I started my career quite accidentally as a teacher. It was a good way to spend time and earn some money while I was in college. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with teaching.
I know I can be quite overbearing and overly dramatic. And these are good things if you are a teacher or an MC! And as a teacher if you work even a little hard at understanding your subject and your student, you end up being someone your students love and respect and want more of.
Which is a rare thing for me because people (particularly those who know me well) normally do not react to me that way. When I talk, people usually tend not to listen. Some of them look visibly pissed off or irritated or bored depending on what I’m saying.
My best friend and constant critic, Anu, manages to do all of it almost at the same time irrespective of what I’m saying. She’s very good for my ego. She cuts it to size. She’s the only one who says, ‘Queen’ as if it’s something derogatory and not deserving of attention or respect.
And when I quit teaching over five years ago, it was like a part of me went missing. For the next three years I was really busy being an MC, organizing events, and generally being a pain in most people’s ass. But at the end of it, except for some applause, there was little fulfilment.
When I started attending French class, I saw how one instructor added so much polish to the class, and another made the class come alive. As students, we were desperate to wake up at 5.30 or 6 in the morning in Bangalore’s Blondony weather, ride/drive all the way to the Institute because we enjoyed our classes and learning a new language so much. And it was a whole world opening up in front of us.
It reminded me so much of my students, particularly those who had studied in vernacular mediums or foreign students, whose only exposure to English was the television. After studying for a month or two, they would walk out of the institute with such confidence. For them too, being able to communicate in English with ease, flair, and polish opened up newer worlds. They began to understand the puns in sitcoms, make new friends, ask girls out, and make presentations that made (or so they said) their bosses sit up and take notice.
As a teacher it was gratifying. My favourite success story is of Laleh, an Iranian student who’d moved to India to study Pharmacy in one of the colleges in Bangalore. When she joined us, she didn’t know a word of English. Merely living in Bangalore was traumatic for her. All through the first month she cried in class. But by the fourth month, we used to argue about fashion, religion and men. The most fulfilled I ever felt was when she fought with me over something trivial – in impeccable English – and refused to come to class for three days. And then when she was calmer, she came back to my class, cried again, and hugged me tight. Those were some really good days.
So when I started French class, the urge to teach was irresistible. And sure enough (It was like that theory – If-you-want-something-bad-enough-the-universe-conspires-to-give-it-to-you) my first ever boss woman called me and asked me if I could help out the owner of our school for a few months. She was getting on in years and losing teachers. Students who wanted to study English were desperate to learn and she couldn’t help all of them. Since the place wasn’t too far from where I stayed, would I consider teaching again for just two hours on a weekend?
I readily agreed.
Last Saturday was the first class. First classes are easy – that’s when you assess how much your students know and what you need to teach them and all that sort of thing. So that was plain sailing.
And today was the second class. To be honest, I hadn’t had time to prepare. What with working on Friday (and strangely enough Fridays are my busiest days at work) Facebooking and endlessly watching Bob Dylan sing Jokerman on YouTube and more Facebooking and reading and finishing two novels, I could hardly go through my old class files.
But I went to class. Half an hour late. Being punctual is one lesson my students don’t ever learn from me! But the students smiled at me. They were happy to see me again. And I stood at the board. And suddenly, it all came charging back – sentence structure in English, even the mad/outrageous examples I used to give to make grammar more fun. My students willingly laughed and learnt. Correcting their pronunciation, I could happily indulge in ‘No, sweetie, listen to me.’ ‘Darling, you aren’t paying attention.’ Sentences that you can never utter in polite society no matter how royal your status unless you want to get the kind of reactions I get from people.
And standing there at the board with a chalk in my hand, watching knowledge sink in, I felt fulfilled after a really long time. I smiled and while I was mindlessly helping someone get better in English, it just happened.
I got my mojo back.
Not even spending the rest of the day endlessly shopping and getting constantly criticised by Anu for everything from my face to the way I speak (she says it’s for my own good), ebbed the optimism or the sheer smugness of teaching.
I had a good day; it was really like heading straight into the shinning sun!