From A Teacher

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Have you ever observed the face of a child punished outside a classroom? The expressions vary— the ‘first timer’ looks nervous and uncomfortable, the ‘regular’ comes out with a resigned air, ready to spend time in a familiar spot, tracing his finger along the crevices of the wall behind. Sometimes, when he is accompanied by a friend he’s even happier. After all there is a lot to talk about and the view outside the classroom is better than the one inside.

Meanwhile, we desperate teachers battle with the syllabi as the next examination looms overhead – The goal—is always marks, reports and promotions to the next class. Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten the child and the world he lives in. A few years ago I wrote a poem on the thoughts that may run through the mind of a child punished at the doorway. Let me share it with you:

A Childs Reverie

An ant is crawling up my teacher’s arm

I’m sure she hasn’t noticed it

Or she would be alarmed

Her words flow on, I’m trying to pay attention

But my efforts seem in vain

The ant has reached her shoulder

Will it bite her? Will it pain?

I’m sitting in the back row,

And I think she’s spotted me

I must remember what she said

Or out of class I’ll be.

“You’ll name the king who ruled the land

– Was he real or was he fake?

I can think of numerous answers

But they aren’t the ones she’ll take.

I’m punished at the doorway now

Oh! History’s such a bore

They always do the same things

These men that come and go.

They’re born, they live,

They fight, they lose, they die.

Why can’t they do something better

Like making wings to fly.

Now if I had wings to fly

Oh then I’d really be free

I’ll glide across the cricket field

To the top of the tamarind trees.

I’ll talk to the birds, I’ll make friends with them

I’ll tell them of things I do

And if they play some different games

I’m sure they’ll tell me too.

The bell has rung, it’s the end of the day

Oh she’s coming out of class

She’s frowning but I don’t really care

Cause I’m going home at last.

‘Teaching and learning’ has ceased to be an awesome experience. We are sinking in a quagmire of routine. As captives of the present education system, we teachers tend to run bulldozers over the pleasure centers of our children’s brains.

There’s a world out there for them to discover—a world that draws out visions of greatness and awe. With two decades of teaching experience behind me – I’ve learnt a few things. One of them is to ‘enjoy the moment’.—I stood in a classroom once, teaching the poem Tintern Abbey (a poem which is long and intricate and stressful for students when they prepare questions and answers for the board exam). As I got caught up in Wordsworth’s beautiful description of a Presence (God’s) that suffuses nature, I directed the students to look through the glass windows to the distant snow covered peaks of Mussoorie and urged them to take a few moments of silence to absorb the beauty of the scene before them. In the ensuing stillness when I turned back to the class, I caught the look on the face of a girl sitting in the last row. Her countenance was aglow. Her eyes were shining. I knew then that she had grasped a truth that may never find words on an exam paper but one that had found a home in the depths of her soul. And this is what education is supposed to be. It is the expansion of the soul to grasp truth, goodness and beauty in a world that is otherwise dark. It is a never ending quest for wisdom.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such of these”. The kingdom of Heaven is in our midst. It is the inheritance of every child and as we teach the subjects, we are trained to, may we always remember that every branch of learning ultimately points the human Spirit to the wisdom and glory of its Creator. Geography is, with its amazing discovery of rocks and mountains, planets and galaxies a study of His handiwork, Biology—an analysis of the life forms He called into being. Physics began when He said, ‘Let there be light’ and Chemistry when He held the delicate chemical balance of the world in His hands. Then He gave us ‘language’ to chronicle in words, with our puny imaginations, the reservoirs of His infinite wisdom. It all started with Him. In the beginning was the Word. Let me conclude with a poem I wrote to encourage myself to believe that as a teacher, despite the stress of our time, there is hope that with Him we can do the impossible.

If we had time, we could make children wonder

At the growth and the flowering of trees,

Exclaim over the fickleness of weather

And laugh at the challenging seas.

If they had time they could paint in colours

Their dreams, their visions and plans

Give shape to their hope for the future

Mourn over the ruins of men.

But there is no time for the teacher and taught

We must battle with formal structures

The essence of life is oft sacrificed

And truth by indifference is ruptured.

If the humdrum routine and the stress of our times

Tempts us to forget their existence

To bother with books, with marks and reports

There’s always room for resistance.

For if we lose ourselves their smiles will fade

To be replaced by cynical laughter

Their dreams will die and zeal abate

The courage of love will falter.

All we have are children with innocent eyes

And mouths that are open in awe

With a delicate trust in the beauty of life

And a faith that relies on its laws.

We could help them to grow with the strength that looks

For a star in the gathering darkness

If we capture the magical moments of life

And let them rejoice in its greatness.

Mrs. Maria Clarance

Mrs. Clarance is the senior english teacher at Khrist Jyoti Academy Dehradun.

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