Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Eight Years Ago... [Part 1]

... I left my cushy air-conditioned office job to teach a third standard class in a village school. It was an hour journey to school every day, and I spent about six hours every day with 13 mischievous little eight year olds. Today I got to visit the school and see my eight year olds transformed into sixteen year olds. Crazy! They still remembered the stuff we did- the games, the art, the stories. It was a transformational year for me, and it looks like it was for them too.

What joy to see that they've become confident, happy, intelligent almost adults, talking about becoming doctors and engineers and businessmen, smiles splitting their faces as they saw me. What God can do with nine months!

I had another blog back then, but I thought I would share a few stories from that time of my life.

Learning to Love:

While I was teaching, I had one very restless little boy in my class. And I mean RESTLESS. From the beginning of the year till the end he squirmed, and jumped and twisted himself all over his bench, and under his bench and everywhere else... all the time! There was never a moment that he sat quietly and focussed. He also never met my eye. Some were easy to love. With some, it was harder. I was constantly correcting him, and I never seemed to speak to him except to correct him. He was also very smart, and always had answers, but I never seemed to appreciate him for that, because I just labelled him in my mind 'annoying'.

A few weeks ago, we had been extremely hot weather and the kids were constantly drinking water. Only this boy, let's call him Gaurav, never seemed to remember to bring his.

"Miss, I want to drink water"
"So drink."
"I don't have. Preeti is not giving."
"Preeti, please share your water. Why haven't you brought water, Gaurav?"
"I forgot."
"Please remember tomorrow."
Tomorrow came.
"Miss I not have water."
"Again? Don't be so careless, Gaurav!"

Finally I decided to ask a few questions, and I found he didn't have a bottle. One of the girls gave him her extra one. The matter seemed settled.

The next day again.
"Gaurav, where is your bottle?"
"I forgot, Miss."
"Again? This is really getting too much!"

Finally I managed to come out of my insensitive little shell to question him more closely.

It turns out he does not have water available at home! The municipal supply has stopped for some reason. The only water they got was three bottles his father got from his office everyday.

Aargh. I felt like hitting myself. How could I blame a seven year old for not bringing water in the sweltering heat? How could I possibly think he would leave it out of choice? That he liked having to ask for water from his class mates everyday?

That evening we had a Stations of the Cross at home, and at one point we were asked to pray for the needs of the world. I started sobbing and I couldn't stop. My callousness. His thirst. The entire thirsty village. And villages. All over India. Us city people who just don't care. Jesus who said 'I thirst.'

Needless to say I learnt a big lesson. A lesson about love. I learnt that Jesus' command to love wasn't 'Love those who you enjoy loving." or "Love those who respond." or even "Love those who don't get on your nerves." Love those who are especially hard to love, because they are the ones who may not have had that much of love in their lives.

I tried my best to make it up to Gaurav, and talked to him kindly even when he didn't meet my eye. Too little too late maybe. But something to take with me into the future.

Eight Year Old Humour

The latest kid fad was adding some juice flavour to their water bottles. Once Shubham showed me his RED coloured water in his bottle.
Me: Aaarggh! What's that? Is that... blood? Oh no, where's Sourabh? What did you do with Sourabh?
The other kids got into the act.
Kids: Where's Sourabh? Where's Sourabh?
They rushed around, found Sourabh and dragged him to me.
Kids: Miss, HERE'S Sourabh!
I heaved a sigh of relief and put my hands on a confused Sourabh's shoulders.
Me: My, am I glad to see you, Sourabh! Phew. What a relief.
The kids didn't want it to end so fast.
Shubhangi (with mock urgency): Miss, WHERE'S Prajakta??!!
I rose to the occasion.
Me: Oh no! Where IS Prajakta? (looking suspiciously at Shubham) Did you kill Prajakta?* 
Shubham (with a delighted grin): No, Miss!
Shubhangi (dragging Prajakta along): Miss, HERE'S Prajakta...
And so it went on.

*Now that I think about it, it was probably inappropriate to joke about killing. 

