After a long hiatus from the field, I finally got the opportunity to go to schools and teach students for some days. The zest and smiling faces with which I would be greeted the moment I’d enter the class would make me feel as the most important person on the planet! (and I also conveyed this to the kids, who then started giggling).
Ironically, I’d soon lose the vigour and optimism with which I would enter the classroom. The first day itself, I lost all excitement as I learnt that out of a class of about 30 (this included students of grades 3, 4 and 5), only a handful knew the alphabets – both Hindi and English. Despite using different activities to teach them and giving in as much as I could, the student’s seemed either uninterested or didn’t respond as fast as I had expected them to.
At the end of each day, I realized that my time was majorly devoted to the ‘better’ learners/performers. Those who could quickly memorise tables were given the next tables to learn. Those who could add 2-digit numbers were then given 3-digit numbers. As a student back in school, I would think of a teacher as partial, if she/he would give ‘extra’ attention to the brighter kids. But after these few days of teaching (and learning), I understood my teachers’ rationale of giving a little extra time to high scorers.
I also don’t remember greeting my teachers as warmly as I was greeted every day. This change of role – from a learner to a teacher helped me reflect on how I was as a student, and how difficult it is to stand on the other side of the class. To deal with a mix of children – some hooligans, some sincere ones, some lost ones. Patience, they say, is a virtue and I have come to realise that teachers are the best examples of it. Not screaming or running back when you are shown a ‘babaji ka thullu’ to say good bye or when kids complain about others eating mud is I think has been a real test of my patience.
I have a newfound respect for my teachers now and this experience helped me understand and empathise with their perspective to a great extent.