A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)


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Red October

Reader discretion advised, as this post is more or less a vent.

And no it has nothing to do with that wonderful film, The Hunt for Red October, though I must say that it has certain elements of despair and helplessness seen in it, but that film sort of ends well, and that is the hope with which this too is written, that on Sunday next, 1 November, 2015, I shall write of how the acid tests and the baptism by fire went.

October is at once a happy month, mid way, because it is a darling daughter’s birthday, but it is also a month where I tear myself up, lose a lot of hair, to pulling, and to stress. I’ve just come away from a very pertinent read on teacher responsiblity, and teacher health (LINK) and it suddenly came home to me, that YES! the amount of sleep teachers, these days, lose in this month has to be rather catastrophic. Really. I’m serious.

"We're popping bubble wrap because it's cheaper than tranquilizers."

“We’re popping bubble wrap because it’s cheaper than tranquilizers.”

So what causes this? Simple. It isn’t just lesson preparation, though that too is part of it. It is the pressure of grading end of term papers, computing endlessly to decode/encode grades. And no, it isn’t because, like the kids in class, we do last minute work. There really is a need to give of oneself during this month in a way that sometime, to my jaundiced mind, seems like way beyond sacrifice! (I warned you, this is a rant! Do feel free to continue reading 😛 ). Also the happy event of Open House – a free for all session of tirades, smiles, advice, complaints, appreciation, thinly veiled threats, between the stakeholders in the system – takes place around this time. I have a great time at these thingys, though I am sure this isn’t so with many of those in my fraternity. It is a period fraught with foot-in-the-mouth itis – by all and sundry. The takeaways from these sessions range from despair to howlarious laughter. More on that some-day. Back to the Red October.

stressed

What adds to this particular brand of torture, for “teachers” is that this is the season of “fests” – read inter-school competitions. Now, yes, while we have to help our learner group manage this alongside their academics, and let me tell you, they do it beautifully 🙂 , there is the added responsibility of supervising them, at practise, or if you’re interested, training them, monitoring them, mentoring them. This is just one part of it all.

The next part that I shall share has to make it known in no uncertain terms that even though the medieval forms of third degree are passé, they have evolved into other forms, especially for those who work in schools. The rack was one such device, which I do believe has found itself insidiously creeping into the system. While the earlier device was tangible and intensely physical in the way it inflicted suffering, I have discovered the the new one, or rather the revised one makes one spread oneself so thin, stretched in different directions, reaching out to responsibilities that are varied in nature, either self inflicted or generously transferred upon one. At certain points, one isn’t quite sure what one is supposed to do, but with the profound faith in oneself, and a power somewhere that will lead one onwards 🙂 one manages to do ’em all, with whatever degree of finesse one can. The degree of suffering varies, and is usually directly proportional to the level of involvement out of sheer interest or responsibility foisted upon one as a result of perceived or intentional interest espoused in certain areas. (at the risk of insulting your intelligence, I shall given you a simple example. You, as a teacher, like poetry, know how to type fast, are interested in Drama, and have a great interest in music. Western. Somehow or the other, along with the grading, report card work, you will also find yourself mentoring kids in poetry, writing, music and drama, taking class (ir)regularly, and end up with a some position in the conduct of the event. The thing is you love all this, do this, and therefore are spread very thin. The Rack, in action. )

"I'm desperate to hold on to our good teachers."

“I’m desperate to hold on to our good teachers.”

So why the rant? All of a sudden, the D-Day looms. The participants are ready. The schools gearing up. And on ground zero of the event (believe you me, if the event takes place in your home turf, it s no less than Ground Zero- the impact is inexpressibly traumatic 😀 ) the ones up front taking the flak are those in charge of the conduct of the competitions on Stage. That’s right. Stage Duty is a greater danger than Stage Fright. You can run away with your Stage Fright, but with Duty, you gotta stay put, face the fear, dig in, brave it out, and hope to God that you’ll come out of it, wits in tact. The frazzled, hassled, harried lines that etch themselves on your face are nothing. The real damage is done, within. 😀 😀 You’ve got ulcers by the dozen, and several hair roots on the head have sealed permanently. Not to mention the zombie like state that is going to be hard to recover from 😛

It’s going down, this week. Want a ringside seat to the drama unfolding? Come on over, the CBSE Kalotsav, in our District takes place at the end of this week. 28, at our sister institution, 30, 31 at ours. 🙂

stressed5

I got cookies. I will buy chocolate. And I hope it will rain. This is directed solely at the young lady who knows the lines mean something, to her and me 🙂 One of our recitation sessions.