Then Comes Marriage... Then Comes Babies

We've been averaging a fairy tale a day, and sometimes even two.. one things that seems to be in common in most of them is that they end with a marriage, and a 'happily ever after'.

1001 Arabian Nights is a little different because the King is married to the heroine before the end. I ended the story..
Me: And what do you think happened? He decided not to killed her and they lived happily ever after.
Tushar: And they got married!
Sandesh: They are already married!
Tushar: Then they have baby!

My ending was obviously incomplete.

Romantic Boys

The boys in my class are usually kinda embarrassed and scornful of any kind of descriptions of romance in my stories.. so I usually keep them short and matter of fact.. "So the Prince fell in love with the Princess." Things seem to be changing though...

Today I told the the 1001 Arabian Nights story..
Me: Scheherazade was very beautiful.. the King liked the way she looked. She had dark kajal around her eyes.. and she wore beautiful veils.. and um..
Jay (butting in eagerly): And her hair??
(While the other guys give him strange disbelieving looks)
Me (smothering my smile): Yes her hair was very long and beautiful too.

Validation... Again

Some days ago I walked up the stairs after eating my lunch, and was greeted by a six year old who grabbed my hand and escorted me to my class- "Library!" he announced. My class is the only one with plenty of storybooks available, and a nice welcoming mat in the middle. There were several other first graders who greeted me, and pushed storybooks in my face so I would read to them. My third standards read their own books, and looked up to say "They like you, Miss", knowingly.

A little later as I read stories, the headmistress walked in and approvingly told me I was a good teacher and she was happy to see me getting back to work so fast. She hadn't even left, when the six year olds yelled "She LIKES you!".

I had NO idea.


... from 'My Visit to the Zoo'

The best thing was the leopard.
The worst thing was that Miss Susanna called me a monkey.

(He left out the part where I told them I was going to sell all thirteen monkeys to the zoo and buy myself some nice clothes with the money)

On Beds and Nonsense and Curses

A week ago before our visit to the zoo..

Child 1: Miss, can I bring my ball to the picnic?
Child 2: Miss, can I bring money to the picnic?
Me: Ok. Anyone wants to bring their TV?
Child 3: Yes Miss, me!
Me: Anyone wants to bring their mother?
Child 3: Yes Miss, me!
Me: Anyone wants to bring a bed?
Anand: Yes Miss! I have so big bed at home.
(That's when I remembered it isn't common for the children to have their own beds, in fact it's a luxury.)
Child: I have a bed at home!
Another child: Yes Miss even I have!
Sandeep: Miss I had bed but it went in bad fire.
Me: Bad fire, huh?
Sandeep: (loud and excited as usual) Yes Miss.. my mother took candle, and then ...
Jalal: NO Miss, he not have bed!
Sandeep: You don't know!I had bed but it went in bad fire! Yes Miss!
Jalal: NO Miss, he not have bed! I saw his house.
Sandeep: (turns to Jalal, annoyed) You have bed and then it will go in fire and then other children will tell you not had bed!  


..In my class a few days ago.

Little boy: ..Only God, Miss, Gourav and I know that.
Me: Know what?
Little boy: Where Madagascar is.

(They think the globe is a game.. one asks me to read the name of a place they point out, and the other finds the place)

Not So Scary

As I sat at the front of the school bus on our way to our school picnic, I shot warning looks at the third standards in the back seats every time they jumped out of their seats. I was observed with interest by two little six year olds in front of me.
Six year old: Miss, why do you make your eyes big like that?
Me: It scares my children. Then they listen to me.
Another six year old: Miss, do it again!
First six year old: I like you, Miss.

What would YOU do if you were God?

Yesterday during History revision, the topic sudddenly turned to God..
One hyper boy: Miss, God holds all the black black thing in his hand?
Me: Uh, what black black thing?
Him: All the stars and planets and all that..
Me: Oh, the universe. Yes, He can. He made it!

A pause while they think of 'He's Got the whole World in His Hands'...

Young minds pondering the hugeness and awesomeness of their Creator...

And then...

