This story is by Prince, a Fellow at Teach For India.
I have been teaching for a year and a half and wanted to put down my thoughts on what a ‘teacher's life’ is, because my friends seem to think it’s a 7-12 job with the summers off but it’s way more than that.
Here’s a crude gist: Our day begins at 5:45 A.M. Forget adulting, where we have to get our food sorted, we have to first make sure we don’t forget the worksheets we printed out for class, otherwise the entire day’s teaching will go to waste. Head on to school and that’s when the chaos starts. We walk in and switch to ‘teacher’ mode, which we never get a chance to switch from throughout the day.
Kids run up to us, wish us good morning and tell us stories of what they did the day before. Can’t imagine this to be troublesome? Imagine, 8 human beings crowding around you, yelling at you and screaming for your attention, ‘Didi, didi, didi, didi, didi, didi’. This is just the start of the day.
Let us get to the teaching bit. Here is where the fun starts. If you think teaching is just you walking into a class and talking to your Students and them listening, you are sadly mistaken. No no no no no. In a class some kids grasp a concept the very first time you explain it , some understand when you repeat it, some need to hear it many more times. But if you repeat it endlessly, the Students who understand it the first time, get bored. But if you only explain it once, the Students who need it to be explained multiple times don’t understand, and now they are lost. And here’s the funny thing, you have only explained one concept in class so far and it is already 20 minutes in, and the class is only 30 minutes long.
Is class just about teaching? No! We have to make so many decisions simultaneously as we teach. Let me give you an example.
Teacher: "Good Morning, class. Today, we are going to learn about how ships and submarines work. What we’ll be doing is…..(continues to speak)". What the teacher sees and thinks: "I see 45 kids. 20 of them are writing the heading, are they listening to what I am saying? 5 kids are still talking to their friend, should I address them, but if I address them then the flow of the lesson will break. Let's give them 10 more seconds to settle down. 2 kids look confused, what could they be confused about? Should I repeat what I just said? 5 kids are paying complete attention, if I repeat the same information I might lose their attention. 8 kids are checking their bags, for what, I don't know, but they’re also not listening. Well, let me just finish this statement, and then I will question the first kid who is checking his bag, the kid who is talking and the kid who is writing, what is being taught.…(continues to speak).... We will observe the following experiment."
All of that that you read, was 10 seconds of the class. Imagine those kinds of decisions being made for an entire day, every day. Now imagine going through this everyday, but if only teaching was about having a routine. But it isn’t. It’s more like jumping through circus hoops, with a twist- you never know when a hoop is going to come up right in front of you. What are these hoops that I talk about? It is everything that a teacher is expected to do. We are expected to be class teachers who teach kids, but on special occasions like Annual Day, we are expected to be choreographers, play writers, directors, casting directors, back stage managers, costume managers, event managers, speech writers, orators, presenters and this is all just on special occasions. On normal days, we are expected to be scientists, on-call parents, doctors, librarians, computer teachers, PT teachers, motivational speakers, news presenters, actors, debaters, pooja organisers, counsellors, managers, interior decorators, Google, clerks, finance managers, judges, juries, hair braiders, shoe lace tiers, bottle openers, lunch box openers, stationers, and a million other things.
I am not even going to get into the planning part of teaching. That will take hours. But teaching isn’t just this, dealing with the little ones, you also celebrate little and big successes. Like, a kid hugging you, a kid telling you that you are their favourite teacher, your Students making greeting cards for you and them cracking jokes just to make you laugh but laughing at the jokes themselves. In these moments, I take a step back and look at them, not as Students, but as human beings, who are making their own experiences, who are shaping their lives and for that one fleeting second, it feels nice knowing that they have allowed you to be a part of that experience.'