My School days-leaf 6

In my list of wonderful teachers, here I present 2 more.

My class teacher and the teacher who taught Sanskrit in class 5.

Class fives were seated in a tiny room at the far end of the Kendriya Vidyala school compound in SS Colony. It was a small compound housing classes 1 to 5 only. Being placed at the far end with our class room door facing a wall, and the fact that, to enter the classroom one had to circumvent the entire building, gave a sense of exclusion and importance for the fifth graders.

My class had about 15 boys and 8 or 9 girls. My class teacher then was a beautiful lady by name Miss. Shanta (I think so🤔🤔) looking like the yester- year heroines. We girls used to wait eagerly to see what colour saree she would come in everyday.

She wore her saree so beautifully, so much like actress Saroja Devi or KR Vijaya ( famous actresses of  Tamil filmdom)when they play the role of a wealthy, high class, sophiticated lady. She came in multicoloured sarees and matching blouses-sarees neatly pleated and pinned- all proper. She carried a small handbag of leather. She bore a picture of perfection.

Her oval face, though slightly dark complexioned was decorated with a slightly big ‘red sticker bindi’ in between her thick eyebrows. Her kohled eyes was complemented with her turmeric glowing cheeks. A square chin set in a smile ever. Her hair was another feature that enhanced her poise. We always almost saw her in a bun as big as her head and a flower tucked by her left ear. We have never seen her hair let loose or plaited.

The we I am referring to were, Vijaya,Kalyani and myself included. Later we got to know that boys too liked her style. This inside information we got from two of our friends Mohan and Gowrishankar.

She taught maths to the class besides being the form tutor. She always borrowed a wooden ruler from the front benchers and would execute punishments by beating on the left hand palm to those who would not complete their homework. But at the same time we noticed that she did not punish anyone unduly.

However, we were never in that category and so did not experience that harsh side of her. It was quite common those days to administer corporal punishments  (4 decades ago) and we did not think too much about it and that did not deter us from admiring her personality.

To boot to that,she was the best maths tutor in the school. Despite the fact that she was very stern while executing those beatings to the defaulters, she explained the mathematical concepts very clearly and we did not have any problem in solving them.

Of course I should mention that in our group we had the brainiest Vijaya, who would explain and help us solve the homework everyday. So we were her darlings too. 

For a child, right from the appearance of a teacher to  the warmth they exude,  equally important  is the quality of teaching. As we age and as our priorities change, the toppers might ignore the first two aspects as their focus is only performance. But a teacher’s personality and warmth goes a long way in every child’s life.

Next most charming teacher in the same school was my sanskrit teacher,a gentleman in the truest sense. Unfortunately I do not remember his name. By now you must have realised that I am not good at remembering names. I am may be afflicted by border line ‘dysnomia’.🤔

This teacher too was dressed neatly; had a long brown face with a set of white teeth that shone when he smiled. His shirt always tucked in neatly pressed trousers with polished shoes completed the picture.He did not appear like other male teachers who had pot bellies, unkempt hair and wore chappals. There you go, a perfect looking teacher who made the daunting Sanskrit for tamil speaking children so easy. 

He used to play lot of language games and made the lesson interesting. The best aspect was there was NO HOMEWORK! All exercises were solved in class and obviously we were thrilled with him. One other aspect that drew all the children to him was, he did magic show in class for us. Small tricks that kept us in awe. 

Contrary to the form tutor, he did not beat anyone, at all. Each one of us were eager to learn from him. We behaved our best. Unknowingly he was our hero. He did not resemble any film hero, he was just himself; having his own identity.

 I remember one time we all put in a petition to our headmaster to appoint our sanskrit teacher as our form tutor. When he asked why we did not want Ms.Shanta(?), we had no reason to reject her and we remained quiet. Even if he wished to accede to our wishes, he could not have done so as the sanskrit teacher was a part time employee. There! all our hopes crashed, but we were happy that he stayed till the end of the academic year.

