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.


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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!

Point of View

One fine afternoon I had draped myself on an easy-chair with a cushion for added comfort and my legs propped on a very conveniently placed small boulder in our garden under a huge Neem tree.

Afternoon’s gentle breeze and occasional chirping birds’ set a relaxed atmosphere. My hands got busy with turning pages of a thriller and also picking sweet, seedless succulent, green grapes  and punctiliously reaching it to my waiting  mouth. That time,  I was one with the world of crime and suspense and also indulging in satisfying my taste buds with evenly oval, small green grapes pregnant with sweetness and juicy flesh.

Every single one, as it meets my lips, its cool outer skin, soft and yet hard, taunts its way inside my mouth. The waiting incisors greedily bites into it and there, a dam breaks, a swell of juice gushes out to meet the lapping tongue and the soft jelly like flesh hits the upper palate and sides, making the mouth a ground of melee and revelry. The juicy flesh, the sweet tangy taste and the saliva getting mixed , gradually settles the taste tempo on my tongue. From the sudden burst of concentrated sweetness to a sweet salty blend(with saliva), each chewing moment hypnotises my taste buds and even after each one disappears down the throat, my hand seem to readily supply with another one.
image
Green grapes

The revelry continues and my mouth and tongue are caught up with the happy moment, gloried in the presentation of such a treat. With my brain assuring an incessant supply of such a sweet fare for a while, a sure complacence has taken over me.

Suddenly a 100,000 volts of bitterness coursed through my mouth and my body and brain started to scream” what the hell!”. Disregarding my discomfort, a gooey syrup laced my inner palate and smeared my tongue with heavy dose of bitterness and “tuck”, a quick unthinking bite of seed by my right molar released a gravelly seed inners, even more bitter, grating on to my inner tongue. My oh so efficient mouth- the tongue, the teeth and the palate- has done the damage by acting simultaneously in processing that one Neem fruit-green, unripe, very similar to size and shape of the most enjoyable grape fruit.
image
The bitter neem fruit

I dropped my book down uncaring, jumped off my chair jerking the stainless steel bowl of remaining few grapes on to the ground. In the meantime my tongue has twisted and turned to collect all the bitterness, the gooey liquid and the grainy seed particles, the shards of skin sticking to my upper palate along with a good amount of my spit. They are now rolled into one disgusting mass and have reached my tongue tip and then “spat”, I spit it all on the base of the same Neem tree. With practiced approach I gather all the saliva from my throat to forcefully collect the clinging bitterness and the sticking seed particles to be thrown out in another spit.

Notwithstanding the adamant taste, I rushed into the home, dashing straight for the wash basin to take aid of the water. Even after half a dozen gurgle, a thin film of the bitterness still laced my tongue making me relive those earlier moments and my body shivered with revolt.
I had to then, put my right forefinger deep into my mouth in a defiant act of scraping the tongue base, akin to vomiting, to force out all residue.

After a couple of more rinsing my mouth started to recover from the assault  and I heaved back to normalcy and my mind, paralysed until then, started to analyse the perchance of that one odd piece in my bowl full of sweet globes.

As I walked back into the living room, a very innocent looking brother enquired of my distress and as I was explaining, there, a sparkle in his eyes gave him away. I suddenly remembered his benevolent act of replenishing my bowl fifteen minutes before with grapes. Grapes were they? Yes indeed, but he had made sure one special Neem fruit also found its place along with the sweet succulent grapes in my bowl.