This article is one of the top-three stories/essays submitted for Reflections (a writing contest for teachers).
This was way back in 1994. I had just shifted from the CBSE wing to the Matriculation wing of one of the best schools in Chennai. The month was July, the date eludes me. The venue – the Library of the CBSE school. The reason for 40 odd teachers gathered there – Result Analysis, XII Standard, Mid-term Exams.
He was a terror! I use the word in the most respectful way. I have the deepest respect and admiration for this man who taught me an important life lesson that day. A tall lanky man from Amravati Nagar, Sainik School who ran this Chennai school, Military style!
Comes the turn of the Chemistry Department! I was handling Chemistry for all three sections of Standard XII. XII-A subject average – 61.4 %; XII – C 59.9 % and XII – B 42 %. (Remember, this was (and is) no ordinary school but one which boasts of the best results in the State Board). This was the sequence in which he read out the statistics, for all to hear while I cringed, mortified and petrified at the same time. I stood up from my seat, as the teacher who had produced this result was asked to identify herself. (At the risk of sounding immodest, I must confess that many have told me before, during and after this incident that children rated me as one of the best teachers.)
This tall lanky man, who I was meeting for the first time after recruiting me, obviously did not think so. Maybe he was even questioning his decision as I stood up to offer a feeble explanation for the poor show. As I started blaming the students and their lack of a sound base in the subject, he cut me short with words that only he can use. At this point, a colleague (bless her!) from the same department but from another branch of the school rose to her feet and started explaining how marks in our subject always start off like this but with more and more practice and with time the children end up with extraordinarily high marks !
That was the last straw! There was a hush. The unthinkable had been done! I was forgotten. All eyes turned to my colleague, P. He slowly looked up from the papers on the table to throw a blistering look in the direction of P. It was my colleague (who had chosen to play my saviour!) who became the target of his fury and after several minutes of a vitriolic, ballistic spew of words the whole room watched in complete silence as both of us, P and I broke into uncontrollable tears. None dared to offer a consoling word to the other. The meeting continued after he warned me that I better do something about the marks and start off on remediation. The rest of the meeting was a haze.
Here, I must say that Mrs. LC is a fantastic teacher of Chemistry from a third branch of the same group of schools. Once the meeting was over, she hugged me and said, “KP, don’t worry. He always shouts at people from whom he has great expectations”. Now, whether that really was the truth, whether the tall lanky man kept me in that elite league of teachers (that I knew LC was part of) or not, I do not know. But what LC Ma’am said that day was a solace.
Important lesson learnt: crying is never a solution, crying has never solved problems. Years rolled by. In the several years that I was with this school the tall lanky man praised me and trusted me with some of the most confidential paper setting works. At this school, I grew in stature and drew respect from all – students, colleagues and my superiors at work.
I am not with this school today, but it still is THE School where the teacher in me was born. And I owe it all to that great man who honed me in so many ways. A man of steel, a strict disciplinarian, an educationist par excellence, an inspiration and a ‘Karmayogi’ in the true spirit of the word. He taught me to understand that teachers are chosen by God himself for the job.
Kalia ji! Pranam You are deeply loved and admired, and missed too by many like me.
Mrs. Kaveri Padmanabhan is the Principal of Vana Vani Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Chennai.
To know more about Reflections, visit http://reflections.reportbee.com/