Looking back and recollecting those times now, I realise how small and insignifucant things have great significance in a student’s life and school life memories. A perfectly groomed teacher immediately attracts the children and even more so if the teacher is able to connect on a inner level with the students.

All in all teachers should have a special ‘mana’ that could relate to some hidden aspect in every child.


My school days-leaf 5

My teachers!

There are many that come and go in every child’s school life, but only a few stay with you. They make an impression surely; some small, some big; nonetheless enough to make you feel nostalgic.

So here I go another 47 years back, may be.

I was in grade 4 in SBOA (State Bank Officers’ Association) school in State Bank Colony, Madurai.

It appears as if I went straight to grade 4 from my cradle!! As I don’t have any recollection of my previous years of study, I think I can assume so😆😆.

Now, Iam in grade 4.

My grade 4 teacher was Mrs.Soft- that is what  I will call her for lack of my memory. I am unable to recollect her name. (I am never good with names.)

It is just the name that I forgot. When I say like this, I sound callous. I am sorry. I  draw a blank when it comes to her name, but the rest, her entire personality, I am able to summon up.

An elderly lady, draped in saree and graying thin hair, neatly combed and held in a bun. She had such soft and smooth skin that I wanted to be near her always. 

Those days we did not dare to get too close to a teacher, yet we had our few moments. When we finished our maths sums and took the notebook to her for getting it marked, her proximity was a pleasure.

That was the closest we got. I clearly call upon to my mind the silky finish of the saree flowing around her (polyester)and the faintly  perfumed,pleasant smell of the talcum powder she used. I stood close and let my eyes roam on her self, rather than looking into the notebook and my work.

She had two of her front top teeth jutting out, which added an element of harshness. That was only visual, I don’t remember her angry at all.

Her forehead would at times crease out of concern; sometimes out of exasperation due to unruly kids in the class, but never out of anger.

I would secretly wait for her to gently push me back into my place on the bench, when she came around the small classroom to check our homework; even during assembly when she checked our standing position to make it a straight line.

I liked her touch. It made me feel safe and special. I may not have associated these feelings with her touch then, but surely felt happy.

As I look back, my mind is able to evoke her pose;the way she sat in the first row during class picture. Her head was held high in pride whenever she was seen with her entire class, and she always made sure that each one of us were presented neatly.

I yearned to sit next to her;unfortunately being slightly taller than the rest, I was teamed with the tall students to take the last row in the back,on top of our class bench. Still I hovered around her until she arranged all the tall ones on that bench.

I also remember travelling in a bus to Pasumalai, a small hill for a day’s picnic to our headmistress’ house. The trip was the most memorable and enjoyable one as I somehow managed to sit next to my teacher. We did not talk much;even if we did, I am unable to cite any. But what still remains with me is the feeling-a deep sense of joy.

Our headmistress’ home (pathetic-I do not remember her name too🤔) was set atop the small hill-pasumalai and I recollect the delicious piece of cake she served us before we left for home. On the return journey, did I sit next to my class teacher? No idea at all. I think, I dozed off. No  image comes to my mind. But these moments from the deep recesses of my mind, bring an immediate association with my grade 4 class teacher-Mrs. Soft.

That might be all in my memory store house regarding this grade 4 teacher Mrs.Soft, but nonetheless it left a lasting impression. Secretly I wish to be like her.

As a teacher am I envisioned as someone who is soft, made to feel safe around? I do not know,but sure wish to be so.

Good teachers make good humans.😊😊😊

The School days- leaf 4

Flash back. I go almost 36 years behind.

Madurai, 1979

St. Josephs Girls Higher Secondary School, Near Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal.

This school has given me wonderful memories and surely will play a major role sprouting these leaves.

One event that was very exciting and that is still fresh in my memory, was the walk back home from Mahal (school) to SS colony (home)near Arasaradi; a distance of about 6 to 8 kms-I am not sure.

