Friday, 12 November 2010

The day of the frown and the loss of the crown

It will be cruel if I don't document my morning. It will be absolutely wicked if I do. It should be evident by now to the readers which one I would pick.

So soon after blogging about teaching as I did, I'm going to blog about teaching again. And before you click that X on your screen let me tell you that this is hot stuff.

My classes A1 Part 2 level in French started this Wednesday. I walked in late to class to find that introductions (if any) were over and we were already working on Future Proche and Participe Passe. Just like that. That's heavy duty grammar for the uninitiated.

And it was so depressing to see that we had unfriendly, geeky, scaredly cats as new classmates. And there was a beautiful young lady called Supriya teaching us. Right off, I noted that she wrote very neatly, was methodical in her manner, and spoke beautiful French. But although beautiful she had the most severe of frowns I'd ever seen. And since my ex-boyfriend has a repertoire of frowns, I am very familiar with the concept, and trust me she looked scary. So this Indian beauty with the French accent was teaching us. Or rather not teaching us. But just frowning at all of us like we were worms and low-lives.

Then she asked 'me' to conjugate the 'etre'/be verb. I did. With ample help from my gorgeous friends in class. So she figured I didn't know much.

Then it got more boring.

I was incredibly indignant. This is the next 90 classes? With this c'est ne pas Priya (One who is not loved)? For this I will have to wake up at ungodly hours and ride in the cold winters/rains of Blondon? For this?

That's when she'd just finished asking a guy to conjugate some other verb.

She (S from now on) turned to me and said, 'Can you repeat that?'
I (B from now on) said, 'No, I can't.'
S: Why not?
B: I haven't woken up yet.
S: What?
B: Yes, I'm still sort of sleeping.
S: Why?
B (debating whether to lie or tell the truth that she's bloody boring; she can't teach): I don't know.
S: But you look fresh.
B: Yes, I tend to do that.
S: Tend to do what?
B: I tend to look fresh when I'm actually not feeling fresh.
S: Then go get some coffee. Go, get up.
B: Sorry, cafe isn't open yet.
S: Of course, it is.
B: Well, it's open but no coffee. I checked before coming in.
S: Okay then go for a short, brisk walk.
B: Pardon, Madame, I don't walk. I don't do things like that.
S: Go wash your face.
B: I won't.
S: Then repeat what he just said.
B: Only if he repeats it again.

So she made that poor sod repeat again and I recited the whole damn conjugation and that was class 1.
Day 1 of class had all of us shiny, happy people turning deeply dismayed, terrified, and horror-struck.

I bunked class 2 owing to the fact that I have more wisdom teeth than I know what to do with. But my friends told me what happened. She sent a 31 year old man out of class because he was chewing gum. So he had to return to class only after spitting out the gum.

Today was class 3. Little, hardly any improvement from class 1. She made us play Chinese Whispers with sentences (French and long) taken from some obscure song. And she didn't even play the song! Fortunately, I was the one who had to start it. I swear, ours was the longest sentence. Then every one in my row fucked up. And she made me read. And I read, though I say it myself, beautifully (I do love that language). So she said, yes, she read okay.

Then a more rambling, difficult grammar exercise followed. I checked with the girls sitting next to me. They were also grumbling about how she really doesn't teach and just expects us to know answers. I asked them if they were sure they were finding her classes difficult. They said yes.

B: Pardon, Madame, but all of us have a problem with your classes.
S: (Shocked) What do you mean?
B: To put it simply, we were told when we were doing A1 Part 1 that we were still in Kindergarten and we'll make gradual progress. But suddenly it's like we are in the fifth standard after KG.
S: Do all of you feel like that?
Class shifts uncomfortably. Some teacher-pleasers shuddered and shook their heads. And you know all about Indians and head shaking. It didn't make sense. And there I was thinking bollocks everone's lost their non-existent balls, oh dear, now what; when one brave child called Madhu piped up. 
M: Yes, ma'am, we have many doubts when you teach, but we simply can't ask you because it's so difficult and you go so fast.
S: I have to finish my portions.
B: Yes, we get that, of course, but possibly just for the first week you can go a little easy and may be be a bit kind.
S: Kind? Have you all felt this way?
And then another girl called Josephine spoke. Trust me, it's only the women who have real balls; men are just chicken shit. Literally.
J: Yes, Ma'am. This example you gave us is very difficult.
S: Then why didn't any of you tell me in the first class? I'm not a mind-reader.
B: None of us said anything because you are scary and frightening.
S: (Laughing uncomfortably but quickly getting smug): I am inti-inti-...
B: Intimidating? Yes.
S: But that's how it is. I can only teach 20 per cent, the rest 80 per cent you have to study on your own.
B: (Mentally reeling and going, Wha Wha What?) We aren't saying, we won't study; but may be you can go a bit slower and ensure we understand what's happening in class.
S: I don't know how I can possibly change. If you have an intimidating, arrogant teacher, you have to deal with that. You have to learn to put up with that.
B: We know that. That's why we are here still, don't you think?
S: Then, that's all. I'll do some revision, but don't expect me to teach any differently. You have to deal with it.
B: (Wondering whether to launch into speech on attitude but postponing it for the future): Thank you, Ma'am, just your promise that you will try to do better will be good for us. Thank you for trying.
S: (And this the classmates later told me because I didn't hear it; I was too busy getting into a fine rage with the guys of the class by then.): You don't need to thank me. It's what I'm paid to do.

