When I started out on my previous post I meant to write about a lighter side of my teaching experience. However, my anguish took over and I lamented the changing values of society and the lack of motivation that seems to prevent talented youngsters from taking up the teaching profession at the school and undergrad levels. I had written a related post some time back here.
As for college teachers, there seems to be two categories. Those that work as ad hoc teachers in the innumerable private colleges where they are paid on a per class basis and terminated before the vacations and others who receive UGC benefits. In my own college we have a good number of ad hoc teachers who are not paid anything at all and depend on tuitions for their survival. Is it any wonder that they have marked out their areas and students throng their classes for the notes they provide? There seems to be a symbiotic understanding and both groups benefit. Our college being in the heart of the city a number of coaching centers thrive in the neighborhood and students are given notes keeping in mind the questions that are likely to be asked in the examination. Reference work in the college library?? Who has the time? The students are busy preparing for entrance exams and job interviews and a teacher who gives concise notes is the one that is most sought after. I am sorry to be cribbing and the only way to get over my foul mood is to harp on the lighter side of my teaching experience. What cannot be cured may as well be endured.
On the day we had our placement interview the teacher in charge of the placement cell was asked by the visiting team to allot a hall where one of their team mates would conduct the first round of interview. She stepped into a lecture hall and found two students charging their cell phones while simultaneously talking to someone over the phone. They were so engrossed in their conversation that they did not see her enter.
Our college does not permit the use of cell phone in the college. The reasons need to be dealt with in a separate post so I shall not elaborate. Our honors students carry cell phones but keep it either switched off or in the vibration mode. In case of an emergent call they check the number and talk with our permission for a minute or two. Even when they go on study tour they abide by our instruction and talk only once a day to their parents just to inform them that they are fine. These girls were not only breaking the rule but were endangering their lives by talking while their phone was being charged. That they were using the electricity for which the college was paying did not seem to concern them at all. The placement officer confiscated the phone and asked them to meet her with their parents the following day. One of the girls realized the futility of trying to coax the teacher to return the cell phone. Not so the other girl.
At first she claimed that the mobile phone was not hers and it belonged to a friend who had asked her to receive an important call on her behalf. The friend was waiting outside the room but refused to come in when called. After sometime she corrected herself and said that the phone was her own and pleaded that it be returned to her promising never to use it in college.
“Ask your parents to meet me. I will return the phone to them.” said my colleague.
“My parents would think that I’ve lent it to someone or lost it.”
“Give them my cell number. I’ll confirm the fact that I have the phone.”
Not knowing how to respond the girl went away. In the meantime there were frantic calls from a particular number that my colleague ignored. We later came to know that within minutes of confiscating the phone our Principal got a call from the Student Union leader of a boy’s college briefing her of the situation and asking her to advise the concerned teacher to return the phone.
The girl returned in about half an hour’s time along with an elderly gentleman and a young man who appeared to be in his early twenties. She introduced them as her uncle and brother.
“I did not ask you to bring them. I am busy today and I will only meet your parents and that too tomorrow” said the teacher.
“I am her brother ma’am” said the boy.
“Will you both please stay out of the room?” said the placement in charge. “I will have nothing to do with you. I will talk to her parents if and when they come.”
“Ma’am, my father in Saudi Arabia and cannot come. My mother is not a very confident person. She avoids talking to strangers. I have brought my uncle. Why don’t you talk to him?”
“Did your father leave for Arabia after I seized your phone? I will have none of this nonsense. Either your parents come to meet me or you forego your cell phone. The choice is yours.”
During the entire conversation the elderly gentleman remained silent but on seeing that the teacher was unrelenting he started saying that since his brother was in Arabia it was not possible for him to come in person. My colleague interrupted him mid sentence.
“Sir, I am not her enemy. Please let me deal with her the way I deem fit”.
In the meantime the Principal was under pressure from different quarters to ask her placement in charge to return the phone. Finally the girl approached her but she refused to intervene saying that it was a busy day and she could not disturb the placement committee. While the girl was talking to her the man who had posed as the girl’s uncle asked to meet the principal regarding his daughter’s admission.
“It is already December. All admissions are closed.” She said. Around this time our bursar who had been with us when the girl brought him in as her uncle, walked into the Principal’s chamber.
“Aren’t you S…….. N……’s uncle?” she asked.
The Principal who had his application in hand looked confused.
“This is Mr. T…….. and how could he be S……. N…..’s uncle?”
It so happened that the girl was a muslim and this gentleman was clearly a Hindu. The man muttered something and hastened out of the room. The boy was also not her real brother but an actor playing his role in the drama.
The girl was not going to give up that soon. After college hours when the Principal came to see how our girls were faring in the interview, the girl approached the placement in charge once again in the presence of the Principal. She now brought her friend who actually owned the cell phone. The friend cried as if some irreparable damage had been done to her. For whatever reason, she did not want to involve her parents. She kept apologizing and promised never to repeat the mistake. Finally at the behest of the Principal the Placement in charge returned the cell phone after a severe warning.
We could make out that these girls were rather intelligent. Who else could think of convincing strangers to pose as her uncle and brother? Right or wrong, the student union is also quick to defend them. All I wish is that this immense potential is channelized to purposeful activities.