Well, I’m a survivor, and I know that all my colleagues are too. So good luck to us, as we host the show, and to our participants, young prodigies, each of them, for a fine show to put up, at their moment! Please do hold them in your prayers and wish them luck! Go on, bring it on!!

25 October, 2015

The delightful cartoons all belong to their owners, and have been taken from a google search on stressed teachers 😛

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The Ogre turned Teacher

… or so the Ogre thinks 😛

Long, sometimes confessional, post alert* That’s bound to get readers in, for there is nothing more tempting than confessional confetti candy, even if it be spicy enough!

At the same time, I must admit that this has come about after an interesting conversation I had recently with kids who had been in my class, or their siblings had. Insightful as always, you know, talking to them kids, and listening, for a change 😀

It began with one of them saying how her sister remembered me from the Primary School – my “beating” so to speak. I had to grin sheepishly.

As with how it has been with very many from my profession, I too used to use either my hand or a wooden scale (a sharp tap below the knee, on the calf) in my own formative years as a teacher. That, combined with my deadly stare has made me a terror. As I told this young lady, it certainly isn’t something I’m proud of at all. I wish I had not, for I knew, even then, I hadn’t a need for it. Still, that is the way  it has been. Probably the first few years there, in the Primary, I did use corporal punishment, till one day I was summoned by the kind-hearted, extremely humane Principal we had back then, who told me of a certain young girl (who was NOT, by the way, at the receiving end 😛 ) being “scared” of me. Gopalan Sir was circumspect, understanding, and gentle in the way he told me of this. And that was the turning point. It finally came home to me that all those thoughts I had while using the scale, or my hand, the discomfort of it all, needn’t have to be at all.

They say it takes a kind word to transform an ogre. For me, even though these days I am still an ogre who roars 😛 , Gopalan Sir has been that catalyst. He is someone I admire for his rational view, his endless patience and empathy, his love of all the members of his school, student or staff. It has been over 13 years since he has retired, and we meet quite often at school meetings, or weddings/functions in and around the city- each time it is with such affection and respect that he is greeted, by me and all the students (former) and staff.

Since that talk with Gopalan Sir, the extent of punishment served by me to the kid/kids is to decorate the wall, as I put it, joining the child with it 😛 (to stand against some corner or wall 😀 – and I’d be standing with the kids for the entire duration 😛 ), for corporal punishment is indeed against all things humane. I have been privy to a lot discussions on the same, from the fraternity, and from the stakeholders of the system, primarily parents. There is a sense of having “lost” something, for many, these days, without being able to “beat”. While I may seem to pontificate (and how ironic is that, coming from someone who was guilty of the same before! But you know what they say about reformed ogres and rakes? 😛 ), one thing is clear: very many, both parents and teachers in schools alike, are of the opinion that for discipline and learning to take place, there has to be a fear factor. That is to say, if the student is suitably afraid of what you might say / do, they will “study”. The sad thing? It works most of the time. Ask kids why they study a certain subject obsessively! To counter this is another school of thought – the Love factor. This one works primarily from liking and loving the kids/ learner group. We know how well equipped we are with that!!! Easy to say, but rather difficult to do. Instead we mouth things like – they have no base, such a* useless, what’s the point when you smile they sit on your head and will not listen to you evah… yada yada yada…. 😀 I speak of what I hear, and know, dear readers, as you all too must be aware!

However, in all of these situations, there is a learner group, we know, who is waiting to do just that if you allow them to, at their own pace, however that might be, even if it is not to your liking!!! I have a questions/ranting here!

