Power to the primary teacher

Neerja Singh

Primary teachers often suffer from an inferiority complex. There is an inexplicable, implied and rampant “dumbing” down of the profession. It is as though the vulnerability and perceived intellectual level of the students in their charge automatically pegs them alongside lab assistants, no offence meant. To add to this dowdy visage, there is their punishing class schedule that leaves them with no time to be of any nuisance value.

Schools that practice the mother-teacher system in the primary place such an onus on the personal resources of the class teacher that she is done for with the very first school bell. A typical primary class teacher today handles the academic load of 40-odd children in addition to preparing daily absentee lists and keeping up with a battery of duties: bus, stay back, break duty. She is also a subject-in-charge, bulletin board-in-charge, and club-in-charge. There are records to be maintained such as the teacher’s diary, attendance registers, bus attendance registers, gifted as well as remedial cases, assessment-related paraphernalia including report cards (online and hard copy), certificates, mark lists and not to mention the information booklets for the successive class teachers at the session end. There are the annual day and sports day rehearsals to get through. Quite a merry go round! They magically find the time to pack in a dozen seminars in a year and there are the staff welfare events to attend. Somewhere amidst this whirlwind day, a reasonable amount of effective teaching-learning has also to take place.

The Sixth Pay Commission is supposed to justify all of this as also the accompanying ringing of the ears, spinning of the heads and palpitating of the hearts. And it goes without saying that there is always that universal echo permeating the busy hullabaloo, “But what does the primary teacher do the whole day?”

To begin with, the primary section is a world unto itself. A planet inhabited by raw and, unique young people who are crying for validation and attention. It is not enough here to give them mere knowledge. They need and take a part of the teacher, if not a pound exactly. A good primary teacher invests a lot of emotional energy in the classic manner she begins to identify with her class. This is a stake of a very personal nature. It is some of these crusading teachers who identify and nurture the wilting clovers, they back and showcase the tiger lilies, and they nudge and coax the humble heather. One has to hear that tinge of propriety in their tone when they say, “My class….”

Fortunately for this intrepid band, their love is returned in full measure. In many schools, the KG parent orientation marks that rite of passage, switch of loyalties. It is understood that from then on, the tiny tots will heed their teacher more than they will the counsel of their father and mother. You have to see how they hang on to their teacher’s words, how they look at her as though they will lay down their lives if asked. The flowers they make, the cards they painstakingly craft – perhaps in a primary teacher’s life, they are the only ones who say, “Ma’am, you are looking very beautiful today.” They are loyal. They are a sight the day their teacher goes on leave. Of course, there are the odd fists pumping the air at the news but for the majority, there is a sense of sails deflating, a ship gone ashore, anchor lost. Watch them how they follow their teacher blindly where she leads them.

And oh yes, they come back after years, looking for that one primary teacher, their faces beaming if she happens to remember their names.

It is here, in the primary that you need the wisest, the kindest, and the most driven amongst the teaching community. Oddly enough, the enemy is within the ranks. It is not uncommon for colleagues to ask of a particularly high calibre teacher, “What are you doing here, wasting your time?”

There have been days when I have sat in a room full of high achieving professionals, many working at far greater levels of intellectual and financial remuneration. I have always felt a curious sense of pride and have never been able to keep the smile out of my reply when someone asks what I do for a living. I find myself being very specific.

I never say, “I am a teacher.” For some reason, I like to say “I am a Primary Teacher”.

The author is a Resource Center-in-charge in the Junior Wing of Air Force BalBharati School. A teacher with a background and training in media, she has worked in advertising, documentary film making and feature journalism. Her interest lies in the role of motivation, an all-round exposure and multiculturalism in the educational increment of children. She can be reached at neersingh02@hotmail.com. She also blogs at http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.in/

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