Some lessons from L.K.G

After his first week in school, I was trying to have that conversation with the kid to know what was up at school. Here is what he said:

“Ma’am told that if you smile, your eyes will smile” !!

Wow! I mean, it is a cool thing for a teacher to tell the kids. To talk about a positive trait to small kids. I haven’t seen her yet, but am already in love with her. But, I digress. So a few days after this incident, I asked Varun how things were in school and what other interesting things he was learning from his is ‘ma’am’.

He said – “Ma’am says, if you talk, your ears will talk” !!!

The BRAT! Brattiest I tell you!

Note: Just in case you haven’t noticed, have added another page to this blog – Bopanna’s World. Do hop over and let me know what you think.

Why the lad was sad!

(Read Sad lad before you proceed…)

Earlier in the day, Vyas and his friend A, had an argument in the class over a page in math. Vyas had done the wrong exercise and A was trying to explain that the teacher had mentioned a different one! The two, lost in their world, apparently were speaking louder than the rest in an already noisy class.

Teaching, as a career, is strictly meant for those with noble souls and normal TSH count. I would have fled the classroom on day one if I were to teach kids anywhere in the age group of 3 to 10. So, is 11+ age group okay for you , you ask? That question is out of syllabus!

The well meaning teacher did not waste time in asking the two to get out of the class! A, being a smart, disciplined, worldly fellow, apologized immediately, and the teacher ‘recognized’ it and asked him to sit. Our fellow, was by this time heading out to the door! Literally walking out I mean!! He stood at the entrance to his classroom for 15 minutes after which his teacher asked him to get back to his seat. He is said to have mouthed a ‘sorry’ which the teacher must have mistook for a sound coming from somewhere deep inside a well!

A , when asked by his mom, had explained the episode in detail and felt that he or Vyas did not deserve to be ‘punished’ because they were not being cranky or naughty at that moment, and it was something they were anyway going to check with the teacher. He felt responsible for dragging Vyas into the squabble and that it was unfair that only Vyas was made to stand out! That was a tiny partner-in-crime talking:) I thanked the mommy profusely for the help:)

Vyas was still brooding over the issue the next day and there was no improvement in his mood. I struck a conversation, a monologue rather, and told him casually that I did a goof up when I was in college. He was all ears now. He wanted to know more details, but I hesitated. He was getting inquisitive and promised not to tell anyone, not even appa. A breakthrough moment for me! With all that air of secrecy I told him that my professor asked me to stay out of the class because I was late and I was late because I thought that the particular prof was on leave that day and that it was a free hour. But the class was on when I returned! Which by the way, is a true story:) The teacher reminded me and another friend that we were too early for her next class!

“This is exactly what happened to me ma!” he blurted out! “What? you were late for a class? You are allowed to go out when there is a free hour”, I feigned innocence. “No, not that. You know ma, this A….” he did a ‘repeat’ of the story and the versions were in sync! It was out of chest. I laughed as if it was the biggest joke I’d heard this decade!

He admitted that he felt bad for being punished and the other reason was A did not try explaining to the teacher or prompt him to apologize. And it was because of him that he actually got into trouble! I convinced him that such things keep happening in school and the teacher only meant well and anyone in her shoes would have done the same thing.

Agni nakshatram!

Having removed the thorn that hurt, I felt it needed a little cleaning up and dressing. So, shared a little gyan on the need for the teacher to enforce discipline in the class as much as she is bound to encourage learning. In her place, I’d have probably sent the whole class packing or I’d have walked off.. That it happened to be ‘his’ day and there might be many more show downs like this even if it were not his fault. And that, as he grows up he will learn to take things in his stride. This does not however mean that getting punished is alright. Having fun must not be confused with misbehavior. He must continue to exercise the same freedom with the teacher, and not hold any grudge against his friend who rightly apologized. Phew!!

