When I graduated from College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and loads of confidence, I had noble and lofty ideas of what I would do with it all. I imagined a class full of bright, attentive children, eagerly lapping up the gems and pearls of wisdom flowing from my mouth. I would nurture these gentle delicate souls who would in their turn bring about a change in the big bad world. I carried along these images with me when I landed a post in a school to teach the Higher classes. On my first day in school, however, I was rudely awakened from my lofty visions, And HOW…!!!!
As I stood in the class-room and looked around me, a class full of well-coiffured and manicured young damsels looked back at me. And the boys…. Well…Wow !! Were they really only in High School? Most of them towered above me and some had a budding moustache and a hint of a beard to boot. What, I thought wildly, would I teach these self-assured young know-it-alls ?? I wasn’t good enough ! My training wasn’t good enough ! I was in the wrong place ! Help ….. I shuffled my feet, I giggled nervously and I almost worked myself up into hysterics. In short, keeping the gory details aside, I was a disaster on my first day !!!!!
I continued being a nervous wreck over the next couple of days. But, fortunately, for all concerned, this state of affairs did not last for long. As the days passed and I found my feet and got to know my students, I found that they were actually humans and I did know a shade more than them and more to the point, they were quite willing to listen to me. Admittedly I’m talking of the years before the reign of THE Private Coaching Class ! My students, I discovered, were quite an engaging lot and I had some wonderful sessions with them over the years. While the girls were really sweet and friendly and treated me as their confidante, it was common knowledge that I had a soft corner for the boys. Affectionate and naughty, they knew exactly how and when to tickle my sense of humour. One minute I would be reprimanding them, the next they would be back clustering around with cheeky grins.
And so it was that as the years passed , although I didn’t actually think I was the cat’s whiskers and the dog’s tail, well…… I must confess I began to feel jaded, that I’d been there and done all of that. What else was new ???? But this feeling wasn’t allowed to grow any further and I came back to earth when I was put into substitution for a young class . In one of the class sessions I set them an assignment to write about their mother to coincide with Mother’s day. The day came and went by but one little girl didn’t turn in her essay. Several reminders, reprimands and reprisals over the next couple of days were in vain. She would look at me out of big black eyes without saying a word. Irritation finally gave way to annoyance and I handed her a detention. From my high seat of discipline I lectured her sternly and severely on punctuality and laziness and more to this tune, as she sat and looked at her feet. Finally, out of sheer exasperation and with no other option left, I asked her what I should have done right in the beginning – one good reason for not writing the essay. She looked at me and said quietly “I don’t have a mother” The simple words hit me like a thunderbolt and I felt small and mean. And I deserved that ! After a few seconds, not trusting myself to speak, I pulled her gently to me and asked her if she had a father. When she nodded I told her she could write a few lines on him. In a little over 15 minutes she handed me a page and a half full of the endearing relationship she shared with her father. The piece was displayed on the notice board and eventually found its way into the school magasine, not so much from the literary aspect, but more for the poignancy and touching style of the composition.
It took a black-eyed, pig-tailed little girl to shake me out of my complacency, to remind me of why I was in the teacher’s chair in the first place, and…. to reawaken the Teacher in me.
Happy Teachers day !