I was s a lucky person to get a teaching job in my own school, the school where once I studied. Thus, three of my own senior teachers became my co-teachers.
We had one of the best English teachers, Mrs. Iyyer. She was totally a self-made strong single woman who lived alone. With all her best qualities like a very good teacher, a good artist, a good Veena player, her only shortcoming was her explosive temper. The entire school shivered when she enters the class and even the co-teachers talked to her very cautiously, backing off hastily when they sensed her mood changing. But since she had taught me for three years in school, knew me as a student, she had special warmth for me and we mixed up well to the surprise of others.
I was teaching Mathematics to 9th grade and Mrs. Iyyer was teaching English to the same class. There was a girl Kaveri, sitting on the last bench of my class. On the very first day, I noticed that when I was teaching; Kaveri was awkwardly bending outward, stretching her entire body out of the bench in an unusual way, to see me. On the second day I asked her “Kaveri, you are tall enough to see the board from the last bench. Then why are you bending your body out of the bench like this?” She got up and stood with her head hung down, remained silent.
I walked to her to ask the same question. Seeing me approaching Kaveri, the girl sitting next to her got up and said, “Madam Kaveri has some hearing problem. She cannot hear with her left ear” As Kaveri stood; as if she was feeling guilty actually, I was the one who was really ashamed for having failed in my duty. (It was the 1975 period, and in those days the hearing aids were not prevalent and neither parents were aware of conducting medical tests for hearing disability)
On the first day of the school itself, I should have gathered all information about my children, in which I had failed. Because of her height, I had put her on the last bench. I moved close to her, patted her shoulder and said softly, “Don’t worry Kaveri. Hereafter you will always sit on the first bench so that you can hear the entire teacher clearly.
After one month, when I entered the class and started my lessons, I noticed that Kaveri was standing outside the class. On asking, the other children told me that Kaveri had not completed her English Homework. Hence Mrs. Iyyer had given her the punishment, that for one week she had to stand outside the class for all her periods. I stood wondering, how to handle this delicate situation.
As such because of her hearing problem Kaveri was not doing so well in her lessons. If she stands one week outside the class, she would miss out on all the subjects. Especially in the case of mathematics, if children miss even one or two class, it would be difficult to catch up the next steps. I asked the class, “Did anyone of you tell the teacher that Kaveri has a hearing problem?”Naturally, no one answered. I took a decision. I told Kaveri, “Maybe you have got the instructions wrong. You had not done the English Homework. So your one-week punishment applies to Mrs. Iyyer’s class. All another period you can sit inside the class in your usual place”.
Kaveri came inside the class and I resumed my teaching. It was the second period and I had decided to tell Mrs. Iyyer about Kaveri in the recess which will be after the 4th period.
When the recess started I was on the fourth floor and it took some time for me to come to the staff room on the first floor. After five minutes when I entered the staff room, the faces of all the teachers sitting there, stared at me and the room was dead silent. A bit confused, as I stepped inside the room I heard a murmur loud enough, “Even after so many years of teaching we don’t raise our voice against seniors. Just joined yesterday and look at her guts” Though I knew the statement was meant for me, still, I did not understand the context of the statement.
Same time Mrs. Iyyer came out of the washroom and seeing me she burst out, “Laxmi how dare you do this? You were one of my most obedient students in school. Today you have dared to insult me?”
Now I understood. Before I could go and explain the situation, someone had played the villain and had gone and complained to her about me. I replied very politely, “Madam, I am still your student and still follow all those good values you had taught me in school”
Her face turning red she still fumed, “You mean to say that this is the good thing I taught you? To disobey, the order of a senior teacher? ”
I replied, “ Madam, you have only taught me that kindness, and sympathy for others are the highest values in life” Madam now was a bit surprised as I quoted her eight year back lessons with ease.
She said, “But what has that to do here, to break my order?”
I told her, “Madam Kaveri is a tall girl for her age. Still, I had put her up on the first bench. Have you noticed this Madam?”
Madam had further cooled down now, and she said, “Why? Tell me why have you done so?”
I replied, “Madam Kaveri is coming from a poor home. She cannot hear on her left ear. Because of this disadvantage, she is not able to do well in her studies. So I had put her in the first bench so that she can get better exposure. Madam if you put her out of the class for one week how much lessons she will miss? And then how will she make up that? And to this already suffering child, should we add miseries?”
Madam was really shocked. She said, “Oh God, I never knew this. By losing one-week lessons she may even fail and her parents won’t be able to send her to school”
I looked at my teacher’s warm face and said, “Madam, I was about to come and would have explained all these to you, but.”
She said, “Laxmi, I am very proud of you! You have done correctly, whatever I had taught you in school”
I looked around, at the faces of all teachers, most of whom were waiting to see a big battle explode, but were sadly disappointed. I kept my notebooks in my locker and when I came back to my chair, Mrs. Iyyer called me, “Hi, Laxmi I had made a new sweet today. Eat and tell me how good it is”
I took one spoonful and swallowed it down in a hurry and immediately choked and burst out coughing. My own loving teacher gave me a tight pat on my back, and said, “You stupid girl how many time had I told you not to stand and eat?”
Devoted teachers understand the importance of being a teacher is not just teaching the lessons to kids. But real teachers understands each and every child, their need and their ability, their potential and drawbacks, and see that they have proper all round development to become a good citizen of future.