It was the more daring act we did during those times. Imagine, all girls from a somewhat conservative family walking back from school on the main roads of the city! Though not unusual, it was definitely unheard of in our families and society to say the least.

Routinely we take bus 8D from S.S. Colony to Mahal stop every day, for school and back home.

We catch the morning 8:20 bus and reach school by 9:00 am and catch the 3:40 bus to reach home by 4:30 pm.

That particular day, we were given an early off by 3:00 pm, owing to one of the sister’s demise at the school belonging to Congregation of St. Lyons.

We did not create an opportunity for ourselves by not taking the bus on regular school days. Such thoughts never entered our minds. We were ingrained a certain degree of discipline. But when an opportunity presented itself, instead of waiting 40 minutes, we thought we could walk the distance and be home at the regular time.

An experience very ordinary and yet thrilling for us.

Who were these we?

Akila, Kayalvizhi and myself.

As soon as we stepped out of the massive school gate, we found small peddlers on the road selling sweetmeats. Our bus fare was 25 paise each, one way. We pooled our bus money; a total of 75 paise. Wow! what a bonus!

We purchased ginger toffees, peppermint toffees, and dry roasted peanuts to munch our way home.

We began the journey. Indeed, it was one.

I don’t remember every step back home save a few clear moments, but the feeling of joy that enveloped all three remains strong till date.

We were in a magical bubble. The entire world around us, the city, its traffic and people all faded away. One after the other our feet moved forward and we took the bus route to get back home.

Undisturbed by any other distractions such as mobile phones, we connected with each other; talking away each step and towards home we set off.

What we spoke, I do not remember. It did not matter then and even now it does not matter. What mattered was our togetherness.

Our school bag was no back pack, but a shoulder bag made of cloth hanging on our shoulders and moving with us rhythmically.

I can picture us- all three in white school uniform (skirt, blouse and half saree draped) with double plaits tied with white ribbon, walking abreast with no worries.

Akila was the tallest among us and Kayal and myself of the same height. I remember vaguely, Akila holding my hand during road crossings.

When we finished the little eatables, we purchased, I have no clue, but we continued happily.

One place enroute, I remember clearly, was the ‘Mempalam’ – the main bridge, that runs over the railway tracks. We stood there for few minutes and wondered at the mere aspect of standing at a height and looking down at the railway tracks and the tracks appearing small as toys.

We were filled with inexplicable joy. Then, conscious of the time we need to make, we proceeded.

It was an unhurried, magical trek back home.

We reached SS Colony in time. First came my house; we lingered for few minutes at the turning saying good byes and I sent Kayal and Akila off on their way.

Next, at a corner further, Kayal would have done the same and Akila would have proceeded to her home.

We were very content in the knowledge that we all will meet again the next day in 8D bus and relive our happiness of walking home from school the previous day.

No whatsApp follow ups, no phone calls. An exciting afternoon ended with contentment and plain old trust and faith in our times and ourselves.

The School days- leaf 3

Happy to be back!
Leaf 3

Having an intellectual exchange with your students is a great pleasure. I was blessed with that too. During one of my english lessons, we were discussing descriptive writing and the usage of images involving senses. The general sense in the class was , it is difficult to involve senses to describe things. These from those students who have a standard reply for everything- “fine”. They are in dearth of words and imagination to expand that ‘fine’.

But a few creative minds were challenged enough when I proposed that they use the visual sense alone to describe the Soft Boards that were on their class walls. To motivate them, I included myself as part of the challenge.

When their work was submitted(only 2 ventured to write), I was thrilled by my stduent’s eloquence, one in particular. Her name- Meghana Kamat. Inspired by her writing I rewrote my piece and here it is.

Meghana Kamat! This is for you.

SOFT BOARDS

Soft boards! What a name! A definite misnomer. Highly deceptive. There is nothing soft about them; neither in their looks nor in their character. Maybe soft to touch; soft only on the surface, but, hold within a strength that belie all perception.

