I remember the days when as a student it seemed comforting to know that the answer to a question after a lesson, lay snug comfortable between the 2 brackets that the teacher had asked us to mark. Neatly scribbled in the page margin was the question number. Back home, I looked forward to draw the double margin with a red ball pen, using a sharp pencil and scale to underline the topic while completing the homework assignment to copy the beautiful long answer in the brackets from the text in the notebook. I used a sweet smelling eraser to rub any pencil smudges that might have run over the ruled lines while I moved the scale. Once I completed writing the answer, I would turn back all the pages to count the number of times I had received a star or a ‘Good’ or ‘Neat Work’ written by the Teacher. I knew that this time too, the assignment would get me something to make my effort count. To see a sharp bright red tick across the page with a remark that said – Neat work, scribbled in the right hand corner of the page was a pure delight. I can still remember the strange feeling of peaceful content that I felt at the end of each lesson that went this way.
Then there were days that I dreaded. Days I knew were a Tuesday. The first session of the day was the test. It was ok until I finished writing the date and my name on the sheet. Then came the questions – which stared as if they were back to avenge the neglect. I had always chosen to decorate only my answers in neat cursive and punctuated them lovingly. I remembered exactly that there were 2 paragraphs for the answer of this question and yes it was written on the right hand side of the book, but what I could not recall then was… exactly what had I written on that page. Sigh, sharpening my pencils or measuring my scented eraser with my scale did not seem to help nor did my memory come to my rescue.
Racing time ahead, I am still fascinated today with answers that come drafted to a question. As a parent of a middle schooler, I see the difference in how the student has now begun to enjoy the questions and the challenges it brings. The more the questions are intriguing, more the student is happy to unravel the mystery. The happiness to explain, the joy to crack the questions and writing answers gleefully on the paper reflects the sheer joy of a learner when challenged. Gone are the days when answers to questions were served like a gift wrapped with the exact words quoted from the text lovingly garnished with the words from the question. Today each child writes differently, interpreting in ways not prescribed by texts but by a reflection of whatever understanding has remained with the learner, long after the lesson sessions were completed. Discussions which are prominent with their animated explanations and a glowing sparkle in the eye and yes, you know for sure that the young adult in front of you is more of a seeker of knowledge than you were at his or her age.
This is today’s generation which quenches its thirst for knowledge under many streams. They find the lessons hidden in a capsule of digitalisation quite fascinating and long lasting in their memories. Of course, nothing can match the sheen that a prepared teacher brings in. Armoured with a strong content knowledge, the right essence of humour, fluent communication skills and also a razor sharp sense of sight and hearing, these modern day educators are often the right blend of a loving parent and a professional mentor. These teachers not just teach the answers to questions but also their class learns to ask questions which can challenge any existing explanation to prove itself yet again. The days have turned and questions you ask have become as meaningful as the answers one seeks. Rather than answers, questions have begun to reflect about what you know… so far.
So here is a question: When was the last time you did something for the first time?
My answer is today, as I write this article and punctuate this sentence once again lovingly with my favourite punctuation mark – the ellipsis, 3 perfect circle dots and this time I know exactly what my page speaks or do I…
Parent of Teekshna Sherry Tabita
VIBGYOR High – Airoli, Mumbai