Ankita was one of those very young, just fresh from college batch of new teachers who had been just appointed in our Pune School. Within a short time of her joining, we had become very good friends. (Generally, I have this habit of hanging, on to younger generation as that makes me feel young too). On that day Ankita looked all red-faced, confused and upset as she walked out of the Principal’s room. I noticed her restlessness and asked in a comforting voice “What is the problem Ankita? Can I help you?” She looked up at me and said “Natraj Madam, Principal had allotted me the 10th C, division from next week. I am very nervous. How will I teach that class?”
In that school, we had a “C” division which was made up of the below average students. Most of them would have failed, in one or other lower classes, and was mostly a class of all grown up boys around 18yrs. Naturally, the fresh young teachers feel a bit nervous. I comforted her saying that though these boys were grown up, they are well-behaved boys, and there was nothing to worry. She said, “Madam I am worried because of the memory of what happened to my best friend and classmate Sundari, who joined a Chennai School”. Without any need to asking anything further, she told me the story of Sundari.
Sundari was also a young, fresh teacher who joined a Chennai school for teaching Tamil. In those days, the State board final class was not the tenth but was the XIth standard, and the boys in Sundari’s class were well grown up. Sundari by nature was a very bubbly girl, and as she taught the class, she joked and told anecdotes in the class to make the tough grammar lessons interesting. There was one 18 years old student in her class by name Joseph, who showed a lot of interest in her classes, asking questions and doubts.Sundari , a dedicated and enthusiastic teacher made sure to help and clear all his doubts. One day Joseph brought a red rose to her, and without any hesitation, she took the rose. It became a habit of Joseph to bring the roses every day. He left it on the table every day after that. Sundari busy with her schedules, never paid much attention and never bothered to pick it up.
Sundari’s husband worked for the railway, and she lived in the quarters. She used to come by cycle to school (Scooters were not much common those days). It just happened that Joseph also stayed in the same locality. They often ended up coming together in the morning to school around the same time. After the school ended, he waited for his teacher and then cycled with her towards home. As they cycled together, they had some light conversation. For her, the grown up Joseph was just another school student like the other boys, and she did not think beyond this. Sundari was not aware that she was unknowingly encouraging a relationship.Seeing this event happening every day, the boys in the class started teasing Joseph. But Joseph was not upset by this. He was just enjoying and encouraging them. In fact, he started spinning his own imaginary stories and started spreading more rumours around. The matter reached the ears of the class teacher Rukmini Iyer.
She called Sundari and told her softly everything about the attitude of Joseph, and the stories he was building up on Sundari’s back. Sundari was shocked. Rukmini Iyer said with sympathy “Sundari, we should always maintain a definite distance from the students. Never give anyone more importance so that they can take it otherwise, especially with the grown up boys”.
That day evening when Sundari came out of the school she found Joseph, as usual, waiting for her. She called him and talked in a firm voice “Joseph why should you wait for me every day after the school for fifteen minutes? I don’t like this. Please stop this practice. It would be better if you go home early and focus on your studies. You please go home just now” She locked her cycle in the school, and took an auto rickshaw and went home. For one week every day she came to school by auto and returned by rickshaw. The boys in the class now started teasing Joseph about having “lost in love” and he could not tolerate it.
That day, at about eight o’clock in the evening, Joseph went to Sundari’s house and rang the bell. She opened the door and seeing Joseph at the door, she was a bit shocked. She said in a firm voice “Why have you come here, Joseph?” He said “Madam I have got some doubt in the lesson, and I want to get it cleared,” She said firmly “Any doubts in lessons, you have to ask me in the class and not at home. Now please leave” She was about to close the door when Joseph roughly pushed the door and barged into the house. Her husband was out of town on an assignment.
Joseph went inside and sat on the chair and started blabbering “I know Sundari teacher, that you also liked me and now why are have you suddenly stopping … Are you worried about being married? But that doesn’t matter in love. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNTIL YOU ACCEPT YOUR LOVE FOR ME” Was this boy drunk or had he lost his mind?. Sundari was stunned and did not know what to do. She opened the door and ran out immediately and found three neighbours, who worked with her husband, standing on the road. She beckoned them urgently. They rushed inside the house and understanding the situation, locked up Joseph in the inside room and called the police.
Sundari was still in a state of denial and shock, seeing her dear student in this state. The principal and Joseph’s parents received a call from the police station in the night. Hearing everything, the parents fell at the feet of Sundari and apologised profusely. Then they begged the inspector and Sundari not to make an FIR as it would ruin the future of the boy. The principal agreed with them. The parents promised that they would take away the boy from the school. As promised, the same night they left the town with Joseph. Though this incident was not known to anyone in school, it was too much of a shock for Sundari. A boy, whom she thought to be her own son, thinking of her in a different way, was so unbearable to her. She kept on wondering where she had missed these signs? What had she done wrong? She went into a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised. Later she not only left the school but the teaching profession itself and took up some other job in an office.
After this entire story, Ankita looked at me and said: “Now you know Madam why I am afraid of going to that class?” I told her, “What had happened to your friend is one of a rare and unfortunate incidence. Many young teachers are teaching the grown up the boy’s classes. Young teachers are teaching in the colleges also. If you are a good teacher, children will pay attention only to your lessons and bond deeply with you. At that fragile age,sometimes the appreciation and attention are mistaken for a spark of love. Your duty as a teacher is simply to be upright and emphasise that they are just another good student to you. You have to be warm and approachable as a teacher, but same time, keep your distance on a personal level..especially if you see such a possibility” Ankita started teaching the class and soon became a favorite teacher without any of her fears coming true.
Adolescent children, with all the hormones gushing into their system, have strange fascinations and most of the time they live in a world of their imagination. Sometimes the respect they have for their teacher may manifest into a warm feeling. It might be easily misunderstood by them, as an attraction.Now with the cell phone and e-mail facility the teacher’s position are more at risk. There were some such real life cases, which were televised the TV real crime serials, wherein the boys become so obsessive with their feelings that they deviated into criminal activities by posting unacceptable materials about the teacher in social media or young girls who committed suicide because their Professor did not reciprocate their feeling.
Teachers, ethically we are like doctors, lawyers or therapists who also have uniquely close interactions with their clients and patients. We are the mature adults in the situation and hence have to be sensitive to the undertones of a relationship with a favourite student. Dear parents, If you have an adolescent schooling child, please make it a point to spend some time definitely with them asking about their favourite teachers. Then if there is any problem brewing, maybe you can sense them , and get a chance to nip it in the bud. Maybe you could talk to them about a silly crush you had and how it affected you or talk to them about such news. Awareness and an openness to deal with it alone can help us clear the confused infatuations of this age.
See you in next blog. Till then happy reading.