Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Teaching Experience-4

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree the girl went too far with the whole charade..but hiphop gmom, with all respect, I am going to disagree with you on other things in your post:

Why do colleges ban cellphones? I can understand if the phone was confiscated because she was talking in class. That's not the case here. Why should only honors students be able to assure parents they are safe? Let's be fair, students today deal with crime levels that are much higher than what they were a generation ago. They may use their cell phones 99% of the time for yakking, but the very presence of a cellphone ensures some level of safety. Don't begrudge them their safety.

Charging a cell phone does not involve much electricity. Think of it as a public utility, like fans or lamps. Or bathrooms. All public places (and yes, your college is one) should have these things.

Jaya said...

HHG, At that age, students clearly need direction. Maybe if it is possible, teachers can recognise what students are good at and then assign tasks accordingly. I have seen and experienced, students always love to do something different from the curriculum, if it pertains to their taste. e.g organising a student picnic and giving students initiative to plan and decide the place and activities or planning activities for a college day.

Hip Grandma said...

Lekhni:The reason why the college bans cell phones is because there are several girls who misuse the facility provided by their parents and during a survey on high risk behavior with reference to HIV/AIDs we unfortunately found out that agents were providing cell phones to students so that they may be cotacted when required.The honors students are also not allowed to use cell phones to chat with friends during college hours.In case of emergency we allow students to use our phones if they don't have one. I agree banning cell phone use is not going to solve the problem.A student who wants to do things on the sly will do it anyway.We don't want others to be lured into misusing it.Just a little control that may or may not help.

Anonymous said...

"agents were providing cell phones to students"

Wow! That is horrific ! You mean these students moonlight as call girls or something?

I can understand why you guys reacted by banning cellphones, but as you say, that will not work much. I hope you started some kind of mandatory sex education/ counselling? Tell them it's a health issue more than a morality issue..

Balaji said...

Well it must be mighty frustrating as teachers when you encounter smart assess like these. I do not envy you.

But I agree with Lekhni...why do have to ban mobile phones. They are old enough to understand their actions. What can add to them is to teach them to be responsible for their actions isn't it?

Because of one or 2 idiots the whole bunch suffers isn't it?

Preethi said...

Hi HHG... Nice post.. there is a lot of hue and cry regarding cell phones in colleges isnt there? While I do understand why colleges want to ban it, most parents actually feel better with their kids having it!!
I do agree that this girl went a bit too far.. and to think that til the end no parent came.. she actually succeeded dint she?!

aMus said...

I remember a scandal in delhi where the cellphone was used to record a mms...we lived so long without cellphones..let us use it where it is absolutely necessary...

This was an interesting post...

I did the tag about plans fo rteh next decade...would love you to take a look...

The Kid said...

I have said this before and I will say this again. I disagree with you, and will not hesitate to criticize you. If you do feel "this is your blog and I do not have the right to disagree" please let me know.

College students are not slaves. Banning cell phones, and in some colleges in Chennai (only camera cell phone are banned) are unconstitutional.

I am sorry to say this but this is what I think of the whole issue:

1. The teachers/lecturers are threatened by the cell phone usage, be it the rapid advancement that the teachers are not able to keep up or the wealth associated with it.

2. Banning cell phone all-together, because of some survey which found that some "agents" were using cell phone to contact students. This is sounding like, "oh, there were some cases where prostitution was practiced in maruthi cars, so no students should come to college in a maruthi car".

3. using electricity to charge cell phone batteries, is such a lame excuse to ban cellphones all together. I cannot believe you even quoted that here.

4. What exactly do you achieve by banning these things? a sense of superiority?

Teachers abusing the power is rife in India. Teachers in India cannot handle the responsibility and "power amplification" is only psychological.

I am so sorry for all the students who have to put up with this.

The Kid said...

Just wanted to make sure that I did not hurt your feelings. There was nothing personal, but only my indignation against teachers in colleges and schools in India.

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
I think my intention of harping on the lighter side of the incident has failed .I offer my take on the matter of permitting the use of cell phones in college in a separate post.

