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The teachers and the taught

Surendra

Surendra   | Photo Credit: surendra

When reining in the mischief-mongers and imparting discipline unobtrusively was an art

Studying in a co-educational convent school is an enjoyable and memorable experience, for multiple reasons. For one, there is never a moment of hostility in the environment.

I saw and experienced the striking difference once I joined college after passing out from school. The boys especially are better-behaved, probably because of the presence of the girls. Even the ‘exceptions’ fall in line soon. Except for the physical training instructor all the teaching staff was women. Jokes and repartees in a lighter vein were always there, particularly when no one expected it.

Just a threat

For all the pranks we played, the worst punishment that was meted out was a threat to send us to the much-feared headmistress, who like our former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, maintained stoic silence and seldom smiled. It was this fear of the unknown side of her personality that was exploited to the hilt by the teachers; of course, it is a different story that their ‘threat’ was never carried out and it was always the ‘this is the last time I am warning you’ for all the boys and girls, without any discrimination.

Being talkative, I often found myself seated in the midst of girls, as a punishment. But that seldom worked; I would soon start disturbing them also, only to be asked to remain standing for the rest of the period.

Incidentally, our headmistress was a German lady who would come on her rounds at least twice each day. So impressed she was with our behaviour that we once overheard her comment that we were a disciplined lot who always maintained pin drop silence. She probably did not know, or discreetly chose to remain ignorant of the fact, that whenever she moved around, her pet dog showed up much before she appeared on the scene and that put everyone on the alert.

We had a burly lady, Madame Erasmus, whose physical structure and harsh tone had nothing to do with her big heart and soft nature. Every time she scolded someone, she was sure to make amends during the lunch break by taking them to the canteen and filling their pockets with cookies. In fact, we all loved to be pulled up by her. With raised eyebrows and a furious look, she would summon the mischief-monger. With eyes fixed on the outstretched hands and open palms, she would take the foot ruler in her right hand holding the culprit tightly with her left hand, and then in a split second would draw the student close, give a warm hug and gently whisper in the ears to be good in the future.

A tastmaster

Our physical training instructor, who also doubled up as the cricket coach, was a tough task master. We would get to experience the perfectionist in him at least twice each year when the rehearsals for the march past for the Independence Day and Republic day celebrations would begin. The practice session would invariably be held after school hours and would be preceded by some physical exercises.

Cricket schedule

It was the same schedule for the cricket coaching as well. At the nets, he would mark out the crease, have only the middle stump and then ask us to bowl pitching the ball on or around the good-length spot.

Despite our best efforts, a couple of deliveries in an over would either be full tosses or wayward, for which we would be promptly pulled up and reprimanded. On one occasion, my friend persistently bowled short pitched deliveries that infuriated our coach, who lost his cool. “Now, now, damn it, what is this!” he yelled.

Almost spontaneously came the bowler’s rejoinder, “high pitch, sir!” — which had all those present there in splits.

maharajapuram.s.

vaidyanathan@gmail.com

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 5:43:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-teachers-and-the-taught/article18400871.ece

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