Looking inward for answers

V.L. Bhargavi

It was as if a movie was playing in front of me. Eight students were shooting sharp arrows of complaints about me in the class. I was wondering whether these were the same students I was teaching for the past one year. “I can’t understand what she is teaching me,” “She doesn’t do all the sums,” “She dictates the sums”. My God! Each one of their statements pierced my heart. The very same Roshni who loved the way I taught her in class 9, the very same group who wanted me to continue as their math teacher in class 10, the very same girl who went to our administrator to convince him for the same, the same girl was hurling such harsh words at me in front of the administrator. It was as if my head was reeling. I was so shocked that words didn’t come out of my mouth. Ultimately it was decided that this group of eight students would attend math classes in the other section, which had my colleague as their teacher, for one month. I was trying to hold back my tears, but the streams on my cheek showed that I had failed. I tried to accept the situation but it was nearly impossible. Everyone tried to convince me that it was a passing phase; the same children would accept me and come back to my class. But my anguish knew no bounds.

I came home and broke down in my solitude. I could not share any of this with my family. As I lay quietly on my bed, my mind went back to the time I started my journey as a teacher. A young girl of class 8 teaching maths to her friends. It was then that I discovered my flair for teaching. Even during my college days I used to take tuitions for the neighbouring kids at a nominal cost. It was not just a passion but an inner call. This continued into my career as a teacher. I worked as a teacher in a nearby school and also had my own tutorials where I was teaching students of different classes in five batches. During weekends I was teaching math and statistics to MBA as well as ICWAI students.

By this time I was very proud of the way I was teaching. After a gap of 10 years, I came back to this profession and started working in schools. I worked in two schools before settling on Carmel High School, Basaveshwaranagar, Bangalore as the place I would work at after my hiatus. I believed that the first two schools I worked in did not provide me with opportunities to exhibit my talent and give me freedom to teach according to my wishes. When I joined Carmel, new dimensions of teaching opened up and I started devouring knowledge like never before about teaching methodologies and dynamics of teaching. I made it a point to imbibe these methods in my class and I soon won the hearts of many students, or so I thought. My language, diction, way of explaining always had a charm about them. Soon I was promoted to the high school. The first year I came to high school, I handled this class in their 9th for only three months in the absence of their teacher. This is when I came across Roshni and group. Their performance in their 9th exams improved drastically. After the three months in 9th class, as per their request, I was given their class for 10th maths.

As usual my enthusiasm never came down and I started with great zeal. Two months into the class, I found that the students were highly distracted, and it seemed to me that they had lost interest in their studies. Not bringing their books, incomplete work, behavioural changes, disrespecting the teacher became a regular feature in my class. This attitude of the students increased my frustration day by day and I started losing control. Scolding and shouting became routine for me. This was the situation when the group of eight today plotted the entire episode in the class.

The energy which I usually had when going to school dropped considerably in the next few days. I started blaming the students for their rudeness and the ill will in my heart never let me accept these students.

I am an ardent lover of books. In one of the books that I was reading, I came across a statement, “You can’t change the world around you, rather change yourself.” And one more statement which read, “The solution for all the problems lies inside you. You need to delve inside yourself to solve any issue.” These two profound statements brought about a change in my perspective of understanding the concept of being a teacher. This incident brought a lot of change within me. That day I realized that more than teaching any subject, it’s important how a teacher makes her children feel during classes. Fifteen days after this incident, Roshni came back to me and asked me why I never cared to understand her problems, her tensions, and her helplessness in controlling her distractions. This is when a new light dawned on me. She made me realize that understanding the emotions of the students goes a long way in becoming a good teacher. We, as teachers, must try to empathize with our students and figure out what they are going through. I started introspecting my goals as a teacher; I began to redefine my ethics of being a teacher. This is how I became more of a mentor, facilitator, a friendly guide rather than being just a teacher. It was here that I realized we can’t force open a bud to bloom; we have to provide a conducive environment for the blooming to happen. In the same way we can’t force the students to move along a certain path, we have to give them the warmth of love, guide them by providing the light of knowledge, walk and talk the way for them to follow.

But my knowledge for the ongoing transformation was inadequate, hence my quest for becoming a better guru for my students started with full zeal. I realized I needed more exposure, more training, hence my decision to do a counselling course and become a counsellor. This one student of mine taught me to be more authentic, more human and more so a better educator. It was at this moment that my students became my children.

This one incident opened my eyes to a new and different world of students and from then on I started observing my students and learning from them. The pride of being a good teacher changed into an attitude of constant learning, which is never ending. Now my senses are very sharp in absorbing the lessons that my students teach me. Whether it is a lesson in patience from Adithya, better organizing skills from Amrutha or enjoying life without prejudice like many teenagers. Each student has a lesson for me and I try to imbibe as many of them as possible. Learning is a constant process and when we are open to new possibilities without prejudice or judgment, we can always stay in the hearts of many students.

The author is a teacher, counsellor and special educator in Carmel High School, Basaveshwarnagar Bangalore. She is an ardent reader of books and loves music. She can be reached at vlbhargavi@gmail.com.

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