Category Archives: classroom

Student leadership &the annual magazine

Bringing out the annual magazine has been a pet project in my teaching career. I had not done much of work for the college magazine, when I was a student and I deeply regretted it.

Then there was this deep deep desire and longing to be a columnist, a writer and to have my writings appear in the newspapers of our times.

Since my efforts to enter Indian Institution of Mass Communication was squashed due to my lack of preparedness to answer questions with confidence in the interview round, I decided not to try again, no I was advised strongly against taking up this very unsafe career.

In the hindsight, I have no regrets about not having taken up journalism as a career but the desire to present and get acknowledgements for students efforts at expression perhaps stemmed from these thoughts and experiences.

Eversince I started off as a true blue English teacher, I rallied around the higher offices of administration, fought with management, burnt midnight oil at the printers in my endeavour to bring out the annual magazine.

My daughter will definitely remember sleeping at the printers or playing there with her toys, till the copy was being edited and ready to print. At Agarwal Public School, where I taught in 2002- 2006, I found enthusiastic support from the student community to bring out the magazine and the newsletter which we did diligently. I remember how the founder had once suggested that he could get a message from any film actor for the magazine and I had to literally refuse it staking my job for the sake of avoiding overarching bragging.

Well! later at Presidency School, Bangalore East, again I rallied my students and we prepared the sample quite a few times but somehow it never got the support it should have had, to see the light of the day. The student editors were disappointed to say the least!

At Presidency University, though I am not a part of the English Department, I was assigned to take up the task of bringing out the Annual Magazine. The students and the team of faculty consisting primarily of yours truly and Gopal Sir, brought out the first edition of the annual magazine feeling euphoric about the achievement. When the second edition had to come out, a new set of enthusiastic and committed students joined the students affairs department, which I was then entrusted to manage as Assistant Dean, and the efforts the students put in was consistent and topclass.

Infact, all the creatives, all the reports, the preparations and everything else was so well managed by the members of the students community who took any challenge with an unmatched enthusiasm and peformed every task with great finesse.

So the 2019-20 magazine kind of took shape but went through a long period of gestation before it could reach our hands.

When it did, it was something worthwhile to hold in hand, read and recollect.

The team who spearheaded the task included Sufiyan, Hariharan, Hannan and Sakshi and received lots of support from the members of other clubs.

Some skill sets develop better outside the classroom in the process of brain storming, organization, execution and introspection, so I am sure it must have been for the youngsters who pitched their efforts to make the students affairs a happening place.

A bit of encouragement and support can do wonders to the youth and can help them place themselves as accomplished and talented individuals in the society. We really need to get our youth engaged at every level in the society and that should augur well for our collective future.

University magazines and student talents

Drive again & Teachers missing classrooms

Now, its sometime since I sold my car and driving, I thought has slipped off my skill set. And Kerala, with its narrow roads and screaming buses somehow intimidated me.

Yet, when my uncle wanted a lift to the bus stop a good three years earlier in Calicut, he asked me to take out my cousin’s car. ‘It’s not mine no’, I said a bit apprehensive. ‘Ha ha,’ he laughed, ‘the car doesnot know that it not Gopi driving it,’ he said in jest.

I took out car under the watchful eyes of the owner’s father and took this gentleman to the bus stop and returned home, happy at having completed the task.

I wondered at Nandan chetan’s clarity of thought and how I am muddled in confusions which have no standing.

Despite much trepidation I decided to take the car here at Kopparambil, again that of another uncle and applied Nandan chetan’s logic, ‘of course, car does not know that it’s me. And the roads, well, they don’t know either that I come from Bangalore’, ha ha, I laughed to myself.

I had started off to go to Avnissery to visit the family temple but en route decided to head to Chakkamparambil Temple at Ashtamichira, Mala. Once on the road, I was thrilled to bits at the rush of fresh air and the sheer feeling of holding the steering wheel in my own two hands. What a pleasure!

Perhaps, being ‘bekaar’, I was also a bit ‘bebus’ or helpless, I thought to myself. And well, I dropped at my teacher friend, Maya’s beautiful home uninvited.

Of the many things that Maya does, she is a fantastic cook, she loves tailoring, has the most beautiful smile on the planet but most ardently, right at the core of her, she is a dedicated teacher, who enjoys her time in the classroom.

The moment she starts to share about her classroom, her eyes twinkle, her hands wave about in excitement and well, ‘Lekha, we teachers get a lot of love and affection from our students, don’t we, and that is a major missing due to this corona’. ‘Actually it is so acute that it pulls me down sometimes, she smiled a bit sadly flashing her famous dimple.

Petting her lab, Happy, she said, ‘this girl is my best buddy, see, she is so excited to see you!’

I thought of all the teachers who are struggling with the digital screens and sorely missing the human touch, when the world is sneering at them for ‘less workload’ and ‘ease of work’.

Really !!! the teaching community is constantly missing the classroom interaction as much as the students do and like the students themselves, they are itching for the noise in the corridors, in the classrooms and the rush of walking up and down, with the purpose of ‘making lives better’ and the pretext of adding value to lives they touch.

The new normal is rather abnormal, don’t you think?