  1. How many parents would in any way encourage their kids to become teachers, these days?
  2. How easy it is to pick holes into the fabric, hard woven, by either parent/teacher of the learner in their care!
  3. How many teachers are there, who love what they do? And the learner group with it?
  4. How is the larger system addressing the situation of the marginalized group in teaching, eulogized once or twice each year?
  5. Finances are just as important, but then teaching is to be seen as a noble vocation, and no matter what remuneration you receive, don’t you DARE think of perks, just the noble vocation!!! 😀
  6. Thankless job it is, say many! You now get it from Management/HMs/HoDs/Students/PARENTS – only you are there for you. Why should you take the risk?
  7. Oye! I’m here to “teach” – you learn, understand? I cannot be bothered by what’s going on in your home! Or, if you are concerned, it can become added stress when you involve in a domestic battleground, and your heart bleeds, most especially for the child, when you feel helpless.
  8. Teaching? That’s easy peasy? Who’s going to do the endless grading? The marklists? The organization of the Zoomabastically Phantastically Amazing Awesome Cultural/ Physical Education/ Management sponsored / Inter-ballistic School stuff? I mean the “gombetitions”??? Multi tasking is only one tiny tip of the deadly iceberg called teaching!
  9. Yeah yeah yeah! Shut the effing up is best, because once you voice your opinion, you get to market it, manage it, plan it and implement it. You see why many will be silent???

Sooooo… as Nivin Pauly goes, in “Bangalore Days” it ain’t just the consideration of the student population of which there is still a deliberation as to whether the situation is to warrant a explantion of such underrated aberration and dingolification of things without a least notion… you get it?

Yes, I’m still an ogre, but I shall tell you which kind. As a young lad in class 6, gazing horrifically when I confessed my true nature of being (ogre… duh!) said, Teacher! NO! Seriously! Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, Ah! Like Shrek? Laughter exploded in the class! I joined and said yes, now, a bit like Shrek, because I don’t eat kids no more 😛

And finally, if there are those who read this and know of those who have been at the receiving end of the corporal punishment I had, in the Dark Ages, doled out, please convey my apologies for the same. I have, not much, by way of memory, but certainly those kids would 😀 If it were to make a difference to way I had been, this is the one thing I would most certainly change about the way I was! To my own two kids too 🙂 ❤

But. Would I want to change what I am, and how I am? Nyet. Nahin. And emphatic No. For being with the learner group has given me something I know I’d never, ever, ever, EVER get any place else. A sort of affection, that is hard to come by, esp. if you’ve been an ogre or no 🙂 ❤

Happy Teachers’ Day to everyone who teaches, mentors, guides, coaxes, persuades, nudges, niggles one to learn something, each day, or whenever possible! The world progresses because of such people!

********

“Teacher” Tattle covers most of the 5 Sept. posts here 🙂

Last year, on Teachers’ Day: LINK – and at the bottom of that page you can see the posts from the previous years 🙂 😀 Sigh. No escape, I tell ya 😛

P.S. Added here is an album of scanned images of perhaps the best bio ever, of a class and it’s class teacher. Made lovingly by my previous class (of the AK47 fame 😀 ) So you see, even Ogres have their redemption, when they reform. Other than Shrek, ie 😛 😛

Click on the images to see the writing, which is awesome, as awesome as the art work, which, if I am not mistaken is Harigovind’s? The ideas, of course, are…. I know whose all… 😀

1. The Cover page

1. The Cover page

2. The Fairy Tale, errr... begins!!!

2. The Fairy Tale, errr… begins!!!

3. The Hook!

3. The Hook!

4. The Plot Thickens!

4. The Plot Thickens!

5. Allusions galore -

5. Allusions galore – “obviously” – had to be!!!

6. The not-so-forever-after. Obviously!!!

6. The not-so-forever-after. Obviously!!!

7. The Amazing Likeness, in the fantastic close, to my AK 47

7. The Amazing Likeness, in the fantastic close, to my AK 47

2-5 September, 2015 for 5 September, 2015.


