s skip that part.
  • All women in certain families in North India have to wear a ghunghat. They are not allowed to enter the living spaces with men without wearing the ghunghat down to their chests. It’s a popular symbol of feminism.

And a bonus one.

  • Myanmar is the capital of Burma.

I feel cheated at the end of this semester. A Master’s program should not be spending 60 hrs dishing out definitions and meaning of ideas like culture, social classes and Inequality. These should be pre-reading for the students to come prepared to class with. And the discussion should be around matters of social relevance. Nobody will ask you for the definition of gender bias in real-life. It will stare you down your face when a father chooses to pick his teenage girl out of school. And you will be unprepared to handle that situation.

All this studying and you seem to be in pain. Do you need a hug?” Scotch 

Day 92: Am I getting all religious now? 

I knew it the minute I got ready for my drive to college that it was going to be a different day. The mind said so. And the difference became evident when I started the car, connected it to YouTube, and started playing Kanda Sashti Kavacham. I mumbled the words, sometimes matching up with Soolamangalam’s pitch, and drove along. I had only one manic outburst, and I don’t even remember who it was right now.

But the rest of the way, there was a certain calmness in my driving today when compared to the usual manic rage. I’ve told a number of people how drivers typically went through the 5 stages of grief when it came to Bangalore traffic and that I was stuck in Anger for almost two years now. I felt that stage wane and I realized that I had directly moved to acceptance. As the black Honda behind me honked his way between lanes and zigzagged around, I knew he wasn’t going far. As I pulled up, calmly, by him at the traffic signal, I gave him the look a mature adult would give a vagrant teenager. Grow up child!

Acceptance

There was a similar acceptance in class towards GDs pettiness as well. As A told me more about her antics, of how she created an attendance sheet just to mark me Absent and how she warned A to grow up or ‘everybody’ would bulldoze her, I smiled internally and reminded myself that I was an adult. And that such pettiness did not affect me.

It had affected me yesterday. Deeply. But today was a brand new Tuesday and I choose to be the adult. Was I becoming religious now? :=)

Richmond

The song reminded me of Sundays in Richmond, VA. I’d visit the shopping mall of a temple, to get some quiet and peace. Well, not really; because the country itself was quiet when compared to India. Maybe I went every week to feel a little hit of home around me. They had printed books with the entire lyrics and they played the exact version of Kanda Sashti Kavacham that I was used to. Strangers, in different corners of the temple, would follow along with the song, and I would join in. I would sit for the 20 odd minutes it ran, and get up almost immediately when it was done and leave. There were very few days when I’d wait for the Aarti afterward.

A weird routine. A regular routine. For two long years. Had I been religious all along?

Religious? You? C’mon, S! I’ve seen you wave at the puja room and run out the door. Amma is religious, what with her flowers and incense and all. You? Ha! 

Anyway, how about some of that omelet for me now? Maybe if I rest my nose on your leg, the force will be strong. ” Scotch 

Day 91: You can’t win here and there 

Winning, one mark at a time

I came back from the 2 weeks of Radio Namaste to feel extremely targeted and marginalized in class, specifically by GD and SrA. An internal assignment, for which I’d asked GD repeatedly for her mode of evaluation and submissions expected, suddenly had a report to be submitted on the school visits. When I told her about the school visits I had to miss because of the project, she said it was only fair for me to lose marks, because “you can’t win here and there”!

She kept repeating about how timely submission would have 1 mark out of the 20, the 20 that would eventually get halved for the final semester marks anyway. She took extra effort to create fake attendance sheets, simply to mark me absent in these. It was almost like she received some sadistic pleasure out of marking me out.

And SrA was the diligent little puppet that followed all these mindless instructions.

Evaluating the right way

I’ve ranted many times before about how poor the current evaluation systems are. Here is a teacher who makes it seem like even half a mark in an internal assignment is something worth fighting for, or worrying yourself about. She flaunts that 1 mark as a prized carrot that students should compete for. And it makes me wonder what the significance of that 1 mark really is. Are we saying that by getting that 1 mark more than me, SrA is more knowledgeable in that area that I am by 1 count?

An interesting perspective about evaluating that I realized through this episode was the excluding environment that it created. Through simple, random numbers assigned to students, we are bucketing them into simple, random strata that make logical sense nowhere but in our own heads. We make one group feel special and extra important, for doing exactly as we wanted them to, and shun the other group because they colored outside the lines.

What surprised me was how much this episode actually mattered to me. It affected me in ways that I did not anticipate, and that caught me off guard.

Support from outside

As I sat, disgusted by the pettiness, Marathoner walked in and almost knew instantly that something was amiss. He knew them all because he had gone through the same rubbish two years back, and was at their mercy for his M. Phil. He made me realize that the learning I had from the two weeks at Radio Namaste were much more than what any of these teachers had provided in the last year. He pointed out how little these marks mattered in the grander scheme of things. Sense!

On the drive back home, the conversation continued with Sarkar. She made me realize the whole world was hypocritical and there’s very little we’d be able to do about it. She told me that the only ones who mattered were your family – mom, dad, husband, wife and children. If you had to waste effort changing their principles and opinions, these were the only few who were worth your energy. All others were mere variables in your life’s equation. Sense indeed!

That is some serious deep stuff, bro! I see the halo of enlightenment around your head. ” Scotch 

Day 23: Of sensitivity and chauvinists

Sensitivity

My journey at the university has been one of utmost learning. I’m either learning new content and enhancing who I am, or I’m learning how not to be. While some teachers are great examples of how I eventually want to be, others are giving me the much needed anti-learning. By just being themselves they are training me on how not to be.

I believe sensitivity to one’s students is a critical attribute for every teacher to possess. Every time my class teacher warns us about disciplinary action when we are absent, and is then absent herself, I know how she differentiates her life from that of the students. Every time she mocks us for having a migraine and then complains to us about her sinus, we see how insensitive she is. Having students carry her bags and laptops, using them as a water mule are all evidences of utter lack of respect for students that have come to her to learn valuable lessons.

Chauvinists

Quite a contrast to her, is Ms GD. The way she carries herself around commands respect from all around. As she tears up listening to a student’s struggle with depression or gives a motherly advice to someone’s sister going through a troubled marriage, we know that she treats them as more than just students. She treats them like individuals, human beings worthy of her respect.

That is why it pains me to see such talent subdued by a chauvinistic leadership. A management that treats its women staff like mere sloggers, with no vision or ambition of its own, draws no respect from me. As GD and the class talks more and more about the role of women in the workforce, we speak about how we are automatically tuned to multi task and plan ahead as women, while the men continue to work in their single tracks, always putting pleasure over work.

Somehow this world is OK to reward men for their sub par performance, while a woman slogs twice as much and continues to battle the patriarchal society.

In my world, us bitches have it easy. We draw the smart ones out, you know.” Scotch