Sunday, April 14, 2013

If only we had answers to questions of "what if"

Words flow easy when you are feeling a certain way. A way that brings about questions of why. If you  know me personally, you would know how I say that we should never regret the decisions we take, the mistakes we make and the choices we choose from. Never live life in regrets. That's what I always said. And yet, a couple of days ago I sat opposite a good friend in a restaurant and held back tears as I thought of a memory of someone close to my heart. A memory that I can't seem to get rid of. That's what happens when you decide not to live life in regrets I spose.
How is it that something you felt was so right back then bites to the core when thought of now? I can't figure that out. I am not the kinda girl that holds back to people or things that hurt. I am the kinda girl that walks away when I know something is hurting me. But why is it that despite walking away, I am still haunt by memories? You know how sometimes we say that God puts people in our lives for a reason? To make us stronger? To weave something in us that last forever? I believe in that.
Then I spose that I should believe that this happened for a good reason too? My only question is of "what if". What if I choose differently back then? Will I still be the same girl I am today? Strong on the outside but broken into pieces on the inside. I guess that's an answer I will never know.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Of doing what you are not supposed to do as a practicum teacher! My tale!

The very first class that you are assigned to teach scares you for life. This one class, this first experience and this life that you have for merely four weeks will make a difference throughout your life as a teacher. Trust me when I tell you that I had it all figured out. I have been in lectures for months now in which we are "supposedly" prepared for the teaching world. We are told what to do, how to do it and why we should do it. We know the theories, we know the approaches and we are aware of the procedures of getting things done. Thing is, we are never told that none of that which we have studied for the past few semesters would make sense in school. I am not saying that it is pointless to go to college to study to be a teacher. I am just saying that 50% of what you learn in your teaching institution will not apply in schools.
True, I should keep my mouth shut as I am just starting to teach. What do I know? I am just a practicum teacher who has been entering classes for a week. Who am I to judge what happens in school? But, let me remind you again that it is the newbies that are able to see things from different perspectives. The new untainted ones are the ones that are able to truly tell you what really goes on in schools. Besides, its a free world, isn't it? So, here we go. My tale of my very first week of teaching. 
The first word that you utter in class makes a difference for the rest of your life as a teacher. The first thing that you say to your pupils will either make you or break you. That very first thing that you do in class is where you stand as a teacher. I knew that, perfectly well I must say. My friends had been talking about how important it is to make a mark as a teacher. To set boundaries as to how far you can let your pupils into your world. How important it is to be strict. To raise your voice when needed. To give a stern look. I had been listening to all that the whole day. I even looked at myself the night before in the mirror and practiced my stern look. And yet, when I stood there waiting for them to enter the class after recess, I felt a million butterflies swimming in my tummy. I knew perfectly well that they will enter any time now to find a new teacher in her black and white punjabi suit standing there. They will look at me from top to bottom. Gauge how nice I am, how strict I am, even before I open my mouth. As I thought of it, the more nervous I became. And then I heard the bell ring. I quietly walked out of class, leaving my bag on the chair and leaned against the pillar in the corridor. I put on my stern face. They came. They looked at me. They ran into class. They started whispering. I caught certain words such as "Is she going to teach us?" to "New teacher?". I pretended like I was fine when in reality I was dieing on the inside.
So I walked into class, they stood, they greeted me and they sat. 43 pair of eyes were looking at me when instead of saying "Alright class, I am your new teacher. Call me Miss Raeva", which I had been practicing for days now with my stern voice, I said "Hai everyone", Can you believe it? Of all words, of all things that I should have said, I said "Hai". I saw them break into smiles. I got a loud "hai" back. Now my mind went blank. Damage had been done. I can never be the strict teacher any more. I looked for ways to turn and I found none. So, I went with the flow. I said, "I am not like any other teacher. I am not here to teach you. I am here to have fun with you with the English language". The class burst out laughing. Gone. Rule number one that Mr.Mano and  Dr. Law ever said was to never be friends with your students in your first month. And I just broke that rule. Problem is, I did not feel bad doing it. I took a deep breath and continued. "But in order to have fun, you need to obey to rules that I set". I did not give them any opportunity to say anything in return. I took my 3 words that I had carefully cut out in manila cards and pasted it on the board. They started whispering. I heard them say "CPR"? For those asking, yes I used Mr.Mano's CPR technique of rules.I went on explaining what is CPR. I made them repeat after me. I made them say those words aloud. And to my surprise, they obeyed. I felt good.
And just as I was starting to feel that I had not done much damage after all, a boy just got up from his seat, went to his friend and pulled a book. I panicked first. Then I realised that it is time I shine. I went to him. Looked at him straight in the eyes and said, "Tell me what does R stand for." He said "Respect". I walked away and stood in front of the class. I asked them, "So, is this respect then". The class chorused a no. I looked at the boy. He went back to his seat. I must say, I felt like someone was showering me with million dollars. That glad that I was able to deal with the first misbehaviour in class. I wrote down two songs and they copied it on a piece of paper. I made them sing with me. I told them that those two songs were going to be our song for the next month. They said they liked the song. True, they were screaming from their seats. They were saying, teacher this and teacher that. You know what I did? I choose to ignore that. I choose to have fun with them. I choose to walk around class listening to their stories rather than screaming, "silence please". And you know why I did that?
Because these are year 5 pupils. They think they are matured enough. They think they know it all. And I think it is fair for them to think so. I know that at this point, there will be many of you who are criticising my classroom management skills but let me just say that as odd as this sounds, being their "friend" is actually helping me. I have pupils who tell me that they want me to continue teaching even after the last bell rings. I have pupils who see me around school, run up to me and say hai. True, they should be saying, "good morning teacher". But still.
And yes, i have pupils who don't do their homework. They love to do work in my class but hate to do it at home. I am still figuring out a way to motivate them to finish their work. And yes, I have attention seekers in my class. And I deal with them with my black magic box. I have their names in the box and I get them to answer questions by picking out names from the box. That way they don't scream "teacher me, teacher me". And they even fight to be the one that helps me carry their books back to the library (yes, my place is in the library as the staff room is completely full). Again, I deal with this by picking out a name from the box. They love this technique and I love to know that I am being fair to everyone. A boy told me today that his name never turns out from the box. He is the most naughtiest one in my class by the way. His name is Vasanth. So I took my box to his table. Took out the papers. Made him jumble them and put it back. I even told him to give the box a little shake. He was all smiles after that. I saw him do a little prayer. Honestly, I melted in the inside. Though this boy is one who is the last to finish my work, constantly making the class wait for him, I am just happy that he is doing the work. So, I don't really suck at managing my class right?
I think the key to teaching is to teach from your heart. To stop screaming, to stop yelling and to stop wanting them to behave in a certain "idle" way. The key to teaching is to let them be comfortable with you around. I am glad that my principle towards teaching is working well with me. My kids listen to me because they like me. They do my work because I don't pressure them. But then again, I am asking myself how long too. How long till I lose control. I am working on that. Working on ways to keep them attached. Let's see how it goes.
I have tons of tales, trust me. But, let me keep some for some other time. For now, I am glad to report that though I suck at being strict, I am still being respected in class. I am more concerned in developing my kids love for the language rather than feeding them with information. I hope that my whole view of humanistic way of teaching still applies when I finally leave at the end of the month. Another 3 weeks to go with my little ones. I am dreaming big but I am taking baby steps to reach there. I don't know whether any one else would think that being "friends" with your kids is good, but I think its one of the best ways to make your kids learn. I hope you have enjoyed my little tale of my first week of practicum. Do leave comments and let me know how your first week went.
Signing of as Miss Raeva. :)