Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Prof Umbridge with a difference.

"How many times? Raised eyebrows above the black-rimmed spectacles.
"25..? 50...? 100.....?"

A downbent head nodded vigorously. A curly haired head tilted royally. And the student sat down, heaving a sigh of relief at having gotten off with just 100 lines.

This was way back in school. In the eight standard. Slaked lime, milk of lime, limestone...washing soda, baking soda... The chemical names for all these used to be a nightmare for that whole year. And our Chemistry teacher used to make it a point to ask at least one of us every day for the chemical name of at least one of these 'household' names. Bah!

But now when I think of Mrs. G, she brings a loving smile to my lips. And wonderful, wonderful memories of all the fun we used to have in her class, waiting for her dreaded questions, for that quizzical look through those glasses, and for that clipped voice giving out lines. In fact, one could almost call it an inititation into high-school Chemistry

These lines brought about such a sense of unity and co-operation in class. Initially, the fortunate few would take turns to write out some lines at least for their unfortunate friends. But soon came a time when this was caught by the canny eyes of Mrs. G. And extra lines would be given to the fortunate and the unfortunate. Ah... lines were a great leveller in those days.

The day when the impositions were due, there would be frenzied writing going on during intervals too, with no distractions whatsoever. One could even say, that at times, more than the formula/name, what was getting remembered was numbers. 27, 28,29,....75,76,77,...98,99,100!

There was one girl S, (who was slightly mentally challenged) who came up something we thought was quite brilliant- She wrote just the first line- Washing Soda- Na2Co3, and then followed it up with a 100 dittoes.
While all of us were much taken with her brilliance, much amused too, none of us dared to be that audacious. We even warned her that she was in for it, but she refused to take any heed. We waited with bated breath for Mrs. G to take her to pieces when S went to take her paper back, but the staff were evidently advised of S' misfortune and Mrs. G said nothing. She just ensured that S knew the formula and let her off.

While she was a terror in class, she had a good sense of humour outside. The quizzical look inside class was replaced by a twinkle outside class. She could take a joke very well. For school festivals, at least one spoof on her Hitlerish way of taking classes was a must. But she would be one of the first persons to laugh out loud.. No extra lines for ridiculing Mrs. G, no way!
And invariably lines would be given to all generations of students who passed through her hands.

I remember, after all those lines we wrote in the eight standard, we passed out into the ninth. And the first hour of Chemistry that we had, in came Mrs. G. After roll call, she looked around at all of us and smiled. We smiled back in high spirits. And then she shot out-

"What's the formula for slaked lime?"

The class as a whole deflated. Not one of us was prepared for questions the very first day. And the funny thing was, only a couple of girls knew the formula then. And these two were sitting on the last row. After one year in her class, we knew better than to prompt or sneak looks at text books. So the girls began standing up, one after the other, some not answering at all, for fear of inviting scathing comments, some giving wrong answers.
The first row, a girl was given 2 min, before the next one stood up. By the time the questioning reached the second row, the next girl waited just one minute before standing up in her turn, and by the third row, no one was waiting for Mrs. G to look at the next person, we all just sprung up one after the other.

And at the end, one girl gave the answer - Ca(OH)2. We sneaked looks at Mrs. G, the class filled with the silence of repressed mirth. And Mrs. G looked at us with a repressed twinkle and said,

"What a bunch of dunces I have to teach! 9th std. A whole class. Not knowing the formula of slaked lime!"
And she started shaking in her chair. And the class burst out laughing. In sheer merriment at being caught for the 'dunces' we were. And class started just like ordinary times, again.

I was reading about this rule which is to be introduced in schools, totally disallowing any kind of punishment, corporal or otherwise. And while I wholeheartedly agree with the stand on corporal punishment (those incidents of students -toddlers to teens-dying due to mishandling by their teachers was horrifyingly scary), I was suddenly reminded of Mrs. G's impositions, which were famous in her time.

And I found myself wondering if it wasn't too bad that, if Mrs. G were to teach in today's times, I could sue Mrs. G for giving me or anybody else lines.

Our teachers also made us stand on benches, stand outside class, go out of class, gave a whack with a ruler (only in the junior classes, and none so hard that it ever made welts on the hand/leg), and none of us were any worse for it, maybe it did spur us onto better efforts to stay clear of that ruler. But then, all my teachers genuinely wanted the betterment of their students and did not let rage get the upper hand, ever.
Something that can't be said for today's teachers, maybe. Patience truly is the mother of all virtues, especially for teachers.


upsilamba said...

brought back some memories....

Poppins said...

Nice, what we've become are a bunch of softies who want our babies to be mollycoddled. There is nothing wrong with a good scolding by a teacher who has your best interests in heart :)

Something to Say said...

No corporal punishment - I agree too..but punishment for other misbehaviors - I think are needed... I think kids still need to know that there are repercussions for what they do or dont do

rbdans said...

Wonderful post. Brought back a lot of memories!
I am all for banning whacking and similar kinds, but disagree with completely banning all kinds of punishments. How else would you teach a kid that there are repercussions for their bad behavior.

Moppet's Mom said...

It's only been 13 years since I left school, but already it seems like a different world out there...

Hip Grandma said...

pleasant memories I see.well I too have such memories about my teachers who would be strict without being malicious.God bless them all.

WhatsInAName said...

Its a great quality.
Being strict without raising their hands!
I wish I had that and also a little bit of patience