Those screaming red boards with a silver gilded border beckon you louder than any other structural add-ons in that room (A-Level 2013 A). They have a strong character which pulls you like a black lodestone would a piece of raw brown iron ore. You cannot miss them by any chance.

They make their presence known with or without the multi-coloured sheets of paper pinned on to them. Even a plain soft board waits patiently for the hands of time to pin and unpin information. They bear all pain through years with a stoic face that beats the aging sandpapery dark faces of sages and saints who endeavour to conquer the soul. How do they do it? So easily done, than ever. They are just there, regally hoisted on the broad expanse of white-washed wall, proclaiming their presence silently and yet screaming nonetheless (as good as a clarion).

They have such an unbiased way of treating the white papers pinned on them. No questions asked. What, why, and why not? All are welcome. All sizes, shapes, and colours. Any type of information or misinformation, either scribed neatly in blue or black, printed red or green, or drawn grey or rainbow coloured, whatever; they hold with equanimity. Broad smiles, always projecting the same bright foil to all and sundry. True communists who treat the gold, silver, yellow, green, black, and white the equal way. No partiality shown.

I like them; like them when they are empty too. They seem to invite me to put up all sorts of things. Even if one doesn’t, the deep colour can easily portray a kaleidoscope of information in all ways possible in the mind’s eye.

With the papers pinned up, voila! Each one takes a character. Each of them is like a new person now, taking on a new role on the stage of the classroom. Each one is an emissary of science, stiff collared and starched, dressed in all insignificant colours , yet prominent in stature and bespectacled  holding all complex structures and formulae, come to tease the brainys, and commune with them privately under public scrutiny. Of course, the artistic bright flowers and the dark green gilded leaves that border them are a mere camouflage or a make-up, a show within the show.

The others with black and white timetables, rules, and regulations, stand as an office peon solemnly giving the data with a serious dull face – very prosaic and yet, the red behind all that data is too glamorous to be ignored. Is there a twinkle I see in their dark eyes in the corner; a twitch on their red lips when both students and teachers alike do not see their worth and ignore what they try to communicate? Maybe, yes. To me it seems that they mock us when we don’t use them for what they are worth, when we misuse them, and when we ignore them.

I see them. I notice them, and I perceive them. I know their worth, so I develop a yearning to go near and say ‘Hello’; to get to know them better and so I touch them.

Now I see why they are named as ‘Soft Boards’. Soft to touch so beguiling that makes you want to run your finger along their surface; to feel the smoothness caressing your fingertips. There! They invite you again:

“Come on. Pick us and prod us. Pin us up, and cover us, but we shall remain the same.”

A new board is a virgin Earth all brown and unploughed, ready to yield to different types of papers that may come on it.

Even after years, the smoothness remains, they may have taken many pins, many rough handling, but still stand proudly; ever ready to portray whatever one wants to see on them. They are like an empty stage set with different scenes of bright and bold colours, a nude  pale mannequin, waiting to show what one wants to see. Rectangular “soft boards” that stand the test of time to give and give equally, their service to all.

The School Days- Leaf 2

Leaf 2
” This is one of those times when you see something adorable. As a teacher I had the privilege of spending time with young and energetic 15 year olds. Even during assessments they portray unique charactetistics which make me feel amazed. Here is one such experience.”
ICT TEST – I “c” the TEST
On a Thursday morning , the usual class test atmosphere prevailed in the class room with students taking their places; some with seriousness; some out of obligation; some doing it as if nothing affects them. One can see their attitude spilling out in their smile, talk, body language and in some, a sense of stoicism that beats the others.

All seated orderly; a few late comers rush in, after going through their notes/books for the last minute, and take their places. The papers arrive. The ICT –Information and Communication Technology paper. Initial ritual of opening the sealed pack completed, they are dished out to each one of them.

