Sunday, April 01, 2007

A lesson learnt

So I was chilling at home on Friday night when I received an sms from the enrichment centre where I used to teach kids like a million years ago. They wanted to know if I was free to take two classes on saturday as their regular teacher was ill. I'm on their replacement teachers' list because as an editor of school textbooks, I know the Singapore syllabus inside out. I love teaching kids at that centre, I get to carry out a lot of activities, the class sizes are beautifully small so I get enough time to focus on each kid, and of course, the icing on the cake - the kids make me laugh. Not just 'laugh' laugh, but sometimes ROFL-laugh. Of course I do the ROFL-ing bit only in my head, cos I'm their teacher. Dignity and all that.

My first lesson on saturday was early in the morning with a bunch of four six-year-olds, and the topic was 'animal body coverings'. Not wanting to suddenly throw an abstract concept like that at the tiny tots, I decided to warm up by talking about their pets so I could go on to ask if they had observed the body coverings of their pets.

So I asked the class, "So do any of you have pets?" All hands shot up.

The first one refused to answer. Thankfully, the second one did.

"I have a dog." He said.

"And is it a big dog?" I asked.

"No."

"Oh okay, a small one?"

"No, medium-sized."

After the laughter in my head subsided, I continued to the next one who was literally jumping up and down with her hand raised.

"I have fishes."

"Oh wow. How many?"

"Many."

"Errrm ok. What colour are they?"

"Colourful."

"Hmmm."

So I moved on to the third one.

"I don't have any pets, but my aunt has four dogs and her maid stole two of the dogs and ran away and she also stole my aunt's purse and ran away you know with the two dogs and the purse."

Finally the kid paused for breath. Listening to this kid kinda reminded me of the "kuchh log kam bolte hain, kuchh zyada" Hutch ad.

Anyway, I continued with the lesson, which went through smoothly and moved on to maths.

"Any questions?" I asked after solving a problem on the whiteboard.

"Miss Sayesha, why is Miss S not here today?"

"Miss S is ill."

"What happened to her?"

"I don't know."

"Does she have fever?"

"I don't know."

"Then what happened to her?"

"I don't... have you finished question 4?" I asked sternly.

Phew.

The class ended at 11 am, and I moved to another classroom for my next lesson which was with primary 4 kids.

The topic was 'Water pollution and water conservation' and I was going to demonstrate to them how soil washed into the rivers affects photosynthesis in aquatic plants. I was gonna draw a green plant on a paper plate, place a glass of water on it and ask the kids if they could see the plant through the glass. Next, I was going to add some soil to the glass of water and then ask them the same question. The activity was to teach them that soil in the water can block sunlight from reaching the aquatic plants and kill them.

I decided to ask one of the kids to draw the plant instead of drawing it myself. Sometimes it's more fun to let the kids do parts of the activity. It involves them more. Besides, it's no fun if teacher does everything.

"Okay, I want someone to draw a small green plant in the centre of this plate."

A boy volunteered.

"What kind of a plant?"

"An aquatic plant. A hydrilla maybe?"

"You want a leaf or a plant?"

"I want a plant."

"How many leaves?"

"Upto you. How many do you want?"

So he took the green marker and drew what looked exactly like a grasshopper. The other kids started giggling uncontrollably. So I decided to add a fifth leaf on the top to make it look more like a plant. The rest of the activity went off peacefully.

We moved on to another one where I showed the kids how oil spills in the sea can affect marine birds. I had two glasses - one with water and one with a layer of oil on water. I dipped a feather into each, and then placed them on blotting paper. The kids had to observe how the water dried off the feather but the oil did not, and infer that the oil clumps the birds' feathers together, making them unable to fly.

"So tell me kids, how do oil spills affect marine birds?" I asked at the end of the activity.

One hand shot up.

"The stink!" He said excitedly.

"Hmmm... I'm sure the stink bothers the birds, but they face a much more immediate problem. What is that?"

"The bird sticks to the oil and can't fly!" Another one said.

"No! The bird doesn't stick to the oil! The oil sticks to the bird!" said a girl, sending the class into a hysterical fit of laughter.

Sheesh.

"Okay okay." I somehow managed to calm the class down, wondering who were crazier - six-year-olds or ten-year-olds.

After science, we moved on to maths. After introducing it, I wrote the word 'trapezium' on the whiteboard so that they would not misspell it when they wrote it in their worksheets.

One hand shot up.

"Miss, what is that after 't'?"

"What do you think it is?"

"An 'r'?"

"Yeah, that's an 'r'."

"Why does it look so funny?"

"Funny?"

"Yeah, it looks so funny."

"Well, you can read it, can't you?"

"Yes, but why is your 'r' so funny?"

The 'r' may have been funny, but the situation so wasn't. All the kids had stopped writing and were gaping at me, waiting for me to explain why my 'r' was so funny. I have no idea how I got out of that one.

Finally, at 1.45 pm, I wrapped the lesson. The kids went home, waving crazily, "Bye, Miss! Bye, Miss! See you, Miss!"

