Nrithya Andrews might not have been her teacher’s favourite but she definitely became her students’ beloved. With Teacher’s Day round the corner, Vipasha Sinha talks to her about the reversal of fortunes
Define a cool teacher? The one they show in movies: a charming, young lady whom every student loves. The age difference between her and her students is not much and she helps her students not just in their studies but also in the ‘examination’ called life. And what if she is also a hot-shot musician, with some popular songs and an album to her credit?
Twenty three-year-old singer, song-writer, composer Nrithya Andrews, who worked as an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at MOP Vaishnav College for Women from 2012-2013, is just that. She says, “My students made me sing in class from time to time. They would threaten ‘Ma'am we won’t listen when you take class if you don’t sing first’.”
Dig a little deeper and comes out the bitter-sweet story of being a teacher. “My grandmother was a teacher and vice principal of a school. A lot of people said I take after her. So I figured teaching should be in my blood. However, the reason I took up this job was because back in school I was every teachers’ nightmare. I felt the need to prove it to myself and to others that it was only a bad phase,” says Nrithya, who released her album Bitter-Sweet in March 2013.
The first day at work
∝“I was nervous. You have 52 pairs of eyes judging you. I gave them a general introduction of my background and then asked them to introduce themselves. I did the standard thing. But, because I was aware of my age and that the students may take me for granted, I made it clear in my first class itself that I was very particular about deadlines. I also forewarned them about making me angry.”
Ma’am, who me?
“I found it hilarious. I couldn't believe that I was being called Ma'am. Initially I wouldn't respond to it assuming they were calling somebody else. It took me a while to get used to it but later couldn't have enough of it.”
The struggle phase
“My first few classes were bad, as I was trying to follow some prescribed method of teaching. I eventually found my own style of lecturing in a week's time and I got more comfortable.”
No teacher overdose
“What worked with the students was that I did not over do the teacher-thing. I knew I was 23 and up until a month ago, was a student. So, I gave them a long rope. There was no point in pretending to be strict as the senior teachers. Students can see right through it. I let them be from time to time. But I made sure no compromises were made academically.”
A split-personality of sorts
“The first time my students saw me at a night club in a short skirt their jaws dropped. They had seen me only in a sari inside the campus, and when they saw me out partying they couldn’t believe it. Their expressions were priceless.”
The mother syndrome
“I realised that my students were staying longer at the party and it was 2 a.m. already. They were my first year students and I was worried about the 18-year-olds. I went to one of them and as soon as she saw me, she blurted ‘I finished the assignments Ma'am.’ It was funny. I asked her if she had a curfew and if all of them had a ride back home. A friend then interrupted and asked me to stop being a ‘Ma’am’ at the club. Well, that made sense.”
A surprise birthday
“I had the best 24th birthday. One class baked a cake for me, another bought me a cake and sang for me and smeared the cake on my face. Another class came up to the staff room, called me outside and sang happy birthday in front of everyone. It felt amazing to know that they appreciate and loved me for my work.”
A better person
Being answerable for 150 students has made me a responsible person. Even though I was only 23, I always called them my babies. It brought out the maternal instincts in me. The job demands you to think practically and make quick decisions. Also, you learn how important it is to think before you speak.”