Friday, September 7, 2012

How We Were Taught, Part 1

Over the past few days, I have been privileged to read some of the most amazing anecdotes by students of their most incredible times in school or their fondness for one teacher or the other. Some in blogs, some picked up by media, some shared and some just stumbled upon. When I look back, I see that it is not just these few people who’ve had some unforgettable times in school. I believe each and everyone of us have a story or the other. I know what you must be thinking right now—uh oh! He is going to take us on his nostalgic trip once again. Well you don’t go wrong there—as I am going to do exactly that!

School for me were three beautiful establishments—the first being ISWK in Muscat, where I began, then HTTPS, Puthiyara in Calicut and finally MESRRS, Pavangad again in Calicut. I still remember vividly when my mom told me that I had to go to school, but before which I had to give an exam. My mom being herself had us gotten started at an early age, teaching us (my brother and me) alphabets and basic counting and giving the best teachers’ experience even before school began in reality for us. It needn’t be anything major, but you give her a book with question and answers and she would sit and hear you out after she asked a question, pointing out mistakes as we went on. And for her part she loved teaching us. She had sat down with each one of us three brothers’ education almost unto eighth grade. But it didn’t stop there; it is through her motivation that the three of us are into as diverse a field as we are in right now.

So coming back to kindergarten, I still remember heading to Muttrah (that was where our school was located, before moving it to the better building-ed Wadi Kabir location), sitting in a classroom full of little kids, each of them finishing up their own tests. After a couple of days I got my results and it turned out that I had done immensely well. But then my mom saw my paper, and she came up to me and showed me where I had gone wrong. There was a math counting exercise in the paper, where I had to write the number of objects that was in a row. Me trying to be a smartass, went on to count the box also in which I had to write the answer. Thereby, losing marks, but jumping to KGII instead of KGI. The first few years I have not much memory of. It seems to me now as if it was all too blurry and way too quick.

But I do remember my class teachers. There was one Mrs. Neethu ma’am who was our teacher in the first or third grade. Again, as I told earlier, too blurry, too quick. But I clearly remember our second grade teacher, Ms. Loraine Pinto. I have for one have been trying to locate her the past few years. But it’s a difficult situation for a teacher to recognize you after like 18 years—either you had to be freakishly talented or annoyingly mischievous. I was an in between student. But yes, Loraine ma’am if you are reading this, I hope this will be a memory refresher. She was a tall teacher, who used to come in these red and grey suits, had long nails which were always painted red, and used to be super fond of all her kids, me more so. I still remember one science exhibition day, she gave me a new red Pilot pen and asks me to finish off the ink in it. I just scribbled the hell out of that pen, and finished off the ink in it and gave it to ma’am. She looked at the pen and then looked at me, I knew I had done something wrong—in my frenzy I had gone on to break the nib of the pen. She had a good laugh and gave me another pen to finish off. She taught us everything—math, English, science, social studies, assignments where you had to stick pictures, colouring within the borders, and to me, my most fantastic sporting achievement ever in school life—winning the inter class sports competition, after losing out to the A division in every practise run. It was the annual sports day, and we had to take part in a team event, where eight of us would line up behind a race line, and one after the other would run to a distance and go and build and rebuild a pyramid made out of soda cans, placed at a table at a distance. Our class, the F division, which would become synonymous to becoming the average class with extraordinary people, was kind of pathetic at it—that is what one would say, when we went on to come in last in almost all the practice runs. The A division even received prizes during these unofficial races. But when it came to the real deal, we surprised even ourselves. We left our best and fastest runner, Aemon, for the last. Each of us, did our best, making and destroying the can-pyramids one after the other. When Aemon ran back after making the pyramid for one last time, we couldn’t believe our eyes- we had won! I clearly remember the excitement that ran through us, when we finished the race—still gives me goosebumps. Yes, primary school was that exciting for us, especially with teachers like Ms. Loraine Pinto.
Where memories began

Then in the fourth grade, I encountered the teacher I will not forget for the rest of my life—Ms. Charmaine Bell. She is to me, the best teacher there ever will be. I still remember her coming into the class, with her curly frizzy hair and big smile, while we rose in chorus - Good morning ma’am! It was she who inculcated in me the will to be capable of anything, the ability to excel and the importance of being a team player. In that one year in fourth grade, I learned so much, that I believe will remain in memory forever and hopefully will be passed on to my own kids. I remember one instance, when we had to do the class play. There was Warren Vaz (who is right now a chemical engineer, if I am not mistaken) and me who were vying for the role of the Prince in the fairy tale, Cinderella. And then there was the wordy role of the narrator. I really wanted the Prince’s role, but Charmaine ma’am was so sweet, that she convinced me to be the narrator, which had more importance and stage presence than any one else. And I had like pages and pages to learn before I could actually go on stage. With the help of my mom, I actually did learn all those lines, by heart. On the day of the play, everything went absolute smooth, and after I had said my last line, I walked backstage, and Charmaine ma’am, comes and grabs me and tells me I had been just plain wonderful, and plants a kiss on my cheek. I hastily rubbed off the lipstick mark on my cheek (as you would see any young boy do), but the pride I felt in me, when she told me what a wonderful job I had done, I don’t think any other instance with any other teacher could equate with that. The very lady moulded us even more going into the fifth standard. (I met up with her in 2010, along with Jonathan, and she is still the sweet frizzy haired lady with a smile that can make anyone's day)

And then in the fifth grade, there was the arrival of another teacher that greatly influenced me in the art of story telling. When he had come, he was a French teacher, and did teach French to the higher classes. But to us, or rather me, he will always remain our temporary-math-teacher-turned-permanent-math-teacher in fifth grade. We were struggling with a replacement for our math teacher. While Mr. Keerthi Kumar, the man forever in the white shirt, pants, shoes and even hair and beard was up for teaching us in a few years, fifth grade required someone less intimidating. So as we waited one fine day for out math teacher to show up, a thin, lanky young spectacled man walks into our classroom. We were like – aha another substitute, another free period, we are gonna have some free fun time. But then how Mr. Sivakumar got us hooked on for the next half hour is beyond comprehension. He started off by asking us to close the curtains in the classroom in the first place. After which he goes on to tell us one of the most genuinely scary stories of all times. The atmosphere created by him was absolutely electric. There was the chill in the air, there was the simplistic manner in which he actually transported us to the location – it was just pure magic. That was it, the next time Mr. Sivakumar came to our class, he was teaching us math, and from time to time, the brilliant scary stories. I have told that story now to an entire battalion of cousins over various trips to a number of places around the Middle East and back home in India, and even so do too to this day. His popularity was so immense that he was even invited over for birthday parties, where again he weaved his magical story telling ability. From being a substitute, to being a part time math teacher, to a full time favourite – you sir, are indeed an inspiration to this day. (Mr. Sivakumar went on to teach French to my other friends over the next few years).

But then it is not like other teachers didn't exist. There were others without whom we could not have made it through those young years, and I betcha my classmates who are reading this will remember, and hopefully one day all us kids and teachers can meet so that we can tell you from the bottom of our hearts, a big thank you!

We shall now take a small interval, since after the fifth grade, I too left ISWK for a couple of years, moving back to India. But that as we all know, folks, is for another post, another day and another time.

(Yes, I have restarted my shameless to-be-continued series of posts)
(But pliss be the kind and bear with me J)

1 comment:

Jane Borges said...

I know how exactly you feel...brilliant read. was reading it on my way to college this morning...can't wait for Part 2, am sure 8F is waiting :)