Thursday, September 27, 2007

Teaching Experience -2

As a teacher there have been times when I have lost patience and reprimanded my students for their mistakes. Normally they take my outbursts in their stride because they know that I have their welfare in mind. There have been a few times when I have been answered back and I too have been able to understand that the particular student has been under some stress and has thus vented out her frustration. Luckily such occasions have been rare and usually after such an outburst the student becomes more motivated and makes an effort to show a remarkable improvement in her performance. I am particular that students do not copy diagrams from the book but try to draw scientific diagrams of what they actually see and this frustrates them a lot. They have no way out and I do not usually give in. Similarly I do not dictate notes or give them a list of important questions nor do I encourage them to take tuitions. Agreed, I am an outdated teacher – a living fossil - but at least I have enabled a few of my students to think. In the three years they spend with us a fondness sets in and in the final year we are almost friends and in their lighter moments they do share with us information about the nick names they’ve given us and what they find funny about us. The thought that I have to leave all this behind in about 3 years time weighs heavy in my mind. But isn’t it true that good times like bad ones do not last for ever? It is strange that all of us in the department are like minded and the kindred spirit that we share has been passed on to our students too. The job has been a fulfilling one in many ways, though frustrating in a few areas - thanks to the government or rather the lack of it. We do not get bright sparks for students but most are sincere and it definitely pays to be sincere and dedicated. When average students pass out in flying colors we do not need any monetary incentives.

The current batch final year students are a good bunch. So I was surprised that a good many turned up late for a practical class. Even after coming they did not start work and their indifference put me off. I scolded them for being late and said that I’d be taking a viva-voce at the end of the period before giving them their attendance. They worked silently, no smile, no consultations, no doubts….

I wondered if I had over reacted. The entire group was behaving like a set of robots. Finally I got up to ask questions based on the practical. I thought I saw tears in the eyes of a particularly bright student.

“Is anything wrong?” I asked.

“No, ma’am” was the reply.

I then saw that a few others also had tears in their eyes. I felt guilty for having scolded them. These were a group of sincere students and I had scolded them for their first mistake instead of giving them a chance.

“Are you girls upset that I scolded you?” I asked. By now 50% of the class was crying. This was an unexpected reaction. My HOD was watching everything with concern in her eyes.

Finally their story came out in bits and pieces. They had obtained their Part II mark sheets and many had scored less than what they had got in Part I. They were very disappointed and had been upset when they came to class. They were late on account of having to stand in a queue to get their mark sheets and my outburst had only added fuel to fire.

My heart went out to them. I told them that it was better that their Part II results were not as expected. They had a whole year to work hard and improve their scores. A high score may have made them over confident. My HOD added that they needed to be strong and learn to face adverse situations since life was full of surprises. I granted them permission to stop me mid sentence if ever I scolded them and they had a valid explanation to offer. The class then dispersed with their mood sobered and a determination to put in their best in the coming year.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Does candor pay?

Sometimes I wonder if it is okay to let people know that one is hurt or would it be better to let it be. What if the act was unintentional but hurting all the same? Take the case of my good friend Rekha for instance. She seems to have a problem accepting gifts that are of not much use to her. On two earlier occasions she returned gifts given by me saying that it would be better if I gave it to someone who could put it to good use. But when she repeated it a third time I had to tell her as politely as possible that it hurt me to take back gifts carefully chosen for her and suggested that she could pass it on to someone else of her choice. I gently pointed out that she had done so on earlier occasions though I could understand her predicament, it hurt all the same. Her response set me thinking. She felt that it was not fair that she should pass off my gift to someone of her choice and that it was only because I was close to her that she could feel free to return it. After all hadn’t she gladly accepted things that were useful to her? I was left wondering whether it was necessary for me to have brought up the topic at all. If intentions were good perhaps the best thing would be to swallow a little hurt.

As for myself, I prefer a little less candor. I’ve had a friend who pointed out that I was the worst looking in my family and toned down the statement y saying that she hoped that I did not mind her saying it. I pointed out that she could well have said that my sister and my mother, who were the targets of comparison, were better looking than me. After all isn’t a glass that is half empty also one that is half full? When my children were young and my weight was some 20 kgs less than what it is now, they looked chubby and cute while I appeared to have been starved to death with sunken cheeks and popping eyes. People would point out that they didn’t look like my children at all and I did not seem to mind. I’d smile as if I was the one who selected the right genes for them. I suppose one’s reaction changes according to circumstances.

