Friday, November 21, 2008

Emerging Enlightened From Fifth Standard

Just two terms in fifth standard and I’ve learnt so much! The education has been multilevel – ethical, practical, creative and.... relentless.

Here are a few lessons that the 10 year olds taught me.

We were describing experiences in a railway station. That was the exercise given in the reader. Few had seen a train or a station. So I switched to an airport - and the response was resounding. But they spoke only about things that they bought at the airport – chocolates, cookies, juice, toys and one smart boy said books ( my repeated talks about the wonder of books and reading gave him an idea what would please me.) Wanting to turn the discussion to other things, I told the class that I loved to observe people at the airport – their clothes, appearance, behaviour... when Kevin in his high pitched voice said, “ Ma’am I think you were staring and that is not polite.” – and down dropped my sails…

Once we were doing Ruskin Bond’s 'A Face In The Dark', the story of a person meeting a faceless boy in the woods. This man runs in terror and reports to the watchman at his residence the scary sight. The climax of the story is the watchman holding his lantern to his face and asking, “ Was the face like this?” And the person is horrified to see that the watchman also had no features on his face. I had expected the class to experience the thrill of fear, the mystery of the supernatural. I’d expected wrong. They had a more down to earth doubt – How did the watchman speak if he didn’t have a mouth???

Entering class five is like stepping into the tower of Babel. Everyone speaks, not bothering if anyone listens. The sight of a teacher triggers cacophony. There are those who remind you that you have to give a dictation or collect the worksheet or give back the corrected work or take the recitation test or something. There is a bunch that offers service- to distribute the books or collect the homework or clean the blackboard or write the names of offenders. Then there are requests- Can I go to the toilet, I want to drink water, Please give us games, May I read first… But the majority enjoys complaining – That boy pushed me, She took my pen, Stuti is copying the homework from Wafa,You didn’t give my book after correction, I don’t have place to sit, She spoke in Malayalam, He speaks Tamil all the time, Walid said a bad word, He said shut up, He called me dog… It is a practical exam in patience I tell you!

The other day Aditya who has the loudest voice said “Ma’am Walid used the F word!!” The ‘oooh’ that followed inspired him to repeat the accusation even louder . Obviously Aditya was enjoying the added pleasure of uttering the prohibited word with total legitimacy. I had to do something before he spelled it out. So I turned on the guilty Walid with an angry frown and threatened him with dire consequences if he dared to repeat the crime. I then felt compelled to give a short talk on abstinence from uttering bad words. “Shame on all those who use filthy language,” I launched into the tirade, “The words you use show your culture. If you use such words, it shows that you are uncivilized (they had just learnt that word) Such small children, using such bad words…!.” I couldn’t complete the scolding. Aditya bobbed up like a @#*!@# Jack-in-the-box asking(shouting), “WHEN WE GROW OLDER CAN WE USE BAD WORDS, Ma’am?” It took a while for me to untie my tongue and put it back into my big mouth which was already occupied by my foot - shoe, stocking and all.

Logic is supreme for these children. If the masculine gender for mistress is master then the masculine for Countess should be Counter. And a female monk should be monkey??

There are so many more enlightening experiences that happen in that room. I need to jot them down before they slip from my mind. But then I am too preoccupied in experiencing those experiences