Back to School!

I cannot believe this is my 3rd post of the Day!! It’s a MIRACLE!!

I’ve just got back from spending the afternoon with my son’s Kindergarten class! Today was his first day in Senior KG and I’m happy to report that both of us had a blast 😀 This despite the fact that my derriere is aching from sitting hunched in tiny rigid made-for-4-yr-old-butt chairs 😉 and notwithstanding the general brouhaha that occurs in a room full of 15  hyperactive, enthusiastic 5-yr-olds!!

I continue to be impressed with the teachers in the Podar Jumbo Kids Plus IB section. There are three teachers to attend to 15 children – a main teacher and two assistants, without whom I cannot imagine how they would manage to keep order 😛 These children are a handful – curious, impatient, fidgety and unique –  each in their own way. Getting them to concentrate on a single activity for 5 minutes at a time is in my opinion worthy of a Nobel prize 😉 The teachers at Podar do so with aplomb and have my utmost respect! Take a Bow Ladies 🙂

It was fascinating to see how far the education system has come since way back when I was a kindergartner myself! The children played, sang songs, modeled clay and watched stories all in the space of 4 hours, during which they also wrote their names on the board, drew objects that started with the first letter of each of their names and counted numbers! The learning is skillfully woven into fun activities so that the children scarcely regard it as a serious study process. Instead they imbibe knowledge true to the little sponges they are, by instinct and osmosis. I was pretty impressed with all the kids and happy to see that my boy – shy as he is in public, can hold his own in the classroom 🙂 It was an eye-opener and a wonderful experience and we Moms would be very happy to do it again some time 😛

Senior KG 1st day

I’m looking forward to another rewarding school year 🙂

Teachers Day

 

Every year, India celebrates its teachers on the 5th of September, the birth date of its second president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an educator and statesman of the highest calibre. I must confess I knew next to nothing about him and I’m glad I took the time to find out a little more. Like most famous Indians born in pre-Independence India, he came from humble beginnings and rose to great accomplishments on the back of his intellect and integrity, the latter so dreadfully lacking in the present generation of us free Indians 😦 Here is a great quote attributed to him “When we think we learn we cease to know.” Personally I would like to add, and vice versa! “When we think we know, we cease to learn.” I firmly believe my country is in dire need of better teachers – teachers of the old school, selfless, dedicated and passionate about their vocation. Not the cash-crazy owners of tuition classes that have sprouted all over the country 😦 

Today is the day and inexplicably my son has a holiday! No celebrations in school which is rather disappointing and the card we made sits rather sadly waiting to be happily received by his class teacher tomorrow. Well, be that as it may, these are some of the thoughts running through my head on this Teacher’s Day…

I’m remembering my 5th grade teacher Ms. Olive Callan, in Stella Maris, Kobe. She was a wonderful human being and an excellent teacher. She was loving and yet could be firm, even stern without ever being demeaning or cruel – in my opinion the hallmark of a great teacher 🙂 Her warm smile could light up the most miserable day and she loved us unconditionally as we did her. She left school the same year I did, me to come back to India and she because her son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor 😦 I can’t remember details clearly, it was so long ago, but I remember that that was an important reason in my wanting to become a doctor and a neurosurgeon! Didn’t do the latter, but did eventually manage the first! I tried looking for her recently through random searches on FB but I know nothing about her or where she lived except she was from the UK. How I wish we could connect again! Thank you Ms. Callan for a fabulous 5th Grade and for planting the seed that flowered into my present life-path 🙂 Love you!

And then there’s Teacher Lydia…my brother’s teacher…a woman who mentored him through some of the most difficult times of his life and I’m not talking academics here. My brother had Duchenne’s and had to be home schooled. This is why I believe in miracles people…at a time when my parents were exhausted from looking for a teacher that would agree to come home and teach him, Ms. Lydia entered our lives and nothing was ever the same again! Before we knew it, she became a valued member of our tightly-knit family & continues to be to this day 🙂 She’s one of the most positive people I know and although she was my brother’s teacher, she taught me a thing or two about life and attitude! She loved him, scolded him, cajoled him and loved him some more and I know he adored her. We all did. My eyes are tearing up just thinking of their bond – they were lucky to have each other and me, I was lucky to have them both. I’ve lost him and I don’t see Ms. Lydia as often as I should anymore (what with me being in Bombay and she in Goa, battling arthritis), but if you do happen to read this Teacher, I want you to know, you are never far for my thoughts and I love you always. Always.

My favourite ‘Teacher’ movie has to be ‘To Sir with Love’, starring the inimitable Sidney Poitier! I adore him and I adore this movie…the scene where he finds the sanitary pad burning away in the fire is forever etched in my memory. I first read the book when I was in school myself and I remember thinking how terrible those children were and how brave and strong their teacher! I remember wanting him for my teacher! Much later I saw the movie as an adult and the feelings came flooding back. Again and again in my life, the best teachers have been those that combine a healthy dose of discipline with genuine concern for my well being. It has often taken me a long time to acknowledge the latter in the face of the former! It’s a failing I’m happy to report I got over with time, age and experience 🙂 There have been many teacher films made over the years… great ones too…but this one remains for me the Gold Standard against which I compare them all.

