Isn’t it amazing that after months of anticipation, tartness, upheaval, suddenly you feel a change. From a very abyssal zone, you sight the gate of a paradise you’ve been longing to camp into. It was one such day for me. After a long gap of four months, I went back to teaching. And I cannot even begin to describe how satisfactory was that. Almost therapeutic.
This July, was, undoubtedly one of the most stressful yet adventurous July of all the ones I’ve seen in my life on this planet so far. It kept me on my toes, took me on an emotional ride, gave me beautiful memories to cherish all my life, and colleagues you could die for. I had enrolled myself for a coveted English language teaching course called CELTA. Big deal. Yes. It gave me goosebumps. For the course was known to be “a boot camp for English Language Teachers.”
After learning numerous worthwhile methods in CELTA and successfully implementing them in my teaching practice, I came out a changed person. English is, undoubtedly, a link language. And it comes with a colonial baggage, so to say. And if you are teaching this particular subject/language, the mango people are ready to put you on a pedestal. Yes, that is the amount of respect and attention it gathers. Post the course, almost the whole bunch of us course mates went back to their teaching jobs, or were hired accordingly. I, on the other hand, had decided to sign up for a Bachelor’s in Education. I was clear on this even before July that I have to get this particular degree in my kitty, for it is a pre-requisite in case you wish to land up as a teacher in a school anywhere in India. But after the course, going back to academia felt like a lull had been created in my life. I was aching to put my recent learning to use.
And it did make me go bonkers, for in spite of what I would like to believe, I am somewhat low on patience. November finally came in swashing, and there came an opportunity to finally teach! We had to go for our observation in government schools as part of our course. And I landed up in a girls school for my share of observations. The Principal demanded I take a class for the “failures” (I am quoting her!). Inspite of my shock and disapproval, I decided to ignore that remark and went ahead to do as told.
Coming from a girl’s college, it felt like home coming to be a part of an all female space once again. I decided to teach the class Ruskin Bond’s poem Grandma climbs A Tree. And before I started with my lesson, I told them one thing- Be unabashed. Make mistakes. And laugh at your ability to do so. Only then shall you love the language and conquer it, all in style. And thankfully, they did follow up my advice. And we had an amazing time, learning grammar, new terminology, tackling the blocking vocabulary together, laughing and enjoying throughout. I was confident that they liked me and my style of teaching. Still, I wanted to hear that from them. And when the scheduled one hour class came to an end, they all requested me to continue with the class for another half an hour, before they dispersed. That, my folks, was music to my ears. And my true reward.
On meeting my classmate later in the day, I had a chat regarding the class we’d both taught. He commented bluntly that the situation in the government schools was pathetic. The nonchalance of teachers, their shirking of their duties was disturbing, to say the least. As a teacher of English, I looked at the girls, whom they had marginalized as ‘slow learners’, at their enthusiasm and inquisitiveness, and wondered, if they had got the right guidance like me, right from the start, they would be blooming already. Are they failures, or the system, which doesn’t help them come onto the mainstream and flourish, I wondered. For God knows, they are doubly marginalized, being women. The need to educate them flawlessly is all the more urgent.
As I was going through the corridors, thinking all of this, peeping into every classroom I passed by, smiling at the girls who wanted to smile and wave at this new visitor they had spotted, just then, my classmate caught up with me and spoke up, as we were walking to sign the teacher’s register- “Will we become as lax in attitude as the teachers here?” I wasn’t surprised. The negativity of the work surroundings had seeped into his very being. I took a deep breath and repeated parts of what my mother, a teacher herself, and a seasoned one, tells me often. Being in the teaching profession for a good 25 years, she has come to believe in the concept of Karma. And through her, me too. She tells me that when she started with her job till now, she’s seen a sea change in the attitudes of teachers, which is the reason why the profession has lost its erstwhile respect. Most of them don’t even bother to do justice to their duty. They all wish to rake in the moolah, but according to me, it’s just not halal. And through her experience, she tells me, if you try and jeopardize the future of someone else’s child, you don’t expect excellent results for yourself then. And she’s seen it herself. Such people don’t have contentment and happiness knocking at their doors often. And internalizing her words of wisdom, I always, always strive to do my best. And trust me, it is a blessed feeling that you get at the end of the road.
Every year on the fifth of September, I wait for her to arrive home, only to sit on my bed, balancing the flowers she receives, reading the bag full of letters, cards and messages her students, spread all over the world send her. And even today, when the students she taught, when I wasn’t even born, pay her a visit every now and then, just seeing them interacting makes me envy her. Now that I’ve embarked in the journey of becoming an inspirational teacher, I hope a make a similar mark as my mother has, in the hearts of millions of students.