And as I saw them leave, I wondered what the deal was with teaching and me. Do I love it? Do I hate it? I've done it on and off for many many years now, but I can never imagine myself being a fulltime teacher. At many points in my life, I have paused to wonder if teaching is my true calling. And the lesson learnt at the end of the day was always the same - no.

In some ways, teaching these kids reminds me of engineering.

I may be qualified to do it, but I just can't see myself doing it every day of the week.



23 comments:

American Pi said...

First!

chandu said...

lolz!!

they are pestering you so that you leave them alone. see they r so so smart :D
wonder wat happens to intelligence when we grow up...
as they say.. education ruins us rather teacher ruins us :P

Rebellion said...

K Sash, I take the bronze.. not bad :)

satish said...

main bhi bada hoke teacher bananaa chahta tha. the sole inspiration was bachcho kee dhulai, jis tarah meri huyee thi.

Rebellion said...

Hmmm, hota hai!
Many a times you like to do something & maybe good at it too but taking it as a full time profession seems way too far! Bu its good you involve yourself with kids once a while coz many a times, these little tots teach us life's big lessons & solve the most difficult questions of life :)
Good work girl :)

Iday said...

Teaching is fun :)
But as u say - not everyday. It is one of those things we'd like to keep as "I'd love to do it once in a while" :)

But kids are fun any day :D
Awesome fun...

Sakshi said...

Nice teaching plan!
Now that I am not teaching, I miss it. But then put me in front of a whining class bitching about grades, I want to run away :P

Neihal said...

I have great respect for people who take up teaching fulltime. It requires a lot more than knowing the subject.
I used to be a part time tutor, half the time to my own brothers :P

ram said...

it takes special intelligence to teach a kid. You got to know what they would understand.
I tried to teach addition to a kid. It was hopeless. I wasn't able to explain the carry part. Kids's mother beautifully explained it. "5 in the hand, 4 in the mind..."
I was going like "5 + 4 + 2 = 11. easy isn't it?"

bellydancer said...

Hey at least the kids seemed pretty cooperative. I thought an oral communications class once and it was quite disastrous!

Harsha said...

cute post....
so are u getting back to being an editor or full time school teacher :)

BP said...

I think you'd make a great teacher ;)

Thisisme said...

i think u will make a gud teacher :)
knowing the subject isnt enuff..u need to b able to build a rapport with them.

i have tried my hand at teachin..in tuitions..n i figured out..its tuff to teah v young kids..easier to teach teenagers..but LKG/UKG/1st-3rd std is damn tuff :-s

sara said...

olassss

WriterLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WriterLady said...

lol!! i know what u mean...i teach school droupouts once a week and sometimes i dont know if they are more excited abt the end of the hour or me!...

Sayesha said...

#American Pi,
Sheesh! Gold lekar nikal liye? Post toh padh lete? :'(

#Chandu,
Gee, thanks! :P

#Rebellion,
:P

#Satish,
I should have guessed you'd have a reason like that! :D

#Rebellion,
Hahaha! Yeah, I'm sure you'd love to do something like this too! :)

#Iday,
Yupp, once in a while only! :)

#Sakshi,
Hahahaha! :D

#Neihal,
Me too! Teachers (fulltime ones) rock! :)

#Ram,
Oh man! I totally agree! The simplest maths concepts are the most difficult to teach! :O

#Bellydancer,
Haha! Yeah I was lucky this time, the kids were not that crazy! :P

#Harsha,
Back to editing/writing it is! But teaching will always be my side dish. :P

#BP,
Hahaha... I know you think that, but I don't think I'd be able to sustain it. Hats off to CK! :)

#Thisisme,
That's the problem, sometimes you don't have enough time to build a rapport AND make sure everyone understood everything. :)

#Sara,
If that was a greeting, then olasss back to you! :P

#Writerlady,
Heheheh... my classes are 2-2.5 hours, so the kids are extra-fidgety! :)

Vaijayanta Chattoraj said...

"Finally the kid paused for breath. Listening to this kid kinda reminded me of the "kuchh log kam bolte hain, kuchh zyada" Hutch ad."

I was really ROFL reading this sentence.

I had sent an sms to Hutch tell me my Talk Size. Reply came from Hutch that "I need a small talksize". So if I was in that kind place I would not have said so much like the "big talksize" kid u encountered. LOL!

Dhaval Faria said...

kids are cute :D, but only till they dont know how to speak.. once they know how to speak.. they are evils :P

Hari said...

Calvin: [Telling Miss Wormwood on why a lesson was not learnt] The book publisher didn't use the proper print fixative. Needless to say, when I picked up the book, all the letters slid off the pages and fell on the floor in a heap of gibberish.

:D

Sayesha said...

#Vaijayanta,
:D

#Dhaval,
Oh I totally agree to that! :))

#Hari,
Oh that evil evil Calvin! :D

Kais said...

So basically you were just kidding on April 1st?? (hahaha..terrible i know but couldn't resist!)

Cheers
Kais

Sayesha said...

#Kais,
Sheesh man sheesh! Double triple sheesh! :D