Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaching Kids English!

For the past three years or so, I've been involved with teaching English to kids, mostly of eight to ten grades. Of course, teaching is a tougher job than studying and I can claim to have first hand knowledge of this adage. It all started when I failed in my second year degree examination in '06 and decided to "earn" while I waited for my sophomore exams! I thought it was a good idea then. I still do.

I love English. I just love this language. I'm better off being biased to it. Although I do believe that language must be confined to its basic job of transfer of ideas but there aren't many other languages that can match English in its malleable nuances. Knowing English and learning it is one thing while teaching it is something else. But when my former math tutor, Akbar Sir called me to ask whether I was ready to "impart" my grammar skills to some of his students, I readily accepted. I guess it was more of a need rather than any calculated move. I was at home killing time (and my parents' hopes for me becoming an Electronics engineer in future which I ultimately succeeded in killing!!) so I looked at this chance as a move out of home and saving me some vituperative comments from my adorable mom!

I remember it was the month of December and I was called at around 8 in the morning to this place which I'm quite familiar with as I had spend a huge part of my school day life there. I was directed to a room with a decent green-board (blackboard are passé) and about 40 kids sitting down on the floor with unassumingly curious eyes. I started my lesson with the line, "Kids, English is a tough language……" I don't remember much of what happened next but that line remains with me till date. Many things have changed since then. The class is now pronounced and established and called Akbar's Academy. But something didn't change. The students loved me I guess and that love has remained till date. Perhaps, I like to think that way, whether it's true or false as I've learnt that it's impossible to endear your style of teaching with all the kids attending. There are always some kids who miss the learning train. It's either my fault or theirs but it's painful because I get my pay whereas they don't get their marks.

I have been teaching this insanely beautiful language since then and if you ask me, I'm a lousy teacher, in fact, terrible but I must say it has been a heck of a ride for me. As of today, I teach 279 kids, divided in six batches and ranging from grade IX, X and XI. I hardly manage to remember not more than few dozens of names. It's not only taxing on my already stressed mind to ask names but also cruel to memorize it so I leave the name and go with the face. I only work on weekends with these kids and no doubt, weekends aren't a day of relish for me, as it is for my colleagues. Its tough handling two jobs!

I frequently ask myself whether it's for money or is it just a vocation that I dearly am attracted to. I don't get a straight answer. Its better that way; to have a sign of mystery to my purpose. There are times when I don’t wish to continue anymore and leave the job for good. There are times when the lack of energy to impose discipline overwhelms my discretion. I'm a disciplinarian but not the draconian kind. I expect my kids to be communicative but at the same time, I also want them to communicate with me, not their co-benchers. Asking students to observe silence and obedience is difficult but not entirely impossible.

Now coming to the English part, the kids I deal with represents a locality which is no more so a ghetto with middle-middle class locales with lower-middle class mentality at best. The people I'm talking about are ignorant about world news, don't care about civility, are bellicose in general and don't neither give a hoot about English nor watch English language news, shows or movies on TV and don't read English newspapers, magazines or periodicals. In spite of all these shortcomings, they are adamant about one thing; THEY WANT THEIR KIDS TO KNOW AND SPEAK ENGLISH!!

I won't say that this expectation is wrong or unreasonable because these are hard-working people who want their offspring to take a better course towards life. Moreover, they also acknowledge the strength of English in outside world but sadly don't prescribe it to their daily life. The only reason they aren't helping my case is in their steep ignorance and apathy towards "learning" and "helping" their kids learn it. Being a parent, they can do a lot like buying comics and story books and stuff like that which my semi-educated dad used to do on his own. Forget it; things don't change unless things change.

I don't teach their parents but I always make it a point to put a big part of the blame on them since I can't get myself to understand their layman "plight". Anyways, I'm doing great with the kids at hand and I try to mention how grateful they should be for their parents are working like clock for their tuition fee! It’s a double-edged argument for me. On one hand, I hate the whole philistine ambiance and on the other, I'd want these kids to not end up like their parents!

The hilarious part of English is its grammar. You can't teach nor learn grammar if you don't think in that language. It's an innate feeling. No matter how much I try to differentiate the baloney of using "am" in front of "They", the kids won't get it until and unless they start loving the language like I did way back when I was in seventh grade and got in touch with this superb teacher and present mentor, Aslam Sir. But that's where the fun of teaching grammar lies. You have no idea what is going on in those small little brains of these cute growing kids but you want them to think and question like you do. It never works successfully every single time. But I love to gamble on the better odds!

In these fast forwarded years I had with Akbar's, I've witnessed some sweet success stories too. One of my students named Farooq notched 88 marks out of 100, beating all previous SSC records in English exam in his school (which coincidentally was mine too). And thankfully, none of my kids have failed though some were apathetic enough to just score passing mark. Whole and sole, I can say I've been lucky with the kind of work I've did and the kind of results I expected and the kind of results I got. I even worked as an assistant English teacher at a school as the registered teacher was ill or something and I completed the portion in 3 months flat. That was one heck of an experience too.

I'm not sure how long will I continue with this so called vocation of mine. I'm not pursuing engineering either. To be honest, I left engineering four months ago and joined long distance bachelors program for a degree in B.A. My parents were appalled at my guts but I just didn't want to continue with engineering math and formulas. My friends and colleagues think I can make a future in teaching but I can't even say "yeah" as my vacillating mind will dance to different tune any given next day! But whatever the future be, right now I'm loving the pressure of weekends that includes making notes, preparing question papers, taking tests and checking answer sheets and even the noise of the backbenchers who are hell-bent on not learning and I'm happy fighting and trying to inculcate the dose of this beautiful language into their novice ears!

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