A 7 year old thinker: And when no one is looking, He takes it and kicks it like a ball.

But Looks Can Be Deceptive

"Idiot!" I muttered as I realized I had not prepared properly for my craft class.
"What, Miss?" asked Trupti.
"Not you, Trupti, me. I'm an idiot."
"No, Miss" she said reassuringly "You not look like idiot."

Is It Because I Was in School Just Seven Years Ago?

Sometimes keeping the stern teacher face can be tough. We started circle time today and all the kids went crazy.
Me: Rules of circle time- if someone's talking, keep your eyes on them.
Everybody starts sticking their faces into each others'. Plus shrieks of laughter.
Me: Too much noise!
I shut my eyes waiting for everyone to notice and calm down, but two little monsters refuse to take a hint.
Sandesh: (Loud chatter)
Other kids: Shhh... Miss is waiting.
Sandesh: Miss, what is the time?
Aditya: Time for the bell!
Sandesh: Time for P.T.
Aditya: Ding ding ding ding!
Sandesh: Now I will close my eyes like Miss! When Miss open, I will open!
My eyes opened, and I had to try really hard not to start giggling, as I stared at Sandesh's closed eyes, and waited for him to figure out that his time had come.

They seemed to think my closed eyes meant I was not in the room, or maybe asleep, or in a trance. But I regained my composure, and Aditya and Sandesh spent the next 10 minutes in the corner.


Speaking of sleep though, one time I was really tired in class. And tired of the 'Miss, miss, miss'. It was the break time, and the kids were finishing off some work. I put my head on my table and drifted (Yes, I know, very unprofessional teacher conduct) I heard footsteps approach my table. Pause for a moment. How to deal with a sleeping teacher? You can't really shout 'Wake up!' I didn't move. The footsteps retreated.

Another set of footsteps. This one was not to be deflected so easily. My cute naughty little Jay starts fanning his book back and forth till my hair starts flying. I surrender.

Er.. What?

Sandesh, pausing with his hand on the door : You want to see my body, Miss?
(Er, no thanks, Sandesh)

(It turns out he meant strength, as in pulling our stuck classroom door with his superior strength)


Sameer, who had lost his pencil for the umpteenth time..
Me (sternly): Where's your pencil, Sameer?
Sameer (gravely): Heaven.
Me: What?
Sameer: Yes, Miss. Pencil die and go in heaven. (pointing upwards)

(Tearing sound as teacher pulls her hair out.)

 All in a Day's Work

People say the trouble with life is that it’s so damn daily…. Not for me!

On Thursday I decided to treat myself to some quiet time during the lunch break. I excused myself from eating with the other teachers, which was possible because I had sandwiches instead of the messier chapatti-bhaji. I chased all my kids out of the classroom, put on my reading glasses and settled down with Scott Hahn’s Lord Have Mercy. Unfortunately my monkeys were in the mood for mischief. First the door slammed and I saw two cheeky faces peeping at me from the window.

“We lock you, Mees!” they announced gleefully. I settled in more comfortably and continued reading. If they had locked me in, that meant I was in and they were out, which was a good thing in my book. But they couldn’t stand for this indifference (boys never can) so they kept closing and opening the doors while their more innocent classmates tried to continue their routines- coming in, dumping lunch bags and drinking water. In the midst of the confusion, they locked me in with Tushar, my sweet silent Tushar, who can enjoy a joke in spite of his simplicity.

When Tushar realized he was locked in, I couldn’t repress my 10 year old inner child, so I got him to retaliate in the best possible way.

“Lock the door, Tushar, quick!” He rushed to obey my command in the manner of a knight to his lady’s rescue.

“Now close the window” which he did, to the grinning faces’ dismay.

“Now choose a book and read it.” Which he did quite willingly, with a big grin on his face, as he realized he was teachers’ accomplice. We both peacefully read our books as boys banged on doors and windows, and finally one of the male teachers came to see why the third students had lost their minds and their cool.

All in a day’s work for me! :-)

If you enjoyed these stories, I can post more! 

Update: Part 2 here

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