Thursday, June 23, 2011

Teaching ka Side Effects

For any activity we do, there are side effects.  Some that we like and are happy to have.  Others we are not happy with and wish they don't appear.  Teaching has its side effects too.

One of the bad side effects is that you sometimes expect students to be something.  Something more.  Is that right or wrong ?  Good or bad ?  Every time I walk into a class I go with expectations.  Expectations of meeting a bunch of people who are motivated, who are fun and who show what it is to be 20.  Of course you know that continuous lecture sessions can be monotonous.  Still, at the early side of twenty, one should be trying to learn.  Besides, the energy level is high and the capacity to grasp more than when you are on the other side of the curve.      That is one way of looking at it.  However, another way of looking at the same thing is this:  how can I expect something mediocre of my students.  That would be self defeating in the first place.  For, as a teacher, I believe that my students are capable of more.  So, it is my duty to expect more, get them to push themselves and realize that they can do more than what they imagined however within limits of their capacity. Also, in a way that they enjoy and makes the whole thing fun. So, what do you do to get them moving ?

There is however a good side-effect.  The energy, the enthusiasm that you find in the 18-23 year olds.  I may not be twenty but then it rubs off on any teacher.  So, in the mind, as a teacher, it is easier to remain young.  And that is a good thing, given that you need to do just half the amount of exercises and all the other things that people do to remain young.

So, we as teachers get so much more in the bargain.  That's the perks of the job.

(This post was written the day before 'Remembrance'.  Here, I speak about pushing them to do better - is that good or bad ?)


Day before yesterday, that is Wednesday brought some bad news.  Having been away for four years, I was out of touch totally with my students.  Reason being obvious - all I could think of for the four years was research, finishing it up.  Besides, nothing else interested me except the occasional visits to see some handicrafts exhibitions and eat something outside(to escape the messy mess).  During my second year, I heard about Srikanth passing away -  that bright, enthusiastic, I can do it guy.  Not once in all those years of teaching did I think I would hear, that I would come across that moment where you have to think of a student in the past.

It happened again.  Chatting with a colleague about how stress affects our life(I had a migrane that day), we shifted to how students of today have to face the harsh IT world outside.  The news of Alphonse Manoj's death came as a shock. My colleague asked me if I remembered him. How can I forget him.  He did his MCA here.  A soft spoken, naughty guy(in small ways) with that smile always on his face.  I don't remember seeing him any other way.  He was an above average student with reference to studies and was always willing to go that extra step to do things.  The cause for his death was said to be stress.

What are we teaching our students, I wondered ?  Instead of teaching them technical stuff, which they will learn anyway, we need to teach them life skills.  To prioritize, to understand what is important.  At 1:30 that day, when my class approached me to have an extra half an hour in the lab during lunch hour(I had given them a deadline to submit work the next day), I went very reluctantly.  In the lab, looking at their faces, I wondered if it was worth it.  Was it worth taking away 1/2 hr from their lunch break(they had only an hour's class in the afternoon after which they were free).  Still, was it worth it ?  It made me postpone their submission date.  The same thought carried me to class.  It was the same classroom where I had last taken class for Alphonse last(I left afterwards for my PhD) and I remembered the place where he usually used to sit.

Forget taking class, I couldn't put my thoughts together.  The question that came back again and again is - what am I teaching them ?  Am I a teacher in the real sense of the term - a teacher also has the responsibility to prepare you for the world outside.  Where is the time after all the stuff that is cramped into a day.  The IT world - a world where everyone speaks about the money made but there is no statistic to show the side effects - suicides, broken marriages, stress related issues, loneliness, health problems during and afterwards and the outdated date that comes when you are in your late forties.  It is worse than the film world in some sense.  Do the 20 somethings know it - do they know where to say stop and take a breath.

Lot of questions, very few answers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are we random or connected ?

One question that many of us ask time and again is whether we, human beings are random or connected in some way.  This news got me wondering.

Bizzare, but makes us wonder how one thing leads to another.  One word, one action leads to a reaction that cannot be controlled.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reality strikes

Yesterday, June 15th was the reopening day for all schools in Tamil Nadu.  Coimbatore too was no different. For two months now, the roads especially in the mornings between 8:00 and 9:00 have been traffic free. And then, overnight everything changed. The entire stretch on Avanashi Road starting from near the Anna flyover all the way to the airport was screaming with children and their parents in all forms and shapes of vehicles. It is nice to see kids on the road, cheerful and going to school. Usually, on a normal school day, this road has heavy traffic but nothing like yesterday. So, caught in the jam and knowing that there was no way I was going to reach college on time, I decided to enjoy the jam. I started looking around, analysing how many people were travelling in each vehicle. I was alone in mine(we, my husband and I travelled together till our work places were diagonally opposite). Most cars had a parent and kid, or a driver, parent and kid. And there was tension, on the drivers and parents face. Most of the kids were unfazed by the turmoil around. Kids were dressed all in new - new uniforms, new bags and there was a certain calm in their faces maybe after the long period of vacation.

Back to the point, the whole cause of so much traffic was parents being sentimental and wanting to drop their kids personally on day one. So, instead of going by a school bus, or an autorickshaw, here they were closeted in a car and taken safely to school. In the midst of all this, there were people who were vomitting on the road - no not children, but parents. They are not used to this chaos and I guess it was too much for them.

So reality strikes me then. After two months of luxury on the roads, it is time to get back to normalcy. This is how it is going to be till the next vacation. There's no chance of seeing a vacant stretch on the roads for sometime now.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

For the people, by the people and of the people

Democracy is something that countries like ours hold sacrosant.  The Congress was once a party that threw the British out through satyagraha.  But the congress of today shuns satyagraha.  No wonder Gandhi asked for the dismantling of the Congress immediately after independence.  Any citizen of this country has the right to hold peaceful demonstrations over matters he thinks is plausible.  Here, the issue was one that has put the country in turmoil.  The amounts quoted as lost in scams(ill-gained by many) are astronomical and have been done with the knowledge of the government of the day. Hence, the support for the cause by the people. 

However, instead of cleaning up, they seem to be doing the opposite.  True, how can they clean up.  Where should they start.  Every person, bottom to top is hand in hand in this fiasco.  I can't for a moment think that other people in the government have not got a percentage.  It can't be just these few people who benefited.  So, the question is how are we going to get to the bottom of this ? 

Instead of giving a political colour and calling each other names, it is time we cleant up our system.