Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Teaching Experience-1

There have been some amusing moments in my career as a teacher that added spice to an otherwise sagging career for reasons mentioned in an earlier post. Those were days when I was planning to improve my qualification and had applied for a post graduate course and were awaiting the announcement of selected candidates. The examiners who’d come for practical exams were supportive and would encourage me in all possible ways. Thus a rapport had been established between me and professors from the PG department and without sounding conceited I must add that they had no doubt about my sincerity as a teacher. I was very lucky to have a nice department and we never went canvassing for marks or recommending roll numbers for better marks. The credit solely goes to my HOD who treated all of us as equals and placed absolute trust in our capabilities. We have only grown closer over the years and efforts to break the group have failed. More about it in a later post.

On one occasion I had to stay behind owing to family responsibilities while my husband took the children to his sister’s place in Orissa for the summer vacation. A gentleman who introduced himself as my husband’s colleague came home and gave me his daughter’s roll number saying that she had been studying in our college for the past 4 years but was too scared to introduce herself to me. Her practical exams were to be held soon and there was no point hesitating now. So he took it on himself to let me know that his daughter was one of the examinees.

“Why is your daughter scared of me?” I asked.

“She says that you are very strict and refuse to sign late assignments.”

“Anything wrong with that?” I asked, then added “wouldn’t it have been better if you had introduced her to me earlier? I could have helped her with her practicals and explained the experiments to her. What am I supposed to do now? In the examination room all students are equal to me. I cannot do much. She will have to show work.”

“Madam, she is like a daughter to you. She gets very nervous during exams. Please help her as much as you can.” The gentleman left. I was fuming against a husband who was conveniently out of sight and hearing.

The girl was anything but nervous. Now that her father had approached me she thought that it was her right to ask me the name of each of the specimen provided. She wanted to be told not only the name, but the description of the given material and expected me to dictate the answers to her. I was shocked at her audacity and wondered what her father had told her. Within minutes I turned to the examiner and said,

“Sir, this girl seems to have a lot of doubts. Do I have your permission to clarify them?”

The examiner was amused.

“Come here child” he called her. The girl came forward.

“You have been given 5 specimens. You are supposed to identify them and prepare slides. You need to draw labeled diagrams and describe them as well. That is a lot of work and you have only 3 hours to finish your work. If you have a problem with any of the given material I’ll get it exchanged. Tell me which portion you’ve studied well. I’ll ask your teacher to replace them. Once you get a material of your choice I expect you to get on with your work without disturbing others.”

The girl remained silent not uttering a word. The examiner continued-

“If I give you the names will that help? Why only you I’ll announce the names for all to hear.”

The girl did not know how to respond. I was watching the whole thing with interest. The examiner sent her back to her seat. Turning to me he said with a twinkle in his eye –

“She will not trouble you ‘cos she knows that I am here to help her. How many can have the privilege?”

I later told him of way I was approached by the girl’s father. He laughed the matter off saying that I should not get worked up if I was approached by anyone to influence the examiner. “A student who has studied need not be helped. One who hasn’t cannot be helped. Either way you have no role to play. I have been getting roll numbers since last week. I take it from them and throw them away. You can do the same. When we sit to evaluate papers as teachers, it is impossible to ignore merit. I haven’t yet checked the papers. On the basis of the class record and viva-voce I can tell you who happens to be the best among your students.” He then mentioned a roll number and when I checked she was indeed our best student.

He then added with a knowing smile on his face-

“Now don’t you pester your husband for giving your reference. Nor do you have to explain anything to anyone. Just forget the whole episode. These parents do not understand that by their action they are hampering their ward’s progress instead of helping them. As for this girl I assure you that her father will never have the courage to come to you again.”

I smiled at him with renewed respect. Teachers in Jharkhand and Bihar are the same as elsewhere and so are the students. The fault lies elsewhere.


shark said...

How true!
I feel most of the times its the parents who give an impression to their children that they will "take care of everything".
I feel it is better to let the children fail and learn on their own than taking this back door entry.

By the way that examiner has to be truly appreciated for handling the situation so well.

WhatsInAName said...

I wonder why parents do not realise the limit to being protective. These things will only kill the fire in the child to perform.

Srijith Unni said...

That`s interesting.. ! Parents are supposed to not just get their children educated, but also get them inculcated with moral values. The father is more to be blamed.!

Hip Granma, I think you should have given that parent a big piece of your mind, then and there.!

Have Fun, Take Care and God Bless!

With Best Regards,

Deepthi said...

hmm parents tend to do whatever it takes to make the child happy or maybe it is more like they ahve taken it upon themselves to resolve any issues the child might face....It only shows to go that parents will be parents no matter what...

I am gald the examiner treated the whole situation in a smooth manner and gave you no worries to caryy home...

nz said...

looking forward to read more of your Teaching Experiences :-)

Phoenix said...

sort of reassuring too :)

eve's lungs said...