Another ‘Teacher’ memory is crying copious tears while reading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” by James Hilton, a slip of a book borrowed from my Dad’s bookshelf! It’s such a poignantly heart-warming tale of a teacher who struggles to connect with his students initially and then goes on to become an institution of sorts! I remember him reciting the names of his students and at that time thinking it rather funny and silly 🙂 He was that sort of teacher Mr. Chips was…unintentionally humorous, sensitive and quietly affirmative – the best kind!

Goodbye Mr. Chips – Cover of the 1st Edition

And of course I have my very own ‘Teacher’ story given that I married mine 😉 Oh don’t get all het up! Nothing illegal I assure you 😉 Hubby was a senior resident in Preventive & Social medicine and took classes for us when I was a student in my 2nd year of Medical College. He was an ok teacher I suppose but I’m not really the best judge of his teaching skills now am I? Given that I was busy concentrating on his rather sweet smile 😛 We were married after 3 years of courtship and have been married now for 2 decades! We’ve both learnt from each other and taught each other about life, love and marriage. It’s been one long lesson – mostly fun 😉 Thank you Darling for sticking with me 😉 I know it hasn’t been easy. Love you.

Now of course the tables have turned and I find myself transformed into a teacher 24/7, as every parent does. Being ‘teacher by default’ to my 4-yr-old son is really the hardest & most exhausting thing I’ve ever done – watching my language and actions and controlling my thoughts constantly is tough and often I just let go and rebel against the high standards I set myself! I don’t think I would have been a great teacher in the traditional sense – I would have been fun but not very consistent and too impatient for my own and my students’ good! It takes a lot of self-discipline and that’s not my forté! And yet the thought of moulding minds & influencing others is powerfully seductive…I’m glad I have only the one student to potentially ‘screw up’ 😛 Good Luck Ishaan…you’ll need it 😉

So here’s to Teachers everywhere & in every form! May they continue their good work, live long & prosper! Happiness always 🙂

 

 

 

 

The next day…Day 2

So, here we are on Day 2 and this time I have reinforcements in the form of Mom – she of the veteran parenting class and nerves of steel…not quite (she’s now been ‘Grannified’ which means her heart’s softer than butter where her Ishaan is concerned :P), but still, her presence calms me down.

I’m not expecting miracles…I know things will probably worsen a lot more before they begin to get better…and yet still, I hope! We go down to school and again the crying begins as I hand him over to his teacher with a quick hug and kiss. Then Mom settles (barely!) into the chair and I try to find a place where I can be omnipresent but inconspicuous…channel all my Mommy stores of sixth sense & intuition! We hear him crying from the depths of the school and then suddenly everything goes quiet…instantly the silence becomes ominous and not peaceful, as I begin to imagine breath-holding spells and other medical emergencies! But I don’t let my worry show, ‘coz Mom is already worried enough for a thousand of us! She looks at me and mouths “Poor baby!He’s so small, too small! He’s barely begun to speak! We were never in a rush to send children to school in our time! They went when they were good and ready, when they were 5!” At that moment, I agree with everything she’s saying and I tell her, but to convince myself and her that I’m doing the right thing here, I tell her that times are changing and that he would probably cry just as hard if not harder, if he were 5. He would probably have had long arguments about why school was totally redundant…don’t underestimate 5-yr-olds! She nods. She knows what I know, heck she knows a whole lot more! It’s just her butter-heart acting up!

While we’re wondering what’s happening inside, the Directress of the school, visiting from Delhi, comes outside and does her bit to soothe us. She assures us that Ishaan is doing fine, and that crying is totally normal and in control. She tells us how she explains to anxious mothers that when they cried as adults (she used the word great hulks!), while leaving their Mom’s house after marriage to a man they loved and chose and wanted to live with (well most of us), then it was silly to expect that a child, who leaves home and the comfort & security of Mom’s arms, against his will, would do so without a good howl! Indeed it is! Beyond silly! I never thought of it quite like that before! Her analogy is amusing and makes us smile for a while, before drowning out in the next wave of crying.

And so we sit outside, comforting each other with all manner of platitudes, while our hearts are elsewhere, listening for the sounds of his anguish, glancing ever so often at our watches, counting seconds, minutes. I realize my Mom is suffering twice over, for Ishaan and for me too, watching me go through ‘separation anxiety’. There are periods of silence though and a teacher comes out twice, once to let us know that he enjoyed playing in the sandbox and then to tell us he’s naming animals on a chart 🙂 We make it through the hour, all three of us and although it was hard, it was just a little less harder than yesterday.

On the way home, he’s back to his chirpy self, but I imagine I can see the change…a seriousness in his eyes, subtle as it is.

He’s growing up…one tiny step at a time…

Ishaan starts Playschool!

All set for school!

He went. He saw. He cried.

I watched. I wondered. I cried too…a little. Unseen, silent tears.

