The other day when I went to fetch my son Ribhav from his class, I realised that I was in for more than I had bargained for. I had a chance encounter with his class teacher, who greeted me warmly and asked me with equal heartiness if I could be the substitute teacher for Class 1 B the next day. Startled, I looked around like a trapped rabbit. I mumbled a hesitant, “Yes ma’am.”
The next day, I entered the class with trembling legs and a brave smile. I had been handed a worksheet each for English and maths. Clutching the papers, I stood facing 35 impish faces. As rehearsed, I told the boy sitting in the first row on the left to start reading. He stared at me with a blank expression. I went closer and coaxed him to start reading. With eyes wide open, he asked, “Which page?” I fumbled and told him to start from the beginning.
No sooner had he started reading that I heard noises in the background. I turned to find two boys arguing over a pencil. Another student was tapping his desk, while his friend was dancing. Trying to maintain my cool, I approached the fighting pair first and told them to be seated. At first, they did not even hear me! I raised my voice and they looked at me as though I were the referee. By now the din had gone up a notch. I shouted at the dancer and his friend and told them to get back to their seats.
The young reader looked petrified by now. Before he could proceed, a boy in the third row raised his hand, seeking my permission to drink water. His request was followed by another boy raising his hand wanting to go to the toilet. The moment I said yes, another five hands shot up with the same request. Panicking, I turned down all toilet requests. I knew it was a very risky decision so I decided to let them go one by one.
I thought I had things under control till a mischievous youngster threw an eraser at another. I caught it midway. Another little devil decided to raise a racket with his ruler, which was also confiscated. The dancer was back on his feet by then. I made him stand facing the class but that didn’t stop him from dancing.
By the end of the period, I could hear my voice go hoarse. I resorted to hitting the duster on the table and was at my wit’s end on how to put my point across to the bunch of boys whose care had been entrusted to me for a couple of hours.
That day, I understood that teaching was much more than just going through worksheets and textbooks. I learnt to value the patience, love, care and compassion that our teachers bestow upon our little ones daily. I also realised that there can be no substitute for a good teacher.