I used to enjoy my job. My job is teaching. I have been doing it for more than quarter of a century with a lot of excitement. I normally walked into each classroom with a broad smile because I loved both the students and the job. But these days when I look in the mirror for checking the length of my beard which should not cross the centimetres I have recommended for it (just as I get my shirt sleeves centimetred much against the current trends set by Bollywood), I find my smile warped. Is my smile in the class pretentious? I put this question to another teacher, a teacher like me who teaches in a fully residential school. Let me call her M.
M’s day starts at 5.30 in the morning. The classes begin at 7.15 and continue to 1.45 in the afternoon. In the meanwhile she has to assist at the breakfast of the students. At 1.45 the classes are over. She has to assist at the lunch too. She shows me the sleeves of her upper garment smeared with curry stains obtained in the process of serving the students. Smears which Surf Excel cannot wash, she says. Most of her salary goes into buying new pairs of “suit.”
M works in a residential school. Her (current) principal’s irrefutable refrain is: “You work in a residential school and hence your duty is 24 hours.” Her duty is not over with the lunch in the school mess. She has to report for duty at 4 pm for what is called prep which continues till 5.30. She has to make sure that the students study the day’s lessons and do the day’s homework during that time. Then she may be called for games duty at 5.45, a duty which continues for an hour. Then she has to report for what her principal calls “remedial classes” (and her colleagues call comedial classes) at 8 pm. That is followed by the dinner duty and the Hostel duty. She reaches home at 10.30 in the night.
Now she has to go for the next day’s classes. She has to teach according to the curriculum prescribed by the school. And her school has prescribed the curriculum prepared by a private commercial firm called Xseed. According to Xseed’s curriculum a teacher has to go through at least 3 books before going to each class: a text book and a workbook given to students, as well as a curriculum manual meant for the teachers. M has to go through at least 15 books before going to the school in the morning because she has been given 5 different classes to teach. “Where do I get the time?” she asks me.
Where will she get the time for her family life, I wondered as she told me her story.
Then M showed me a poem prescribed by Xseed for class 6: The Listeners by Walter de La Mare. It is a poem which a university may hesitate to prescribe for undergraduate students. I agree. I tell her that De La Mare lived in a dream world and wrote poems about such worlds and that she might be in such a dream world, a bizarre world of the kind that only De La Mare could have conjured up. That was meant to console her. What else could I do for a teacher, a colleague, a fellow traveller?
There is so much more that can be written about the job of teaching. I will write that much better after retirement if there is such a life after retirement for teachers like me.
I started this by saying that I used to enjoy teaching. Not now. Not in the current state of affairs. Because I too work in a residential school whose principal is not much different from M’s.