Joy:I agree with you.students need to be involved in creative pursuits and productive activities to channelize their energy.

lekhni:We are doing our bit to make students aware of health hazards they may be exposingthemselves to.

balaji:We do not ban mobile phones totally.They can bring it to college and use it in case of emergency.But when a students starts talking the minute she enters college instead of heading for class some discipline has to be imposed isn't it?Moreover we do not seize every cell phone that is being put to use.Then we would all be seizing phones instead of taking classes.Quite often we just ask the girl to put away the phone and go to class.It was because this girl started running away that the teacher took the extreme step of seizing the phone.

preethi:Cell phones make parents confident that their wards can contact them in case of emergency.While in college we are all there to help her.On her way to and from college she can always use it to contact them.There were two girls whose phones were seized.The other girl did not create a scene nor did she ask anyone to intervene.Does this not show that S.....N..... was scared that her parents would ask her about the call she was making? The reason we returned the phone was that the girl who owned the phone had not used it and it made no sense to punish her.

thinking aloud:technology can be used as well as misused.Yes if it is used wisely no one would object to it.will check ylour tag.

the kid:you are welcome to your opinion and i do not claim to be above criticism.You are neither a teacher nor a parent.You will understand our concern when you become one.

The Kid said...

@hpgmom: nice try! I understand it better than a parent or a teacher, I am a student! Maybe only teachers and parents are capable of understanding these things while young adults are stupid! I get your point.


Prats said...

This was a very thought provoking post. An issue which has been making waves all over for its need and necessity. My sons study in schools where cell phones have been banned. And I actually do not see the need for them, because, the school has made adequate measure to provide facility for the children to call. But as a student, (like the kid) says, its his opinion as a student. But the consequences are for the parents to face... Its a bottleneck issue...only time will bring a proper solution

Unknown said...

HHG - I disagree on your banning cellphones and the discrimination between Honours students and the other ones . My daughter is in college and I insist on her keeping a cellphone in case of emergencies and all her friends carry phones as well - what she has is a perfectly ordinary low cost one .
I also believe that when a child is in college , he/she is a young adult old enough to understand situations and the outcome of actions without being treated like schoolchildren and must be allowed freedom to spread their wings .
What you say about "agents"however is frightening and has a lot of implications . This would require interventions of a different type - the police fr instance , provided you have solid evidence. If you and the college authorities feel that any of the girls are threatened - you should intervene immediately and call the parents over directly
However , I do not support subterfuge of any kind -especially of the type that the girl used .

Lavs said...

Your post touched a chord in me. Two of my friends are lecturers in city colleges-one of them HOD on UGC pay scale and another on temporary basis. When we get together, they share their college experiences with me. They have learnt that their students listen to them if they approach a problem from student’s point of view. There have been instances when they have put their foot down on certain incidents/issues and the same friendly students started revolting against them. Of course, they are quite junior to you and they certainly do not have the experience and maturity that you have.

The incident which you have described in this post, I guess happens in every college. If there is a rule, then there are ten people ready to break it at any cost. I think it boils down to the method of upbringing of these kids. Some indulgent parents never question their child’s actions and even if their wards’ mistakes pointed out, they turn a blind eye. My personal experience-My SIL got admitted in the same college from which I passed out though she joined one year after my passing out. And she was the most pampered child at home. One fine day, she called and informed my in-laws that one of seniors was selling her cell phone and she wanted money to buy it. As it was end of semester and she was going to be at home for two months on holidays, me and hubby suggested that she should delay her purchase as there were other important cash purchases to be done. SIL turned quite adamant and that rang a warning bell in my head. My in-laws thought we were jealous of her (?) and blindly gave her permission to buy it. Two years down the line, it was revealed that her boyfriend had gifted this mobile to her. Though she had quit from this relationship at that point in time, the boy threatened her with some weird snaps and my in-laws had to pay money to shut that boy’s mouth. Me and hubby had the last laugh in the world. Without even being a mom, I was able to sense lies in my SIL’s words-I was quite surprised her own mom did not find it out. When parents cannot discipline their wards, do you think that teachers can bring in some change in their behaviour???

