Saturday, January 4, 2014

THE TIME OF MY LIFE XVIII...CONFESSIONS OF A TEACHER


 
 It was evident  working full time would not be practical.So I decided to study  Vaidehi, Srivatsa’s sister came to the rescue.  She offered to take care of Arjun while I did my Masters. I registered for a two year post graduate course in English literature in Mumbai University.  Since classes were held in the afternoon, I could attend to the house, cook, fetch Anil from playschool, feed him and tuck him in for his siesta.  Vaidehi took Arjun to Hyderabad where she lived. Her husband, Jaisimha, was the Managing   Director of a Sugar Factory.  Three months before my final year exams, she took Anil too so I could study.  She took care of them when they had chicken pox and other minor ailments, without letting me know, to save me the stress.  It was thanks to her that I could devote my time to study and get a fairly good score in my exams.  I owe more than this to her . In the early turbulent years of my married life, it was she who would give me insight into her brother’s nature and helped me understand him.
 Teaching  was  just right for me. The timings were convenient, plenty of holidays and I loved the profession. I stuck to part- time till I could handle home and work without either suffering .The money is no big deal but the satisfaction I get out of interacting with students, academics .But my current activity of conducting training programmes (more about it later) is in a way akin to teaching.
I had a good rapport with my students. One fact I understood was that they do not come to class to learn. Our education system ensures that. Basically exam oriented , the syllabus and teaching methods encourage learning by rote. The students are spoon fed and any sign of deviating from a laid down pattern is  frowned upon. Teachers themselves are not motivated to introduce innovative styles as they get little support from the establishment which is bureaucratic, even in privately managed institutions. Surprisingly  parents too are stuck in the same rut of memorizing and reproducing, so the students have no choice. I saw a movie DEAD POETS SOCIETY in which the unconventional methods of a teacher , earned him a dismissal. Principals are also to blame as they are puppets of self- serving managements and rarely give the backup support teachers need.
I taught English in K C College in Mumbai. Actually , I was more like a detective, trying to catch the culprits who were upto mischief. English was a compulsory subject which would not make a difference to their group performance, so students came only for their mandatory attendance  and hassle the teacher. Once I understood their intention, I followed the Wesley (remember my professor ?) method of going beyond the text book. This also meant going beyond the class room because I helped them with extracurricular activities and became a counselor to those with personal problems.

The secret is to win their confidence.  Students respect teachers who are fair, fond and firm. Most teachers take themselves too seriously and try to control their wards.  They are not open to their point of view and discourage healthy dialogue or debate.  Those who have an informal, open – door policy, find it easier to keep their students attention. I found the best way to win over the young is to have a sense of humour.  Their trespasses must be condoned in a sporting spirit with limits spelt out.