Although I dont endorse what the father did and certainly not what the girl did - wasnt there any way you could have cottoned on to the fact during term time , that the girl maybe was not performing up to the expected level and pulled her up for it ?

There must be a system to identify non performers and help them rectify themselves .

Just Like That said...

These kind of fathers do more wrong than right. You should have told him off then and there, but I guess being your husband's colleague, he was entitled to some 'good' behaviour from you.
But seriously I too can't imagine what the father would have told his daughter..?!

Tys on Ice said...

Sometimes the greatest hamper to growth is over protectiveness disguised as care and expectation disguised as concern...

I know of another teacher like you - my mother.

Vijay said...

Mom was the HOD of Economics at a college in Bangalore (now retired)... I remember "calls" being received during exams times.. yours truly was the answerer of phones and I was told NOT to pass on any messages...

Dad played his part in passing mom's contacts along to anyone who needed a favor :-)

Hip Grandma said...

shark:Parents - at least some of them- like to show off that they can influence everything in the world including their examiners.Children grow up thinking that they can afford to relax while their fathers will do the lobbying.they learn bitter lessons the hard way asy next post will elaborate.

whatsinaname:This is not being overprotective.In an earlier post 'my student teachers i gave the example of an overprotective parent.this man was a show off.That;s all.

srijith:I did make my unhappiness known but as i did not know his status in the department I was waiting for my husband to return -to give HIM a piece of my mind.It so happened that he waited for my husband to leave before approaching me.my husband had already given him some hint that his daughter would not get any help from me.In his hurry to leave he forgot to tell me.

deepthi:All parents are not like that.my dad would talk to our principal in our presence and confirm facts so we did not dare say anything wrong.My dad would pull us up even before the princi did.

nz:Yeah I plan to write about more such incidents including one in which I had to learn that handling girls is easier than dealing with boys.I was at the receiving end and stand corrected.

phoenix:The general notion that upright teachers are hard to find is wrong.i've been lucky to interact with many teachers with dignity and integrity.

eve's lungs:At that time we got girls from very ordinary background for whom being allowed to attend college was a privelege.Things are better now.Those days we had students who were very interested and came to college against all odds.they were easy to motivate and we had mediocre students doing well due to their effort and our encouragement.we also had a group that took admission just as a stop gap arrangement to while away their time till marrige.this particular girl belonged to the latter group.I suggest you read my earlier post 'My student teachers'

Just like that:For some reason no one else from my husband's dept.approached me before or after this man.Either word got around about what I did or my hubs gave him a proper dressing down.I helped a few colleagues by teaching their daughters for free and the girls are in touch with me even now.

tys on ice:I get very annoyed when parents act like dadas and offer to help their children for wrong reasons.Please give your mom a handshake from me.

vijay:Exam time starts and lobbying begins.When will parents learn.it is becoming worse these days.

Something to Say said...

What a mature and intelligent examiner. He saw the situation so clearly - and handled it so well. I wish there were more of him.
And parents, well, I guess they do it out of love for the children. But they should realise that at a point they really need to let go and let the child figure out for him/herself. The last point made me realise - that maybe I too ought to let my 2 yr old - go - more often than I do

Usha said...

Interesting. I am shocked at the audacity of these parents. Sometimes when I talk to some graduates I used to wonder how they managed to pass with such good marks - now I understand what must have happened.
I am sure teachers are good everywhere but it must certainly be more difficult being a teacher in such places.

Dee said...

I am reading your blog for the first time and it is really refreshing. Keep these great articles comming...

africanfragments said...

why do you think parents are so pushy,..really learning and growing up is about making the mistakes, correcting them is the learning process,it builds charachter when we fail, and make the effort to perservere, children are just "handicapped" by interfering parents. the student should have been encouraged to spend more time studying, then asking for favours to get out easily. viva, to alert teachers.

Balaji said...


Nanditha Prabhu said...

father who ought to instill moral values in a child itself is misguiding the child? its shocking!
it was interesting to read on the examiners presence of mind!

Hip Grandma said...

something to say:He was a very senior professor with years of experience behind him.yes he was pretty cool.You need not let go your 2 yr old.Just teach him the right values.he will not ask you to intervene in situations like this one.

usha:Here as in other places we have all sorts of teachers as well as students.It is a kind of status symbol to announce that one has put in a word for his son/daughter.I feel that one would not be able to look at our children in the eye after compromising on honesty many think otherwise.i sometimes wonder who is to be blamed>The system or the person.The system is common to all.The person varies.

dee:welcome here and thanks.hope to see more of you.

africanfragments:I am afraid many parents do not see it that way.They try to impress their wards by saying 'I've spoken to your teacher and every thing shud be fine'

balaji:Thanks.Sometimes I wonder if personal accounts are getting a little too boring.Let me know if they are.

nandita prabhu:Not all parents can draw the line between values and welfare.This man thought he had the right to approach me as he was my husband's colleague.