The many shades of teaching

February 08, 2019

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AS a chalk-stick is struck against the blackboard, the first words of the day appear in front of 20 pairs of cheeky lenses. While the words give birth to a sentence, a slight murmur erupts which gains a rhythm. The pitch scales, and as it does, there follows a beat echoed by the banging of a duster, marking the day’s opening.

While reading these lines, hop onto a nostalgic train. Have a seat? Settle down now. Now burst the memory bubble where you, a mini-version of you, is seated on the wooden chair waiting for the day to end.

While you (pretend) to listen to the day’s lecture, you may not realise it is the moment of the day where Ms Pinky lands next to you glued to the new set of highlighters you had joyously placed in the stationery box the preceding evening. Yes, Ms Pinky, the lanky teacher quite often spotted with pigtails and chequered printed shirts. A peek into her bag would reveal a horde of stationery coming straight from the students’ accessory reservoir ready to be taken home, while the students eagerly expected a return. With Pinky hearing the school bell ring, she exits punishing the front-row student by bagging a plastic ruler from him, adding to the almost overflowing bag.

Monday’s blues not only shed their hues in professional lives, but the first day of the week has continued to play a haunting role in school life as well. With Pinky’s exit, walks in the zealous Ms Brown. As her blue rulebook settles on the teacher’s desk, Ms Brown – instead of starting with the leftover tales of Alexander’s war on River Jhelum against the Indian king, Porus – delves into her childhood tales by the lake with her having munna biscuits. And who amongst the students would want to miss the tale of munna? With one story ending, Ms Brown did not miss to mention the crush of her life – a faraway examiner who once gifted her a book on the Indus Valley Civilization.

It is the magic of teachers’ personalities that remains etched in the students’ ethos even as years pass by. Balloons holding recollections are plentiful and bursting them all will take an entire childhood.

The bell for physical training brings a stop to Ms Brown’s account of the legendary examiner who was fond of Aryan history and hiking. As she tries to convince the kids to listen to this last bit, they rush out of the classroom for the playground – the territory of Mr Green. As the queues form for the warm up, ‘stand-ahtis’ is what keeps resounding from one ear to the other, making circles for about a good 40 seconds.

The physical training instructor’s fondness for ‘stand-ahtis’ knew no limits. It was only later the kids understood what was expected of them when they came across ‘stand at ease’. Mr Green’s liking for the foreign popular language was so much so that when he announced the birth of his daughters, he elatedly stated “the two are daughters; both of them girls”.

As time is up for the momentary escapade, the lines form again for the kids to befriend numbers. The frizzy haired Ms Yellow, always in her own arithmetic world, would be eager to waltz in the classroom always ready with the first number in mind which was to mark its domain on the blackboard. And that was what the kids preferred – Yellow in sync with the black of the board. For when she neared those sitting in the front rows, and speak, the arid land would bloom with saliva flowers.

Often, one kid would be spotted hiding behind notebooks, while another would be occupied behind a wall specially built for this period with pencil boxes; many others could be seen rummaging for appropriate shields that could act like a saliva-coat. Others could be spotted rocking on chairs waiting to stay dry while solving the equation of the day.

When the students are almost a step away from the solution, walks in Ms Violet, again early for her class. With her spectacles seeming to drop from her slippery nose – a mundane sight – and wearing the constant glare, Ms Yellow wraps up while dropping a worksheet panicking to not melt Ms Violet’s icy stare.

As the discussion ensues regarding creative writing, hexagonal reflections strike off the desks, sliding to the floor, and then again paving the way to the walls. Daze is what holds on the attention of many. Eyes soon follow the trail left behind by the reflections. With a look to the left, the reflection disappears. Soon the source reveals – Ms Violet’s saree decked with mirror work. Putting the mirror to use, a kid tried to fix his hair who was soon caught in the act and penalised – he had to complete reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in three days followed by a book report. The one fixing his hair is left stupefied, while the one sitting across him can be seen in Ms Violet’s spherical bits of mirrors with eyes popping out.

A French language instructor, Mr Black, also popularly known as Goldfish, walks in next with the test scores. Unlike other result days, this one teacher is always the student’s favourite. With a short-term memory, Goldfish is known for his exemplary marking styles. For when his pen starts marking, Mr Black forgets what the real score was midway, with the end result always leading to a student’s lottery. No students enrolled in his class flunked, or scored anything lower than a B.

The quarter hourly bell reminds the entire school of Ms White’s policing period whose infatuation with the fantasy world spoke whenever she did. The first query fired at an individual would be about the homework. Not having it completed would not result in the cliché of a dog eating it. “Your fairy godmother will do it for you?” was the nonchalant retort by her. Asking her to repeat the explanation of a formerly explained concept would be countered by, “Coming coming, sitting sitting, warming benches, going home”. Ms White did encourage self-exploration. Only if Google was available at one’s fingertips all those years back. Hopefully you will still be occupying the seat on the memory train, of course warming it.

Let us now peek into the playback singer zone where teachers would hum on catchy tunes of the day. Not the age of airpods, mini stereos would be carried by Mr Blue, especially during examination days, to not make him doze off during invigilation. As the pen would churn out results on paper, Blue would be busy wiping off any blues of those appearing in the exams by acting as a choreographer in the exam hall.

Then there were those poker faces that would just walk in with the same wooden expressions, and exit the lecture hall not wearing any less bit of the dead glare. Question them, and be certain to receive an agitated response. Why ask when it is all written in the stars?

Be it the twirls in Ring around the Rosie followed by a sharp tug, forcing the teacher to the ground, to sticking around the restroom for excessive timeframes, school is a body with teachers as its brick and mortar, who build up the institute with their implacable support and hard work. It is their magic which is etched in the students’ ethos that keep reflecting in the growing years and when they take up professional roles.

There must be plentiful balloons holding recollections for you, but bursting all of them will take an entire childhood. Be it the quirky accessories of an instructor, to the heels of one sending out sound waves from even outside the premises of the school, to humongous sized bags of another, teachers framed to memory’s hall of fame are cherished. The story book of teachers is always out of stock.

It is time to leave the seat for the station to adulthood has arrived. Grab a pack of crisps from the nearby kiosk before you board a cab to your destination. Be sure nobody around you instructs yo7u how unhealthy the option you are munching is.