4 Jan 2011

Back to school

I was watching the news yesterday which showed pictures  of kids all over Malaysia going back to school.  Many were crying and clinging to their parents but a few were happily holding hands with other children and smiling. 

When I was a child I always looked forward to going to school. I loved school - as opposed to staying home and being bored out of my skull because there was nothing to read! The long December school holidays were always a trial to me - I used to count the days when I could go back to school! Was I weird or something? School was so much fun I think in those days. We still had singing lessons, days when we were brought to the hall to listen to the radio broadcast (no tv in those days mind you), story telling sessions with our teachers telling us wonderful stories from fables and other fairy tales. When we were in third year at Elementary school, we had this really wonderful teacher called Miss Ratnam. She taught us English, Science and Civics. She was also our class teacher and we loved her very much. I can still see her smiling face and 
spectacles, telling all of us about her sick mother. She told us to pray for her mother to get well and when one smart aleck said " How to pray because we all have different religions," her answer was the best answer and one I will always remember. " Just remember that all religions teach us to be good and that whoever you pray to, that god will want you to be good. Pray in your own language and to your own god ," she said.

The last lesson of the day was always hers - usually it would be English. After we had done our work she would remind us to hand in the exercise books and then we'd all sit quietly while she told us stories. My first stories from the Greek myths began from her story telling sessions. She told us about Medusa, The Golden Fleece, King Midas and many many more. Her classes were always very interesting mainly because she allowed us to be children - she didn't mind us walking around the class as long as we had a reason, talking and laughing was allowed as long as we didn't disrupt the class and best of all she loved singing, so quite often we'd have singing in the class.

Coming back to the question of school - why do many of today's children dread school so much? Ask any child if they love school and the sorry answer is more often than not, no. I think schools have become too serious, too exam-oriented and too large. It is no longer personal anymore. Classes are normally about 50 students. There were only about 30 children in my class in primary school. By the second week the teacher had memorised all the students' names and could more or less identify every child in her class. By the first term, she knew our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes. There is a closeness and a caring, that perhaps is missing in today's impersonal school environment. We went to our teacher's house for Deepavalli and even for tea sometimes. I still remember the terrace house in which she lived because I was a fairly frequent visitor. Where are all the Miss Ratnams today? Do we still have such caring teachers? For the sake of the younger generation I hope so.


Gattina said...

I started school in 1950 and ever since have hated it, except my time in the German school of Brussels. Why ? because the teachers were so distant, not friendly at all with the children and they had no clue of psychology. They were the kings and we had nothing to say.

Kat said...

Sad but true of many teachers today too!

naida said...

I remember when my kids were little and the first day of school was always a tearjerker. More so for me, I'd drop them off at school then drive home in tears.