And that's it, readers, I felt unbearably sad somehow.

Teaching is a great thing, possibly the greatest thing after sex. When you are a good teacher and you understand your students and you know your subject - there is something magical that happens. When you suddenly see a student's face light up in knowledge and comprehension and when you know you put it there - that sort of high is inexplicable. And in teaching there is no 'you 70 - I 20' equation. You are involved for ever. And there's so much happiness when you say something funny and your entire class laughs out loud. And that's when they get creative and are interested and motivated. And yes, while you do teach because you get paid, the true reward of teaching is definitely not money.

But apparently young, intimidating Supriya from Alliance Francaise de Bangalore doesn't know that and will probably never learn that. And ain't that a bloody buggering shame, now?  

And in other news, even though I did right today (everyone, particularly the guys, thanked me after class for speaking up) karma came and bit me in the arse a little too hard. I think my fate said to itself  'Oh hang on, that Bhumika has been happy for too long now, let's fuck her over.' So after crying myself a sea, I'm now laughing. Because clearly I ought to have known. When something is too good to be true, it verily, is too good to be true. And really, I should have known better. I should have. I so should have. And really, sometimes love just ain't enough.


Marvin Grey said...

From this day onwards, I shall always ask myself what Vatsyayana has to say about "Teaching is a great thing, possibly the greatest thing after sex".

I went to college about 13 years after I finished school. Did I tell you that? I always thought it would be impossible and downright embarrassing sitting with boys and girls who never saw Star Trek in B/W and thought DD stood for Dare Devil or a side kick of DM (Danger Mouse). Eventually, it was fine once I realized that there only one way to know if I was cut out. I humbled myself before those who were at times younger than me and fallible but had something to teach. I learned to see problems through eyes which were younger and less clouded then my own. And I remembered that Secant was reciprocal of Cosine during an exam (a big thing for someone who did not take maths in pre-university).

I did come across those who were there not to teach but to hit on the younglings. Two were thrown out in the 3 years I was there. I might have played small role in the exit of one individual because of my conversation with the Head of the Department on his teaching skills. But mostly it was the fact he drunk himself silly during a class trip that sealed his fate. I did not bring that up because my buddies in the class brought the liquor. No yours truly did not drink with younglings.

Teaching is a noble profession. But it is not dispensed for free. And being there to learn requires a great devotion and discipline. It would be best to remove any weak link in that little circle.

PS :- I have not told you how long it took before I spoke to my head of department. The remark about chicken shit men still rings in my ears. I should have jumped in much earlier.

Saudha said...

Wow - she's got the teaching nous of a Government High School teacher. When she's actually working with a language and cultural institution. Doesn't AF condition its teachers to improve their teaching habits? Just bizarre.

Actually - even teachers in Govt schools in Kerala have improved their methods - less booky booky and portion bloody mindedness, more interactive, practical teaching.

GK said...

I seriously think you should complain to the management. What a stuck up bitch! People like her bring shame to the teaching community!!

Bhumika's Boudoir said...

MG, no you hadn't told me that. And you make me proud. I know the kind of nerve it takes to do that and also the passion it takes to continue. I'm very glad you spoke to the HOD. Yes in this case, the when doesn't matter. Still proud of you. Because I know next time you will act sooner. Smiling wryly at the Vatsyayana comment.

Saudha, I've heard that were we to complain, AF wouldn't move a finger. We have two choices - continue or quit and they keep the money either way. Hence the teacher's attitude is the way it is. I've sworn to be regular to class to catch one more such 'chewing gum' sort of incident. I will also try and study French so if need be I can yell at her in French. That will be so cool.

GK, yes, that is on the agenda. But I want to see for another two days. It's really disgusting. More so because it all takes place so early in the morning. Sort of ruins your entire day.