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The DAY or THE Day

… either way, whichever, however you look at it, you could say it was quite a day 🙂

Long Post Alert. It’s 1600 words plus, and yet, for me it isn’t enough. That says it all 🙂 Read on at your pleasure, if you so wish ❤

The DAY was one that surpassed others of the same kind by being most overwhelming, in a manner I have yet to experience. The days to the run up were way underwhelming, if you can grasp the meaning of the word (first heard in the film, “10 Things I hate about you” starring a young Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles 😛 ) – but it being the August Month, it is always appealing and something to eagerly look forward to, like the March-April Ariean Month 🙂 Last year, and the year before that, this day, sorry The Day, was rather special too. Outbursts of spontaneous, excited surprises waited in store. Fond love etched itself in numerous creative ways – be it in words, pictures, actions, songs and so on and so forth.

Having successfully arrayed before you the well known unsubtle distractedness I’m prone to these days (along with coining words leftrightandcentre 😛 ), I know I owe it to you to tell you where this write is going. It’s travelling back, a few days, to a day that I shall find hard to live down, or live up to, for that matter. A day that came  on sunshine wings, and poured so much joy, frosted with pixie dust, all aflutter … errm, yeah, right, I AM waxing poetic aren’t I? It’s a fangirl moment here – thinking about how a Cinderella must have felt with the glass slipper sort of day. Except it was way better. Still not getting to the point aren’t I? Sigh.

So this is how the Day The DAY went. Expecting a call at midnight, as has been the norm, I went to bed the night before, but slept right through pings from the phone. Wakey wakey early enough, and I find an SMS from an unfamiliar number, which is identified 11 messages later. Sigh. So much for a good start. A couple of happy phone calls later, I’m ready for school. It’s a Thursday, and the next day is a holiday. Much fun.

Understatement. Way more fun. In the tense first period, I got asked to leave class, by my own kids 😀 A first definitely. A barely polite, urgent requirement it was, apparently. I barged in impatiently a few minutes later to some rather outrageous scenes 😛 A boquet, a cake on the teachers’ table, a ‘U’ shaped container, made by an artistic girl, containing gifts, cards, a birthday cap, a singing knife to cut the cake, and snow spray. Well. Well. It was a blast! To song and many wishes, a song, a speech, and much shared cake, laughter and a general letting down of hair. Well yes, it was their teacher’s birthday, and this celebration, apparently had been cooking for a bit.

It speaks of the RAW at work in the Intelligence Unit, in the class, and, as I later discovered, other classes. 😛 The next class, I did not even have to get to, before random kids came up to shake hands, offer pens, as gifts ( I do NOT have any of their papers to grade, pliss to note 😀 ) – the RAW there too was well informed. It has so happened, that a couple of years ago, this year’s 12th grade kids, sneakily discovered that The DAY was that day, through alert eyes of their siblings of friends, who happened to be on my list on Facebook. News like this really does not matter, usually, but then I discovered that indeed, I am that eccentric oddity, who HAD to be noticed 😛 😛 And greeted.

So the next year, last year, more kids, particularly, my very own XD (the 14-15 batch – the Number 47, remember? )  had this session of pastry cutting, giving me an awesome watch, and generally making me feel special 🙂 Lovely hand-painted card too, from their seniors, the ones who started it the previous year.

But this year, Boy O Boy! It certainly was different. It felt as if somehow the universe at school had conspired to make my day. And me in a ‘koora saree’ as a colleague put it – an uninteresting saree, to put it mildly 😛 – to not celebrate myself 😀 ! Well, to get the highlights of the day, it went spiralling upward, after the fist period. Every class I went to, songs came my way, cards, and wishes. A young lady from Class 7 (I have just gone there once, this year, to tell them to keep quiet 😛 ) came during the lunch break, clutching 3 red ink pens, for me, she said, wishing me very solemnly. Despite my telling that she oughtn’t to have spent money like that, I could not persuade her to take them back for herself. I took one, and told her the others were a gift back 🙂 What a sweetheart! The day was filled with such moments. There were kids, with knowing smiles on their faces, simply walking up to this ogre to shake her hands, and offer wishes. To be sure, I felt rockstar popular 😛 😛

The first lot of kids who started wishing me, a couple of years ago, were back with their painted card and pictures framed. Oh my! Beautiful beautiful wishes and creativity with it 🙂 And the littlest of the lot, whose classes I visit, made tiny paper earrings with quilling paper, and instructed that I wear it, as and when I had a saree to match 🙂

