A teacher’s day starts with the alarm chiming early in the morning. She shuts it down so that it does not jostle other family members fast asleep beneath warm comforters. She has a lot to accomplish before getting ready for school – it begins with collecting the newspaper and milk from the doorstep, making breakfast and lunch for the entire family and scrubbing the kitchen platform clean before gulping down some coffee and cold breakfast.
In this super marathon, she even manages to pull out an attractive dress to wear for the day, streaks her eyes with the remaining stub of the eyeliner – it needs to be replaced. Fixes stray locks of hair as the elevator descends and sometimes also takes time to smear the lipstick she carries in her ‘Super Purse’. Super, because it holds anything and everything one can imagine from pens, lipsticks to staplers! As she reaches school, there are duties to discharge and classes to take.
This is my usual morning routine too!
As I entered the staff room, I checked the timetable and made note of my classes. Then I casually walked towards the staff room notice board.
Surreptitiously, I checked the notices making sure there was no one around me.There, it was pinned right on top. This was what I had been dreading. ‘My class’ had earned the designation of being the ‘Dirtiest Class’ of the week.
This was the seventh consecutive week it had been declared as the dirtiest class in school.
I walked back to my place with a heavy heart!
Everything had failed. Talking, counseling, mentoring and as the last resort, imposing penalty for littering the class with pencil shaving. Everyday, there were masses and masses of them. In spite of many warnings, someone was deliberately and relentlessly sharpening pencils and leaving all the shavings – fine wooden ones with coloured edges of red, blue, green and orange under the desks.
It was innocent mischief I knew but I didn’t know how to identify the culprit.
He or she was obviously very smart. And class unity was so strong that nobody revealed to me who was responsible for our class being nominated as the dirtiest class in school, week after week.
Every time I asked, ‘Who is doing it? Why don’t you dispose the pencil shaving in the dustbin of the classroom?’ The answer was, ‘Not we. It’s someone from the other class!’
This happened when I had to go to take lessons in other classes.
Fortunately, that day I didn’t have a class in the first hour and thought of some way… I could find the mischief-maker. I racked by brain….
Was there no way I could find my mischief-maker? Peacefully?
Is it possible to outsmart my little ones? I asked myself, almost pulling my hair.
And then I decided whatever had to be done, it was that day.
But, I didn’t know how I would do it!
I had a class in the second hour and I knew my naughty pencil-shaver would get into action after my class was over.
That day, I didn’t as usual tell my students to keep the class clean.
I didn’t say a word. I didn’t make any comment.
During the lunch hour, I peeped into the class when it was empty.
The shavings were back. They were all there, scattered in abundance under most of the desks.
I collected all the shavings, wrapped them in a piece of newspaper and kept it in my bag.Then I left, keeping my fingers crossed.
After lunch I went to my class, with a sheaf of white paper and announced that they weren’t going to study Science. Instead, they were going to draw and colour something very interesting for a competition.
The class was ecstatic… so thrilled they were that they did not even guess that something was wrong.I was so excited that I had trouble controlling my smile.
As the class started drawing, I pulled out the crushed paper from my purse. I placed it on the teacher’s desk and spread it out so that I could see the pencil shavings clearly.
And then I walked up and down the aisle, carefully scrutinizing every student colouring the picture they had made very enthusiastically.
The first one was colouring with red. It needed to be sharpened. It wasn’t him.
The third one was outlining the leaves with a darker shade of green. It, too, needed to be sharpened. It wasn’t her.
I walked past four more. And then I found my little culprit…!
He was a little fellow with the face of an angel!
His red pencil was sharpened very well.
Then I picked up his blue, green and orange pencils. They were all freshly sharpened and quite small in size.
As I stood next to him without a word, he looked at me innocently.
Giving me a huge smile, he said. ‘Hello Miss! Aren’t my mountains the highest in the whole world?’ he asked running a finger over one mountain peak proudly.
‘Yes, your mountains are the highest. But don’t you think the lines could be neater if your pencil was sharpened? The pencil point needs to be sharper. Don’t you think so?’ I asked looking at him expressionlessly.
‘Well, yes. I think you are right,’ he said looking at his pencil.
I noticed everyone had stopped drawing and were looking at us curiously.
‘And please use the bin when you want to sharpen your pencils and not the classroom floor.’ I said gently as I walked further down the aisle.
‘How did you find that out,’ he asked in bewilderment.
I controlled the smile again. He hadn’t realized that he had revealed the secret.
I turned to look at him with a secret smile.
‘Because once upon a time I was a student too!’ I said smiling wider. ‘Use the bin the next time and let’s try to win the Best Class award next month,’ I urged.
‘Sure Miss. Why not?’ he replied smiling back.
A look passed between us. There was respect and admiration in those eyes.
I celebrated that evening because I had been able to solve the mystery of the pencil shavings.
When everything fails in classrooms, teachers have to learn to think like students! And also listen to inanimate objects in the classroom.
Everything talks in a classroom from a blackboard to a chalk piece. We just have to learn to listen to them – like the way the pencil shavings told me who my little culprit was……
And the result is sheer magic!
Special Thanks to Kavita Bhupta Ghosh , teacher of DPS, Bangalore South, for sharing her thoughts. This Guest Post has been written by Kavita Ghosh.