But then, the incident above is a one-off case. If students of school/college had used discretion in using cell phones, I think this whole law would not have come in place. My lecturer friends always complain about how cell phone rings and vibrations disturb their concentration while taking class. Students who disagree must be made to take class and experience the disturbance themselves to understand the teacher’s plight.

“Once values are imbibed and boundaries are drawn our duty is done and they can decide and discriminate be they children or students. Till then we have to keep a watch on them however unpopular our stand. After all is that not part of life?”----I totally and completely agree with you on this.

Lavs said...

Sorry for the previous long post..err comment. After reading the kid’s comment, I wish to answer his questions. This is not to hurt his feelings but to provide a different point of view respectfully.

1. Teachers/lecturers have better things to do on earth than worry about how their students are going to beat them technologically. Trust me, they are also human beings who are worried about finishing syllabus before exams begin, evaluating mounds and mounds of answer sheets in time, learn how to adapt quickly to the ever changing rules and regulations imposed by HODs and college boards and ultimately, their performance at the end of the year. But then, exceptions always exist. Don’t they???
2. I agree with you on this point. But then, if you have better ways to combat this issue, why not let the authorities know about it?? Rules are never permanent, you see. They have to be dynamic to suit the changing ways of life.
3. I do not think this is a lame excuse. You must have a look at the electricity bills which institutions pay month on month?? May be, the college is feeling the crunch on the pocket.
4. I think the purpose was to bring in discipline among students. Though there are many boons, certain banes of cell phone bring about these laws. Some companies these days use blockers in their premises to prevent use of cell-phones. A person will have to come out of the building to use a phone. Why do companies do that??? May be for the same reason, this law was made.

The Kid said...

@lavs: Nice points. But I completely disagree with the general thought. Many people seem to claim that, discipling students is important and also somehow believe arbitrarily banning student's activities help them.

Two problems:

1. College students are not asking you to discipline them. Please stop assuming that lecturers are the official moral police.

2. Banning cell phone will not discipline them. These kind of unhelpful bans only annoy people.

Students are young adults. They could have a million commitments. For example, I was very active during my college days, I did many extra-curricular activities and having a cell phone in college could have helped me in organizing even college activities in a much better way.

Till now, there has not been a single valid reason, as to why a student should not use a cell phone outside the class, per se.

Hip Grandma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hip Grandma said...

prats:With the rate at which technology is growing and becoming part of our lives colleges may have to relent sooner rather than later.But there are plus and minus sides to all issues.

eve's lung:you've got me wrong.I onlymeant to say that we know for certain that our honours (Botany) use their cell phones only when absolutely necessary and keep it in vibration mode so as to not disturb the class.Other departments may also be doing the same.children need to spread their wings but not at apace that would harm them.We can make out the difference when the same girl who joined in intermediate classes, comes to us for dues clearance after graduating.she is more a friend then.As for agents trying to contact students,I am afraid we have no conclusive evidence.It came up in a survey that we conducted some 8 years back when cell phones were not popular and STD booths were being used to pass on information.Even if we had proof regarding this do you really believe that the police would help?At the lower level they would look the other way if palms are greased and may end up humiliating the girl as if she was to be blamed.It would be best to educate our girls andwarn them of possible dangers.We are doing it already.

lavs:Rules are imposed keeping in mind the welfare of the majority.In our college most students are from very modest backgrounds and cannot afford a cell phone,not even the cheapest kind.when they see a few among them flaunting their mobile phones it is going to affect them.There are several parents who blindly support their children and pamper them to the extent of harming them.This I am afraid does more harm than good.Considering their age children tend to be vulnerable and parents need to be watchful without suffocating them.

Unknown said...

Grandma..I have seen similar stories during my school days also. Those days parents have to come for taking the report cards of failed students and one can see funny characters posing as elder brothers and uncles.

Usha said...

It is amusing to see how students try to outsmart their teachers little realising we have passed through the same stages of adolescence and youth and know all the tricks as much as they do.
With so many devices of distraction available it is really tough to monitor their activities. We can only give them the right values and hope they will use their better sense.