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.