Significant In-Between times – Go wild

Peggy Oki speaks with passion about how the in-between times when she waited for waves to surf taught her a lot. It helped her to study animal behavior, observing dolphins and whales at close quarters. She talks of how spending forty years skating and as many years surfing has made her an ardent admirer of the wild at Sea.

She talks about how a life guard had his children swimming at sea when a host of dolphins started to circle around the kids. The kids were not afraid of the dolphins but when the father went out to check, he saw a three-metre great white shark just outside that cirlce.

How can we then, talk down about animal intelligence, after all aren’t the creatures of the sea our great great fore fathers….Darwin said so, didn’t he?

Sometimes I think of how whales choose to breach by huge ships or those perhaps who they see as being harmless. Perhaps they are calling attention to their condition, and asking to be dwelt upon, coz perhaps they know that after all they are at the disposal of the biped mammal.

There is really so much for us to ‘undo’, not because we got to save the planet, which Vandana Shiva comments does not need to be saved. Nature knows her course, but if man wants to exist, he might as well learn to behave!

I wish our children started to play again outdoors soon, and learnt to question the cutting of trees or the missing of birds and animals around them, after they are the custodians of what is to come. For that though, they need to know the who’s who of trees, plants, birds and animals.

So, let your child go wild

swinging upon the branches

munching berries of all kinds

and return home muddied

head to toe,

the real school of life

is outdoors, so get out

count the trees, the birds

know the plants, the lakes

look up at the skies

and let laughter roar again!

the success of a young teacher

My young neice is a first time teacher. Her enthusiasm is palapable so is her nervousness. She is driven to do her best. ‘They should learn right, chechi. They should benefit from my classes. ‘

Eager to make a mark and make a difference she puts in efforts to learn the tricks of the trade. From introduction of a lesson to details about classroom activities to making the class engaging, she is an enthusiastic question bank. Our discussions are as interesting for me as it is for her.

As we discuss, I see in her a glimpse of how I was, fired up to make each class memorable, reading, making notes and learning new words.

Years of teaching has made me confident and comfortable in a classroom, so it will be with her or even better, given her commitment and sincerity to the job.

The fact that she deals with students in a government school makes it even more demanding, she has to constantly consider those who have had no exposure whatsoever to good language. Yet, the teacher is excited and committed and the students are lapping it up, reciprocating the teacher’s enthusiasm in equal terms.

Many years back, I taught at Ganapat Boys High School in Calicut for just 3 months and that experience was an eye opener for the beginner in me. In a classroom of repeaters, I could with some affection and positive remarks generate enthusiasm for learning. I remember breaking in my heart when the kids in the classroom, spoke of their ambitions, ‘I want to be a mechanic’,’I will run a watch repair shop’, ‘I will become a bus conductor’. It looked as if the fact that they had failed a year or two has reduced the scope of their dreams and aspirations. It must have been such a painful experience to go home and be reminded only of their academic failure and be told the same at school. While I was warned of the indifference of the students in the class, I found them very supportive and willing to understand and learn. I guess a little compassion and understanding is all it takes to make a child ‘whole’ again.

It is therefore, touching to see young teachers being so kind and willing to learn and grow, it speaks good for all of us. But mostly I am just happy to witness this process of evolution of the nervous new comer finding her feet and her voice in the class room and her colleagues and students showering praises on her as she does it.

A helping hand and a smile helps anyone, even teachers, yes, more so, teachers because a teacher is in a unique position of being able to give joy to many little guys and girls and that many homes, if you think about it.

Go on then, reach out to a teacher you know and tell him/her of the good work they do, they also deserve a few good words.

Mam!!!YOU GOTTA SING!

As we were windin up the semester, the class was euphoric. There were sharing of what they learned and how. The class also talked about the peers, and how others rooted for them and how this transformed them literally. In the general atmosphere of bonhomie and with the satisfaction of having completed the work assigned, I stood relaxed in front of the class of 100 students, 50 online and the rest offline.

Suddenly, a noise broke out from the back benchers, ‘ Mam, we want you to sing!’

I looked up strangely as that was not part of the agenda and smiled it off as a meaningless blabber.

But the call caught on and soon, the entire class was rooting .. we want sreelekha mam to sing!

sing! goodness! not if I have to die in front of you!!!

I thought to myself when someone reasoned, ‘ You always ask us to do so many things and we do. When we don’t know you encourage us, now it is your turn’.

I sweated a bit at this. There seemed to be no escape. I still tried my best and said, ‘Listen, I have no sense of rhythm, I have no sense of music itself’.

‘No problem’, shouted the class to me.

‘We want to hear you sing!’

Ohk, said I after much failed negotiation, I will recite a few sanskrit shlokas for you!

No! No! ‘Ok! anything!

The class cried out their thoughts to me.

Then caught in a corner , way out of my comfort zone, I went ahead and recited the sanskrit shlokas for the first time in my life in front a crowd that big.

When I stopped the class applauded my performance with enthusiasm.

That left me thinking of the mentors and trainers , who have so much to learn and unlearn and so many barriers to cross before we start to lecture others on coming out of the comfort zone!

Speeches are not difficult for me, but songs are a different ball game altogether.The learning from the event is that one has to constantly test oneself to continue to grow and evolve into better mentors, trainers and teachers!