That would be the short version! And yet it was one of the longest hours I’ve ever spent, as I’m sure has he!

The night before, I was pretty with it, trying to soothe my nerves doing the little things – laying out his uniform, getting the toddler bag ready, setting out his blue crocs, all the while mumbling muted prayers to the Almighty, to get us through the day without a major mishap. This whole shebang is spanking new to us both and once again I doff my hat off to mothers everywhere! You Rock!

This morning was smooth (Perhaps that should have served as warning? I’m a naive mother, with much to learn…sigh), Ishaan was up at 7 am, breakfasted on fruit and a sandwich, played cricket while hubby and I did the same. We dressed and so did he and I took the regulation picture – the one in uniform, like every kid has in their album, duly titled ‘First Day of School’. He had no idea what school was but he was happy to be driving somewhere in the morning.

How does one prepare an almost 2 and 1/2 year-old for school & separation? Especially one who has just begun stringing together three words into a sentence? How do I explain that it’s a place where he’ll meet other children and adults called teachers, who will play with him and teach him things and hopefully love him well? How do I tell him, that from now on, he’s beginning a new journey, one that will take him away from home for a while every day but will hopefully be as rewarding as it is exciting? How do I let him know that when he’s howling his lungs out inside, my heart is breaking & I’m crying too, just on the inside, so he can’t see, trying to stay strong for him on the outside? How do I assure him that after a week (Hope springs eternal in this naive mother’s heart!), he’ll forget these tears and be like all the other kids, happily playing, learning, settled? How do I convince him that all of this is for his betterment? How? How? How? I don’t know how and so I just hug him tight and kiss him and silently praying, let him go…

And he does go too, holding a teacher’s hand he disappears into the large schoolroom. I wait outside as she’s instructed ready to rush to the rescue when needed, fingers and toes firmly crossed. He’s whimpered a bit when hubby left, but now seems to be holding it together although a bit confused. He’s never been around so many children before. He wants the teacher to carry him all the time but she gently dissuades him and he seems ok, just sticks to her like glue. I exhale and think we might just make it through…Hah! The phone rings and a cousin wants details of an employment agency in Bombay. Her maid just gave notice! I’m on the phone for 5 minutes, when I hear the unmistakable sound of his crying. He’s caught a glimpse of me through the window and that’s when everything starts going downhill…

After that, although I go inside and hold him, wipe his tears and his runny nose, sit down with him and try to get him interested in an activity, there’s no stopping the boy. There are a pair of turtle statues in the garden outside and he wants to go near them, he wants to be anywhere except where he is, he wants to be held constantly, but I’m firm. Where do mother’s find the resolve to stay firm with their children? I have no clue but I’m sure glad they do! I hold his hand and walk him around the room, still crying but trying so hard to be brave, and point out the colorful artwork on the wall (I am embarrassed, and angry that I am. I confess!). He tries his best to identify some of the pictures, a tiger, a fish, a clown. A few of the children stare at us but they remain remarkably undisturbed, not particularly interested in or affected by his continuous crying! I am impressed! If this is what school does, I’m all for it! They are wise these kids, in the quiet, assured manner that children are wise (they are!). They’re probably reliving their own initial misery and I imagine most of them looking at me with an expression of knowing pity! He quiets down every time a teacher appears to soothe him and call him darling and sweetie, but he clings to me like a koala!

It’s almost 10 am and the teacher says, I can leave now. Apparently, he’s had enough exposure to the new environment for Day 1! I agree! Him and me – both! He perks up, realizing with that intuition peculiar to children that the tide is now in his favor and Dad is on the way to rescue him! Suddenly bright, he waves Ta-ta to the teachers and jumps straight from my arms into hubby’s! While we’re leaving, a senior teacher advises me to avoid talking too much to him about school, staying firm but gentle and reassures me that he is by no means the worst child to have crossed their threshold! She makes me feel better 🙂

In the car, he’s absolutely normal although a little circumspect. He knows he’s behaved badly and Mom is a little cross. He knows me too well for his own good! All the way back home, he points out cows, goats, and dogs. The phone rings again and I ignore it. When we get home, Mom and Granny are waiting at the door, having heard the car approach. Mom especially has been miserable and out of sorts since we left, sick with worry! I tell all as Ishaan leaps from hubby’s arms into Mom’s bear hug (and he’s just barely been away the one hour!). Back in familiar territory, he is once again Prince of all he surveys, but he glances at me occasionally, he knows he’s not out of the woods, not quite. Then showered and juiced, I sit him down with two bowls and some almonds and ask him to transfer them from one to the other (an activity that met with much resistance, when his teacher tried to get him to do it in school), and he happily complies, his little face screwed up in concentration, for 40 minutes flat! I realize then that through all those tears, he’s still seen stuff and absorbed it! I smile and his face lights up 🙂 Children…mysterious souls 🙂

And so tomorrow…we do it all over again!

Wish me LUCK!!

p.s. Many thanks to the wonderful staff of The Ardee School for their wonderful encouragement, gentle manner and support. You truly made this nervy Mom’s day easier 🙂