Time starts. A two hour paper, that turned out to be an onerous one for one and all,starts. Instinctively some flip through the thick test booklet which spans 16 pages; makes a mental note that it is timed for two hours and is sure of completing within the time stipulated.

They start the paper. First few questions are the usual ones- always slick and smooth to give you a feel of ease and comfort, before the examiner throws in the tough meat to chew through.

It is not the toughness that catches them; it is the repetitive chewing that bores them. Tough is OK; they know how to handle tough. For those who are prepared, the tough is only a challenge, so it is fine; for others it is just a matter of attempting or leaving it unanswered. The choice made, the rest goes easily.

The easy questions are handled with a characteristic nonchalance/ arrogance befitting the teens. But some try to be extra cautious and make mistakes unknown to them, then.

The medium- hard questions and the unsure ones are dealt with equanimity by all.

Observing them is like watching a drama staged. At the start, all serious and ready for whatever that comes their way. Face bent down, eyes scanning the questions, mind sorting the easy ones from the hard and the hand trying to match the mind’s speed to fill the answer sheet.

After the initial half hour, there is a subtle change; not all are pouring over the paper- some have started to shift on the chair, some looking around casually to note how many of their classmates’ eyes they could catch. There is some satisfaction in knowing that you are not alone in doing what you are doing (NOT doing the test). When their eyes meet the teacher’s they immediately go down to the paper.

Time crawls for some, runs for some others; after about 50 minutes into the test, the ubiquitous paper pattern begins to surface. One by one students begin to notice the discrepancy in what they are asked to give against what they would be getting (marks).

16 pages of a paper where more than two-thirds hold questions and marks that are incongruous. It dawns on them that the question demands a lot more- it asks for a 10 line answer of description with just a 1 mark reward; 0.5 marks for 4 lines answer and 20 lines analysis for just 6 marks.

This bewilders them first. It exasperates them next. It frustrates some. It challenges some others. It also amuses some.

Some show resilience; some display irritation; some portray a stoic countenance. For others who are challenged enough, time sits heavily on their shoulders and their fingers are crippled by an invisible thread of boredom.

As the passing hour comes to a close, some are bold enough to vociferously express their disdain. This, the invigilator tries to quell with a menacing stare.

What a relief when the time tolled, all sprang from their place handing in their answer sheets with an unbeknownst sprite and rushed out!

The School Days- The Best in my Life!

Having spent more than 40 years out of my 50 in schools, I think it is only apt that I write about my time there. Easy  to guess- how 42?  Yes I am teacher. 22 years plus in teaching and the intial 17 years in learning.

My  connection with school has been to an extent to say that it is my life so far.

I intend to write my experiences as a series and I am going to start at random.

Leaf 1

As a student when we spend a whole year in one class room, we have a special part of the class room as Cozy Corner. That is the topic of this writing.

COZY CORNER
Morning light streaming through the green and blue curtain which seem to hold only the heat and let all light in, blesses that corner in the class room. It waits there patiently for us , for the students of 9th graders to claim it their own.
That corner is an invisible bubble that envelopes us in a coccoon of warmth and wraps us in a mixture of ‘deos’ that we boys spray (over sprayed on those over slept days when we don’t bathe), unique to us and stamps the space as ours.
Once we occupy, the place rings with animated voices of ours talking about all and sundry. It could range from latest moblies to blockbuster movies, to what we ate the previous night to what prank we played on each other and even to air our grievances. All this happens seemlessly even though we are interrupted by the reprimands of the tutors and the timely set backs due to lesson changes that happen in a school day. Those interruptions are but too minor, as the elastic cozy corner mends itself with the slightest opportunity available and we start from where we left with an ease that belies our sluggish and enervated façade we put on.
With our knees bracing each others, our special bond strengthens and the corner gets cozier. We might break any number of times, but the corner brings us together and an imperceptible thread binds us instantly. Occasionally the loud clap of our hands joining with each others on a ‘high five’ upon a joke, marks us the disturbing elements and are chided to separate. But the resonating clap reverberates in our hearts, keeping the connection alive,ready to spring back to life at the next opportunity.
The corner which is nothing but a meeting point of two walls,with a window on one side and a writing desk resting alongside the other wall with one plastic chair accommodates all four of us( we grab a chair for each of us and wedge between the places between others) with an invisible veil connecting us the moment we get together.
In the evening, when we leave for home, the corner stoically bears the estrangement.The snug secluded area remais there as a strong supporter of our group and waits eagerly for our arrival the next day.
We know that the cozy corner has been there before us and will be there after us as well, but with every new set of students, it behaves the same way like air which is common for all becomes one’s own as each breathes. We are made to feel special with its equanimity and the next morning when we reach there, it gathers us into a special fold of warmth, love and togetherness.

