Today is April 2nd. Meaning yesterday was April 1st. And other than the annual spate of weak April Fool’s jokes that flood our internet, it was a day of rather intense realisation for me. If yesterday was April 1st, it meant that I was exactly two weeks away from the official end of my last term as an ESL teacher here. What.
You see, in reality, I am here till June, prepping the next set of my kids to take the IGCSE ESL exam, and so my eyes were set on a June finish line. Until I realised with a bam that I teach about 70 kids regularly. For the 26 kids in Grade 8, given I have started teaching Social Science as well, one-third of their timetable is with me. And for all but eleven of these seventy kids, the summer vacation is in two weeks. And with that comes the end of my classroom. What.
Now if you have the rational logical mind of my father, I know what you will say. I can almost hear his voice in my head saying “you knew this was coming, right? Of course April 13th-14th is two weeks from April 1st. Why is this a surprise?” Let me try to delineate the very scattered, very hurried thoughts bouncing around my head for space right now:
- There are printed worksheets in my corner of the staff room that I may never be able to teach because I don’t have enough time. That means my grand plan of using HONY to teach summary writing and identifying a story will go unused.
- For the last year and then some, I’ve been welcoming in a new month by calculating the Class 9 attendance. It was drudgery, something we’d all crib about as another month drew to a close. This morning, as I filled in April 2018, I realised the attendance for the next Class 9 will have someone else’s initials on it, and I won’t pause my breakfast to check on who was absent for the day. Okay then.
- These last few days, when everyone was enjoying a long weekend, I was taking a couple of hours of class every day. On Saturday morning, I was being lazy and whiny. I wanted to sleep in, not teach gerunds and sentence patterns. So I got up, showered, and threw something on to class. My personal form of rebellion was not wearing kajal. I had not been in class for a full two minutes before a boy in Class 9 interrupted me. Akka, are you not well? You look a little sick. He didn’t realise it was all in the kajal, but he knew something was not right. Do we “busy, fast-paced adults” have time to check on each other, for the small moments like this?
- The very first week I joined this school, I struggled to realise that “may I come in, Akka” was addressed to me. Today, I caught myself keeping an ear out for the call and nodding without as much as looking up from the answer script I was correcting. How quickly mannerisms have become second nature and how quickly the scripts will have to be rewritten.
- Red pens probably don’t have reason to be in my bag anymore.
- For the first time since 2012, I won’t have a classroom to look forward to with any kind of regularity. What does that feel like?
- The odds of me waking up to peahens in my front yard and hills covered by mist is falling faster than the hair I’ve lost to Anaikatti water. And my favourite tree? That one around the corner past Arnatkaadu, on the way to the Biosphere? That won’t really be around the corner any more. With that, my Instagram spam shall stop too, promise.
Oh I could go on. Another minute spent staring at that list will see the addition of something else. My brain is on an overdrive of preemptive nostalgia and recording memories-too-fleeting. But in the middle of all this noise, I do know this. My time here has made me a stronger person. I have learnt far more from my classroom and my colleagues than I had any hope of teaching. I heard stories of lives far removed from mine and saw lives of resilience and sheer will play out every single day. Some of my colleagues have become role models, some of my students have become reminders of everything that Can Be. In a folder within a folder within a folder of my laptop, I have a document of material thusfar unpublished, and those 50,000 words bear witness to the journey that this has been.
I joined here fresh out of college to “get the field work to back up my degree in Development.” It has turned out to be so much more than a job. Amidst the moments of angst about mark sheets and board exams and way too many red pens used were periods of deep learning. Even as I realise that the school’s story will go on while mine gets written on a tangent, I will forever be thankful for the chance phone call that became my first job. What five years of academic engagement couldn’t give me, two years in the hills did – a daily reminder of perspective and privilege that will stay long after the marker ink on my fingers fade off.