Monday, April 28, 2008

Teacher As Leader

I was at this workshop on Teachers as Leaders - Beyond the Curriculum. There were about 300 teachers from different Indian schools.
Instead of going ahead with the workshop, there was a needless inaugural ceremony with several speakers. Thankfully the speeches were short and not too bad, except for the host school principal whose pronunciation was bad and style was atrocious. She thanked the 'cheerman' for organising the event. She valued the 'apawrchoonty' to get away from the 'moondane' into the magical and she was sure that she would have 'good mammaries' (of the talk) that everyone would go to and go back to... Albeit the embarrassment, it lightened things for me ,the eternal fault finder.
Some teachers of the host school then sang a song (shudder). It had been penned by one of those poor souls (probably forced to do so). Teachers are pathetic creatures, expected to be clerk, mother, counsellor, policeman, spy, choreographer, editor, songwriter, and much more.

The content of the workshop was not new, but the perspective was. The resource person, who vaguely resembled one of my back seat boys made us do this mind exercise which actually blew my mind. Besides, the introspection that followed the session uncovered several shortcomings that I had closed my eyes to. Of course my friends and I did pass notes and giggle at the nonsense responses of several teachers. But it was a holiday well spent.
Few agreed with me though. Some delegates felt that crowded classrooms, absent infrastructure, profit oriented management, overworked(and underpaid) teachers are not really conducive to teaching, let alone 'transforming the students by creating magic in the class'. The majority found the day a waste because they could have spent it at home(doing what? cooking?), because it was boring and most because the tea was bad and lunch was worse!
Later pondering on the teaching profession, the words of Malvolio (Shakespeare's Twelfth Night) came to mind. "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. Teachers seem like the fool Malvolio - bearing the cross of nobility that is thrust upon them... because people love to hate teachers - students write nasty remarks about them on orkut, the parents criticise them.. Teachers can't demand or protest because they are 'noble'. It is sad but true that schools have become 'teaching shops' and society refuses to respect individuals who trod the path not taken. Parents still force children to learn subjects that they have no aptitude for or interest in. As long as this scenario prevails, teachers are destined to be leaders in the confines of a cage.
Despite these dismal thoughts I am happy I chose to be a teacher. I am so glad I didn't have to work in a bank or something, counting currency endlessly. What can be more rewarding than staying young at heart, being surrounded by youthful energy, learning something new each day?!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Dead sobs fled from yawning graves,
Exiled spirits, banished into ennui.
Pang and spasm each aching lub-dub as
Raped heart in silence screams,
Entrenched within parched sighs.
Soul soaked in tears unshed
Stained in sorrow's sad dye.
Inky blood to burn each cell
Oozing puss of pain -
Naked, numbing pain...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


My first memory of praying was as a child in No.6, Sarangapani Street - the house my grandfather built, where my cousins and I grew up. The pooja room was on the top floor of the 3 storey structure - what we kids called the 'up-up-stairs'.

Every evening at dusk we would be sent up-up-stairs to light the lamp and say our prayers aloud. I can see the deerskin that my grandmother used to sit on, I can smell the oil and vibhuthi, feel the softness of the silk of a swami's dhothi treasured in a pretty carved sandalwood box. I see the pictures of lovely goddesses and pretty gods. Among them also the image of mother Mary and infant Jesus, kept there for the benefit of Jacob our boy servant sent from a Kerala village.

The lamp-lighting and prayers were invariably punctuated with quarrels and they ended with a hurried '...shanthi shanti shanthi'.

After the prayer session, all would run down the narrow stairs. I cannot recall what excitement awaited, but the running happened. Being the littlest of all, I was rather slow and therefore left behind. That is when fear took over. Shadows loomed and the little girl was sure one of them was 'boochandi' come to do evil things to her. Terror squeezed her breathless as her feet stumbled down the stairs. All the while she sang at the top of her voice, half to take strength from the noise, half to appear brave to the others laughing at the bottom landing.

I remember sidling up to my grandfather one night as he reclined on his armchair, preparing his betel leaves. I asked him why we had to pray every single day. He probably thought it was blasphemy, but proceeded to explain, " Have you watched the wheel? Any point on the circumference keeps going up or down as the wheel moves. But look at the centre - it stays unmoved whatever happens to the wheel. People who pray are like the centre of the wheel." Grandfather's reply left me disappointed. Why was he talking about wheels?

When I went to my parents during the vacation, I'd listen as my father sang bhajans in his inimitable way . I'd lie on my mother's lap and doze off. My mother often said that it was 'ashreekaram' - inauspicious - to sleep at dusk during prayers. But even today prayers induce sleep, especially in the evening.

Adoloscence came with doubts and questions. Did I really think that god sat and answered prayers? Why pray for stuff when you can work and get it . Yes work was worship.

Time and tide didn't wait; child bearing brought humility and faith. "Please keep my children healthy, wealthy, wise, happy, lucky, goodlooking, smart, efficient, useful individuals. May they get the good that they deserve and deserve the good that they get...." thus went my prayers. I felt quite smug with my 'complete 'prayer. It included all that they would need....... or did it? I remembered Tithonus.

Tithonus, a character in Greek mythology had prayed for immortal life, but he had forgotten to ask for everlasting youth. So the unfortunate fellow was destined to live endlessly, an old old man while his wife,the lovely Aurora- Dawn rose with renewed youth every morning. ( The poem by Tennyson is a must read)

So the tale of Tithonus led me to total surrender as I told god that he knew what was good for my children and may his will be done. Only give the strength to face the tests.
Today I realise that individuals cannot know peace unless there is balance all around. And my brief, but momentous prayer goes: Give, this day, peace - Shanthi... Shanthi....Shanthi.
I have come full circle.
I cannot hope that the power of prayers, the vibrations they create will bring peace between communities or balance in nature. They may not make terrorists less terrible or corrupt people honest. They may not even make a hostile person amiable or a hurt heart heal. All I can do is nurture peace within me and among the people I meet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ring Out The Old

Another academic year has come to an end.The board students have been led through the exams and sent off into the world.The week before my exam was a nightmare of drilling as we,teachers shuttled between our new batch of tenth and twelfth and the old ones that came to clear doubts and revise. Julius Caesar and ode to the west wind were coming out of my ears after days of going over and over the lessons with groups of students who landed in school during the study holidays.The Salmans and the Murtuzas cursed Shelley and Coleridge in colourful language, with genuine feeling and correcting sheet after sheet of exercises, I found myself cursing CBSE just as vehemently.

Some of the questions they include are incredibly dumb and I feel foolish teaching students to write telegrams and messages.... imagine in this age of mobile phones!! Then there are the jumbled sentences designed with the sole purpose of torturing children.What is being tested is beyond my understanding.English in its functional avatar is unattractive. Creativity takes backseat as children turn into mark machines.

So my 7th standard was a delight to teach. At that age the students don't have airs and attitude. They actually take English seriously and are eager to learn. Inhibitions they don't have. Real teaching-learning happens. I'll miss them.

The new set of students are already occupying my mind. The tenth and twelfth students have completed a month of class. This year I teach class 5 also and that is going to be an adventure. Right now they are enjoying the novelty of using pens for the 1st time.I'll see what life has in store for me in the months to come

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lost Post

(To be recited like Piggy On The Railway track)

One little blog post
Sitting on my blog,
One nice comment had just come along
'Click', said the little mouse
In a careless hand,
Off went the little post
Comment and all....

That's as cruel as a nursery rhyme can get.
Boo hoo ... and I'm too lazy to write it all over again..