Betty Colaco remembers the days when children were the central focus of education and it was second nature for teachers to understand and acknowledge the problems of each child
Even after three decades of teaching, I still want to be with children. I am 69 years old now. This is the reason why I began a nursery school soon after I retired. I wake up every day to see their faces and laugh at the naughty things they do.
My love for teaching began at school. I had a Math teacher whom I revered. I was weak in the subject. She would take me to her room and help me solve the problems. I believe that a teacher should earn respect from her students. The students should obey you not out of fear but regard. I remember what our former Principal at Stanes, Mr. Fowler, told me early in my teaching career, “When you walk into the classroom, students should stop talking, without you telling them to.”
I always wanted to work at Stanes. I studied in St. Francis Anglo-Indian Girls High School. I was actively involved in sports. We would practise in the PRS ground where the students from Stanes also came for practice. I was drawn to the disciplined and well-mannered behaviour of the children. I told myself that if ever I became a teacher, I would teach only in Stanes. I worked hard to get there. I did my teacher’s training course at Good Shepherd Convent in Bangalore, where I was exposed to some of the finest teachers in the field. I served Stanes for 33 years and I loved every minute of my teaching career there.
I taught the elementary subjects such as Science, English and Maths, as I was the class teacher. My teaching method was different. The unconventional methods of teaching were taught to me by my foreign teachers in Bangalore.
My classes were never confined to the four walls of the classrooms or to books. We went for field trips, dramatised plays, held puppet shows and sang songs. In those days there were just 30-40 children in a class. So, it was easier to focus on each child and interact with them personally. It was considered important for the teacher to understand the problems of each child. When I became headmistress, I used to tell the teachers, “Before punishing the students, you should know the reason why they did not obey you.”
Learning used to be a pleasurable experience. Books were not the only source of knowledge. Science was taught to children through practical activities. I would bring candles and stoves to the class to make science interesting. Equal importance was given to extra-curricular activities. Sports Day and Founder’s Day used to be so much fun. Teachers and students sat together to make badges for sports events. It was one occasion they would get closer and interact with each other.
We looked forward to the Founder’s Day. The young teachers would decorate the entire stage for the dance shows. I will always cherish those memories.
I had to run a co-education hostel in my house, due to financial problems. Students stayed with me and grew up with my daughters. They became part of our family. Tamil actor Nandha lived with me for almost four years and still finds time to come and meet me. The feedback you get from your students are precious. One of my students, a successful businessman now, once told me: “Miss, you taught us everything but you never taught us how to be cunning.” I laughed it off and told him that he was a big man now and his profession demanded it. I emphasised a lot on values. I felt it was more important to be a good human being than to be just good at studies.
We belong to the Anglo-Indian community but I get along well with the people here. My daughters are rooted in this culture as they grew up with children from this region. I love this city. Moreover, I love children. My daughters ask me to stay with them. But how can I live without my nursery school and my children? You take them away from me, and I will die.”
Once during my morning rounds as the headmistress, I saw a student standing out of the class. He was punished for not doing his home work. I asked him for the reason and he said, “Daddy drinks and beats mommy.” I can never forget the face of this child.
Betty Colaco Fondly known as “Betty Miss”, she taught at Stanes Higher Secondary School for 33 years. She joined in 1968 and retired as the Headmistress of the school in 2001. Her love for children and passion for teaching made her start a nursery school, at her home in Podanur, soon after she retired. The school has nearly 200 pre-schoolers. Children learn life skills, develop reading habits and imbibe morals through demonstrative and interactive learning methods