There is no rule that applies to all people at all time and a person’s reaction also varies depending on his/her mood. There is truth in the saying that one is the master of the unspoken word and once spoken we become responsible for the reaction it provokes. Discretion in the expression of an opinion has never been my strength but I do try to word my criticism carefully so that if it must hurt, let it be at a minimal level. I wonder if I am right or are those who are known to be free with their choice of expression at the risk of upsetting their audience?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It is a tag world out here!

I was tagged by hillg’mom and I enjoyed doing it. Here I go!!
There are 3 rules.
Rule 1. The rules must be mentioned in the beginning of the tag.
Rule 2 You must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.
Rule 3. At the end of your blog post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
I don’t have a middle name. So I gave myself one—Lata

L—Love & Laughter – What would do if these two wonderful qualities did not enrich my life. I have experienced so much love from so many people that I may never ever be able to give as much as I received. And as for laughter I enjoy a good laugh and need an excuse to giggle away. I sometimes laugh aloud while reading a book and look up to see if others have noticed it and get on with my book.

A—Admiration – I find admirable qualities in almost all people I meet. More of it in those from the lower strata of society. We have Ajay who supplies tea in our college who is hunch backed and shorter than most men though not dwarfish. I am yet to find a more cheerful person. He feels so bad that I refuse tea with sugar and the sugar free one turns cold before he can bring it to my lab. I feel surprised that he should bother about me. He does not run the canteen and it should not worry him at all whether I drink or refuse tea. There is so much goodness in him that one can feel the vibes when he is around. There are more like him who would put many of us to shame by their good natured behavior.

T --- Tolerance – I am glad that I have plenty of it. And I want it to abound in our universe. Tolerance would solve most of the malaises that have made their way into our lives. The terrorist acts can be traced back to religious intolerance as also riots and strikes to political intolerance. If one is more tolerant it may be easier to understand the other person’s point of view and judge the situation without a prejudiced and pre-decided outlook.

A— Adaptability – As a teacher of Biology I emphasize the fact that organisms that are adaptable survive and those that don’t adapt perish. Look around and check out on all life forms and you will find that the environment sustains only those that adapt. Just a look at the branching in trees would show how well the same light source has been used by different plants. Some thrive in direct sunlight while others are satisfied with diffused light. Some have adapted to shady conditions and some have learnt to droop down when it is too hot. Is there not a lesson to be learnt from the plat kingdom that teaches us life’s lessons without actually lecturing to us from the dais? Adapt to the environment and you are sure to succeed.

So that’s it. Now I have to tag 4 people. Maybe just like that, whatsinaname, altoid and serendipity would like to take it up. Others are welcome if they feel inclined.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Is being good bad?

I always looked upon people in control of their emotions with respect. My mother was one of them. As children we never ever could answer her back or get away with saying anything under the sun. She was mild mannered, soft spoken and never encouraged us to judge people. Not only my mother but her sisters and brother were a nice lot so we grew up without actually witnessing ugly scenes and heated arguments. How such a mild mannered person could discipline us without raising her voice is something I wonder about to this day. I do feel tempted to pat myself on the back and claim that it was possible only because we were obedient children. But though 21 of us share a common gene pool (or at least 50% of it) as cousins, the permutation and combinations could not be identical. So I wonder, how then are we all the same when it comes to core issues?

My children however have a different take on the matter.

“How very boring it must have for you as a child! What a dull existence. See the spice I added to your life as a teenager. Your mom never had the pleasure.” Says my son.

“It is difficult to deal with an overdose of goodness. It seems so abnormal. Imagine being well behaved all the time!”

“Your home must have been like an extended hostel! No wonder you adjusted well to hostel life.”

I am not so sure about that. We too had our share of simple pleasures without having threatened to slit each others throats and my mother may not have encouraged arguments but we did voice contradictory opinions when required. I must admit that I could not discipline my children with silence as my mother had done. They felt free to quarrel and patch up, to listen to loud music and to play as much as they wanted as long as their school reports were decent enough and there were no physical injuries.

I often wonder whether my children were right in saying that being too good is bad. Whether in this world where might is right, a little aggression actually helps one deal with the competitive world that awaits them? Have the rules changed or was the world always a random assortment of different kinds of people, some aggressive and others mild but most just moderate?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back with a bang!

Hi folks,
Nice of you guys to wish me a happy time with my kid and g'kid.It took me some time to get back to blogging 'cos one doesn't feel good after such a short visit.They stayed with us for just 12 days and oh my God!Time just flew past and they were gone.We meet to part and part to meet.But then why are meetings short and partings long?Why couldn't my children just be the kids they were some 20 years back.I think I know why.I was destined to have two cute little grand daughters!!More later.This is just to say that I am back to blogging.