My teacher and I

Surbhi Nigam works with kids in the pre-primary section in Bluebells School International. She loves to paint, read, and write short stories for children. She believes that life is god’s gift to us and therefore we have to live it to its fullest.

Our English teacher was absent that day and we had a free period. I was in class four. Everybody was happy that they were getting an unexpected free period. There was a lot of noise in the class when suddenly we saw someone standing at the door. Pin drop silence followed. Ms. Calender taught the higher classes. She was one of the nicest teachers in school and yet for some reason everyone was on their guard when she was around.

This was 25 years ago but I remember it like yesterday. She walked into class and asked us to take turns and read aloud from our reading books. I had always been a “back bencher” and was not very confident of my reading skills. My heart was racing.

When it was my turn to read, everything around me started moving, my vision blurred. Butterflies were flying about in my stomach. It was with extreme difficulty that I finished reading my bit.

The next day three students from my class were called to see Ms. Calender. I was one of the three. Why was I being called? What did I do? Did I read so badly yesterday? My mind choking with these thoughts.

In the staff room, Ms. Calender gave each of us a paper to read. We made mistakes while reading and I the most. My pronunciation was not very refined. We were asked to take the paper home, practice reading and come prepared the next day.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I was afraid of the task that was awaiting me the next day and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of Ms. Calender. I stayed up all night practicing my reading. The next morning we read from the paper in front of Ms. Calender. Imagine my surprise and dread when she announced that I was chosen to participate in a competition, which was to be judged by an external jury. I had 15 days before the competition. I wanted to cry, run away, fall on my knees, and beg her to spare me. She saw the fear in my eyes and said, “I know you can do it.”

I was speechless for no teacher had ever shown her trust and faith in me. My classmates and even some of my teachers were surprised that I had been chosen. I could hear my classmates giggling and talking behind me. Later in the day, Ms. Calender gave me the topic I was to speak on – patience.

Ms. Calender met me everyday, briefed me on the topic, asked me to think and make notes. She discouraged any ideas I may have had of copying. She corrected my mistakes and made me practice speaking using the correct words, grammar, and punctuation.

Every time I wanted to tell her that I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t the right choice, that I didn’t fit in, I remembered her trust in me. I wanted to run away but I couldn’t.

I spent a sleepless night before the competition. When D-day arrived, my heart was pounding and I felt that the whole world could hear it. My turn came and for a second the world around me started shaking. I wanted to run away. My mind was blank and I was speechless. And then I saw someone – someone who trusted me and believed in my potential. She nodded her head, gave me a thumps up and I heard the words, “I know you can do it,” in my mind.

I took a deep breath and started. After three seconds, I was in full swing. I spoke with all the courage and enthusiasm that my teacher had instilled in me. I spoke for my teacher – Ms. Calender.

The results were announced and guess what? I got the second prize. It was a moment to celebrate but I couldn’t stop crying. I received the prize with shaking hands and looked at my teacher. It was more her victory than mine. She found me before I could get lost. Thank you ma’am.

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