It was barely afternoon, when I was spirited away to a corner of the school, by urgent calls for help there, by *a teacher* , according to the students, when my former AK47s were ready and raring to go with guitar and song and the pastry again 🙂 along with a beautifully illustrated card, in the form of a story 🙂

And then, with yet a couple of classes to go, song and cards later, we come to the special class that evening. The lesson was Subject Verb Agreement. You know how much of agreement there is, usually in a Grammar class, especially with a Grammar Nazi taking that class. Ten minutes into the lesson, I could hear rumblings, and murmurs, each time I turned toward the board to write something down; it was clear indication as to a plot brewing, but how it would unfold was anybody’s guess, for me. Well to cut to a longish story, it began with a young pert lady coming up to me, with her workbook, to ask a doubt (it never happens 😛 ), and me asking her to get back, so that she can ask from there, as it could be a general doubt that the whole class, maybe, had, but she doesn’t go back; instead she opens the book to a particular page wherein is tucked a sheet of paper which says “Happiness is… celebrating your teacher’s birthday…” That stumped me. You see, we need to go back a few hours, when I had class, with the SAME lot, and they never uttered a SINGLE word 😀 So had this entire party planned out. They then burst into songs, English, Hindi, Malayalam; did a kind of Mexican Wave thingy, holding up A4 size sheets that had a letter or punctuation on it – which went to the effect – “We love you teacher, and you will remain in our hearts forever” – something more too 😀 Overwhelmed is a word that does not quite cover what I felt, as I did that afternoon, the whole day, in fact. But it still was not over. Each child came up to me, with a hand made card that I accepted with good grace, though by now I was beet red 😀 They, thankfully did not bring cake. They had chocolate – three slabs, which I broke into bits, and fed each of them 🙂

Taking stuff home required that I make two trips to my car, with my arms laden with cards, posters, notes… 🙂 A tiny bouquet too. ❤ Opening the cards later, I was struck by the one made by the Master of Irony in one of our classes. A simple minimalistic card, a Happy Birthday, nothing else, and on the back cover were these profound words : “Insert deep meaningful verse here” You could say I had been had. 😛 I loved that card as much as I did the semi album of my life they had compiled, along with the kind of warm affection they concluded my day at school with.

But yes, more than the “loot” as I call it, the day had to do with an outpouring of affection; a day that began really quietly and sombrely for me, with no expectation, but for the previous years’ kids coming to wish me (I know you guys 😛 ) and songs and handshakes. Bas. What unfolded was a mega private show, that spilled into the corridors, and brimmed over with love. That, that, made it special.

1439489077271IMG_20150814_010347

 

I’ve yet to have a birthday party of my own which was as long and as awesome as I had that DAY. 🙂 It’s going to be the last of ’em too, with the thoughts running down the corridors that it’s really not ok to spend so much of time and effort into these things, when it’s just  another day.

Not this DAY, this year. This will be forever etched in my ❤

Thank you to all you magical people, who pretend to be kids at school, for us 🙂 You make me believe in Miracles and Fairy Tales, though I never really stopped believing in them- you strengthen the feeling that it takes a child to lead you to the door of your own truth 🙂 ❤

Thank you. Infinitely.

Finally completed on 22 August, 2015, having begun a week ago, almost 🙂

 


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Rising

A slash of Red –
Bled the paper.
Its flow stemmed
By harsh slanting
Scoring.

He’d scored too
Way below par.
He looked up at her
Who’d committed
The murder of his
Imagination.

And sighed.

He did agree
In principle.
But mourned the
Fatal wound
Stymied in lines
All black and blue, now Red.

But, by Jove!
By the Good Lord
(who he trusted no more)
He’d play God
And create a new one.

A free phoenix
That would rise
No matter what singed
His feathered flight of fancy.

A quiet, quelling, murderous
Look, her-wards
Through the screen of lowered lashes;
He turned the bleeding page;

Took up his sword
And marked a bold stroke
Under
Murder Most Foul

Etching in heartfelt angst
The travails of a blunt knife
Painfully keened and quickened-
To finally rise to its intended glory.

Realizing, in the crafting
(an unwelcome truth 😀 )
How it led right back
To himself.

