Flip Side of teaching English

“So you teach English?”, and the face of my new acquaintance lights up. A very common reaction when I introduce myself to a new person. Now what is so wonderful about the fact that I teach English? I feel much sinned against that sinning by teaching a subject that all secretly wish to learn but criticize openly! Some great national pride indeed!

My colleagues are no exception when they make comments like, “Just tell a story in the class, and your job is over.” or of the kind, “I am tired of memorizing formulae and now I am going to take a chit to the class” and “how lucky indeed you are, you can always carry a book to the class!’ Is it plain frustration and jealousy that I see on their faces? But who would see my real feelings when it comes to being a teacher of English.

Whenever I meet someone of my acquaintance in the neighbourhood or even during the evening walk, I would be lucky if the conversation just does not turn to some aspect of English. “Beta, recite the poem you have learnt to auntyji.” And the poor auntyji would have no choice but to listen to the poem and also to compliment the child for his exceptional accent, proper pauses, intonation and what not. The truth is that I don’t listen at all but indulge in a physical activity called hearing. I was not like that but now I have trained myself to become deaf to all such antics.

And if the child has not yet started going to school or has not even started to speak, even than it would be no respite for me. Now the proud parents would ask the poor baby to show me his cheeks, nose, forehead, head, ears, lips etc. I really feel sorry for such guinea pigs who have to display their learning capabilities in front of a teacher of English!. It is such a torture for the child but the proud parents would just become oblivious to all feelings that they might have for the child. So bent upon they are in gaining supremacy by proving to one and all about the genius child that they have sired. And God forbid, if the child would somehow touch eyes when showcasing nose, it would be a shame for the parents and a punishment for the child. If thepoor child doesn’t even know these traits to impress others with, he would be asked to say “Bye-Bye” to auntyji! Even befpre I make myself comfortable to start with some intration, the small child is asked to bid me goodbye!

My little daughter, who knows me well, asked me one day, “Ma, tell me honestly, did you teach us all the names for the parts of the face when we were small?” I never had. Honestly I counter questioned her, “Do you know where your nose, eyes, lips etc are on your face?” “Yes, of course. Why should I not?” Visibly upset she asked me. “Then what difference does it make if you were not grilled during your childhood? Rather you must be thankful to me for having provided you the freedom to grow naturally.” I counter attacked. It made sense to her and we laughed heartily at the expense of such parents who make their kids display items!

There are many more such incidents that I keep on facing day in and day out. Am I not a teacher of English and subject to such tortures everyday?

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