Ironically, just a couple of days before this ‘episode’, some incident at home triggered a conversation on the importance of saying ‘SORRY’. I reminded him of that conversation on how powerful the word is and that we must never hesitate to use it, specially if it involves our loved ones or elders. That does not take away his right to justify himself to the person concerned, be it the teacher, friends or family. “Yes ma, that is why I remembered to say sorry when stepping into the class”, he said. Me says, “Good. But the next time, say SORRY before stepping out of the class. It makes a difference”!!

What a teacher is to a student

As a child, I used to love whacking a cane, tapping at a chair in front of me, talking to an imaginary ‘student-audience’. The teacher was a person with the most authority. And the teacher was always right no matter how wrong he/she was.

The student-teacher relationship seems to have evolved quite a bit over the years and there is a paradigm shift in the relationship between the ‘teacher’ and the ‘taught’. Have been attending the observation sessions in Vyas’s school for the last few years. And for now, am happy with what am seeing.

I had planned to stay for the first two periods of the session and ended up staying till the last period. Soon after the 1st period, Vyas turned around and raised a finger threateningly and said I must stay through the day! The day started with the teacher making a few children do some math on the board. The children enjoyed this. This was followed some mental maths, quiz, pretend-play, craft, language, and Indian music with 2 breaks in between for the children to ‘snack’ and for lunch. The kids declared more breaks for themselves with requests and questions like this:

1.”Maam, I would like to use the toilet “,
2.”Maam, can I have some water”,
3.”Maam, I would like to sharpen my pencil”
4. “Maam, my eraser/pencil is missing”
5. “Maam, I don’t understand. Please repeat”
6. “Maam, I have a doubt”

And guess what? The last one was the most frequently used excuse. And the word most uttered in the class was ‘Maam’! So, when the teacher showed a slide with some black-bird laying its eggs in a crow’s nest, the children in no time guessed it was a cuckoo. But, one little elf out there raised a hand and spoke thus: “Maam, I have a doubt. Will the children cuckoos never know the mother cuckoo?”. LOL! Do any of you know?

The teacher made the session interesting by putting the kids in 4 groups and assigning points to the team for the right answers. It worked like this: A team gets 5 points for a right answer. The question can be passed if a child does not know the answer, but they lose a point for every pass. And if anyone answers out of turn, prompts answers, yells, leaves the seats or misbehaves, the team again loses one more point.

I have a feeling that the kids have been watching too many reality shows on the TV. When a child was trying to figure out an answer for a question, the others kids around her in the team were getting restless and I could see a few holding their fists in a tight roll, some hands clasped, trying to send up a silent prayer etc! And when the question passed, there was a bang on the table by a disappointed team-mate. One point lost! And when the teacher marked another ‘-1’ because someone in the group violated the ‘behavior’ rule, a child was in tears. And surely enough, the friends next to him were empathetic and called for the teacher’s
attention. When the teacher was told that the lost point was the reason, the teacher simply said “OK” and proceeded! She obviously knew her wards in and out:-) and she must be a witness to this drama everyday! However, the points system worked and kept every child focused!

Pretend-play is a hit with the kids and the adults alike. The children were asked to visualize a jungle and each of them must act like an animal of their choice. The animals were to attend a party in the jungle because there was a coronation of a new lion as the king! And each of these animals must take some food along to the party! Each child should pretend to be that animal and must give obvious clues like the animal sound, gait etc so the others can guess. So my fellow was a tiger, carrying a dead hyena as food! eeks!! There was a cute bulbul and a couple of peacocks that carried worms. A cheetah came leaping and hurt his knee in the process. He claimed that he came hunting for a deer to carry to the party, but was not taking anything as he had an injured knee!! Some smart thinking:-) Quite a few cats carried fish and milk and a dog carried plenty of bones..

It was a feast not only in the jungle, but in the class too! And my resolve to never venture into ‘teaching’ has found new strength. Parenting is cooler:-)

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