Finding himself, he saw…

The knife sharpener, and the sparks
That lit her eyes.

😀

23 June, 2015 and 12 July, 2015

How some writes come, scribble themselves, then pause, till you find them and solve the riddle they pose for you 😀

 


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Testing Times

This blog was published here, after a long wait 🙂 I had sent it to The Hindu for its Open Page article, and it was finally published in print, and online, in the Kochi Edition, this day, 8 March, 2015 🙂 You can read it online here:

http://m.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/those-archetypes-in-the-examination-halls/article6969740.ece/

*does a jig* 🙂 March seems to be a good month 🙂 Last year, 1 March was when a letter to the Editor got published, in the same newspaper,[LINK] and now this! This article also has a cartoon with it, done by Surendra 🙂

********************************************************************************

Helen Keller referred to examinations as bugbears. She spoke of the utter disarray of her thoughts, humorously, in her autobiography, in a way that unfailingly appeals to students in my class when we come to that chapter. The collective empathy is tangible for she has spoken of a universal condition in these testing times.

In my twenty years of being part of the system that administers these tests, quite apart from the times I have had to take them at various points in life, there have been some interesting observations, while in an examination hall, and the “types” of learners who do attempt to make it through those tests.

There are the “toilers”, the ones for the long road, the inveterate readers, the pros in the hall, never faltering, rarely lost, chewing nails, or eyes darting nervously. They know where they’re headed. So do the others who look on enviously.

Then  “sweat’ers”, quite different from the toilers, though one might think these go together. These poor souls are usually discovered with sweaty hands, and brows, nervous tics, repeatedly rubbing their palms on their uniform, over their knees. More often than not, great works of art are inked in, in the process of completing the paper too!

One must not forget the “writers”- on a mission, it would seem, to persist, persevere and not stop writing, till the last bell has rung. These examinees are, most often, quite unaware of their surroundings, the consternation on fellow-examinees’ faces, deflecting daggers sent from evil looks their way, with ease. It is quite another thing, that any examiner who marks such papers finds little of value, pertaining to the questions asked!

The gazers, I and II form the bulk of the exam hall populace. On close observation, you find the first kind, suddenly stop writing, look hard at their papers, whip their heads about, fix their gaze on a particular point far away in space, zone out. With equal suddenness they get back to writing. The pattern is random, but fairly, disturbingly frequent. The second kind on the other hand are the dextrous sort. I wonder if they are classical dancers in disguise, sometimes! It beats me how they are able to achieve full surveillance of the hall, and their neighbour’s papers even while the examiner’s eyes are trained on them!

The fidgeters are next – the noisiest in class, without doubt. Randomly (deliberately? ) their pencil boxes take a dive, scatter themselves, after which they bend to retrieve the items, during which time, their question paper would fly off the desk; double scramble in order to grab that, while the answer sheet now flies off. In the meantime, the others on the same bench are assisting, with the result that even their things get scattered. By this time the examiner also joins in the melee, to restore order, which is then achieved, to the background music of a gentle buzz, a hum and muted laughter.

An inevitable part of the group are the ‘teacher-locators’- a highly evolved species of the examinee pool. Their mission is to be able to locate the position of the teacher/examiner at any given point, basically to facilitate exchange of information between two examinees without being noticed! The way one can spot them, in the random sweeping glance one makes, is to note the pairs of eyes that immediately shift away.

The most creative, I have personally found, the boldest too are the “paper-pushers”- quite unlike their government counterparts, these enlist the help of other examinees, to push their papers or have others’ papers pushed towards them. How they manage to do this in the presence of the examiner on duty is what confounds. Fortunately, such souls are usually noticed, identified, and appropriate counselling given to ensure it does not happen again. That it doesn’t, most times is a sign that innocence and doing the right thing are still valued!

Whoever said that an examiner’s duty is unvarying, needs to simply look around for such samples to engage themselves and infuse some liveliness into what is seen as a duty bordering on boredom.

6 February, 2015

Examination duty and time on hand and no better work to do those three hours, gives rise to such diatribes 😀
Day#26 of #RamblingsInFebruary 🙂

february ramblings