ICT test- ‘I c the’ test

” This is one of those times when you see something adorable. As a teacher I had the privilege of spending time with young and energetic 15 year olds. Even during assessments they portray unique  charactetistics which make me feel amazed. Here is one such experience.”
On Thursday morning 25th July 2013, the usual class test atmosphere prevailed in the class room (IGCSE 2014-B) with students taking their places; some with seriousness; some out of obligation; some doing it as if nothing affects them. One can see their attitude spilling out in their smile, talk, body language and in some, a sense of stoicism that beats the others.

All seated orderly; a few late comers rush in, after going through their notes/books for the last minute, and take their places. The papers arrive. The ICT –Information and Communication Technology paper. Initial ritual of opening the sealed pack completed, they are dished out to each one of them.

Time starts. A two hour paper, that turned out to be an onerous one for one and all,starts. Instinctively some flip through the thick test booklet which spans 16 pages; makes a mental note that it is timed for two hours and is sure of completing within the time stipulated.

They start the paper. First few questions are the usual ones- always slick and smooth to give you a feel of ease and comfort, before the examiner throws in the tough meat to chew through.

It is not the toughness that catches them; it is the repetitive chewing that bores them. Tough is OK with them, they know how to handle tough. For those who are prepared, the tough is only a challenge, so it is fine; for others it is just a matter of attempting or leaving it unanswered. The choice made, the rest goes easily.

The easy ones are handled with a characteristic nonchalance/ arrogance befitting the teens. But some try to be extra cautious and make mistakes unknown to them, then.

The medium- hard questions and the unsure ones are dealt with equanimity by all.

Observing them is like watching a drama staged. At the start, all serious and ready for whatever that comes their way. Face bent down, eyes scanning the questions, mind sorting the easy ones from the hard and the hand trying to match the mind’s speed to fill the answer sheet.

After the initial half hour, there is a subtle change; not all are pouring over the paper- some have started to shift on the chair, some looking around casually to note how many of their classmates’ eyes they could catch. There is some satisfaction in knowing that you are not alone in doing what you are doing  (NOT doing the test). When their eyes meet the teacher’s they immediately go down to the paper.

Time crawls for some, runs for some others; after about 50 minutes into the test, the ubiquitous paper pattern begins to surface. One by one students begin to notice the discrepancy in what they are asked to give against what they would be getting (marks).

16 pages of a paper where more than two-thirds hold questions and marks that are incongruous. It dawns on them that the question demands a lot more- it asks for a 10 line answer of description with just a 1 mark reward; 0.5 marks for 4 lines answer and 20 lines analysis for just 6 marks.

This bewilders them first. It exasperates them next. It frustrates some. It challenges some others. It also amuses some.

Some show resilience; some display irritation; some portray a stoic countenance. For others who are challenged enough, time sits heavily on their shoulders and their fingers are crippled by an invisible thread of boredom.

As the passing hour comes to a close, some are bold enough to vociferously express their disdain. This, the invigilator tries to quell with a menacing stare.

What a relief when the time tolled, all sprang from their place handing in their answer sheets with an unbeknownst sprite and rushed out!