Who Says School Days Were/Are the Best Days of Our Life?

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What do you do if you pass on an undesirable gene to your child? Amongst many traits I may or may not have passed on to my kids, this is one trait I have passed on to my daughter- utter dislike for school!

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From as far as I can remember till the very last day of my twelfth grade, I strongly disliked (I have been actively practicing to avoid use of the word hate) going to school. Without exaggeration, I had a stomach ache every morning before I left home and nearly always had tears in my eyes. When I was in kindergarten, I used to roll in the mud outside home, crying, even as my mother and the maid would unsuccessfully try and get me up to walk to school which was nearby. An Army Officer, our neighbour, used to emerge from his home for work at about the same time with a baton in his hand much to my mother’s satisfaction and my horror. My mother who happily used fear as a weapon (very successfully) to keep me in check had told me that he disliked cranky children and kept that cane to whip them. One look at him and I’d be on my feet and off to school with tear stained cheeks! The melodrama subsided over the years but the stomach ache carried on and it wasn’t feigned. It was psychosomatic perhaps due to stress and disappeared at the sight of the first familiar face at school!

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I was a good student, with a whole lot of friends including a few special ones and was usually the teacher’s pet (except the art and craft teacher) but nothing changed that awful unease every morning. My poor mother had to put up with my tantrums every morning; the first fight over milk (strong dislike to this day), the second over my hair (the pain caused while braiding or because they looked uneven) and lastly, the tummy ache! I used to make Ma pray for me before I left and used to keep turning back till I could see her no more.


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History repeats itself, it’s true! When my son began play school he cried all the way from the bus stop till an hour or two after the school began and this lasted for a whole week and his mother did the same at home!! However, that was the last time he ever cried or asked to stay at home. On the other hand, I got my daughter admitted to a playschool that was hardly a five minute walk from home and had taken her there, a day prior to joining to just show her the place and the chubby roll, just walked into the room and made herself comfortable on the mat with toys of her choice and bade me goodbye. I was shocked. Was I her stepmother?! It was an effort to drag her home while feeling utterly embarrassed in front of her teacher who I believe was fairly amused by it all. This happy phase came to an end in Kindergarten when she began writing the alphabet. She is in grade ten and the unhappy phase continues! She, of course, has always been creative. Her aches are not restricted to the stomach and happen in weird places with some explanations enough to leave me looking like a codfish!

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I sympathise and empathise with all those kids who dislike going to school. They aren’t faking any of it. It can be very stressful.

 I ensure that my children have their choice of food in their lunch box. I do not give them healthy food to school and I am not ashamed of it. School has never been pleasurable for me and the interval was the only time I really looked forward to, to sit with my gang and eat the yummy stuff Ma sent. Of course, I liked all kinds of food so there used to be variety. For me the bottom-line in making tiffin is to keep my kid happy, with comfort foods, while away from me. I take care of their dietary needs when they get home. At least, this way I was sure they didn’t dump the food I sent them or pass it on to someone else. I used to send Nutella or Snicker (Nutella plus peanut butter) sandwiches every single day along with chocolate cookies of different types for my son almost every single day from play school till the twelfth grade and his expression on days I dared to send in something else was something else!!! My daughter, on the other hand has been open to experiment so I send her a bit more variety but only after checking with her. You know kids though, most of their choices are unhealthy but for this one meal I have always indulged and continue to indulge them. There is always a little surprise I pack in for them. After all, school can get to you!

Being in the Armed Forces meant transfers for my father every two years if not sooner and this meant change of schools for me. It has been the same story for my kids. The pros of this school-hopping has been the ability to adapt myself to new surroundings pretty quickly coupled with the ability to make friends easily. And yet, I do feel a certain sense of detachment or rather a lack of attachment to each school or the friends therein especially since we never stayed in touch- no mobiles or internet, remember?

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With the Facebook and Whatsapp wave, we have managed to get in touch with our old friends and acquaintances and from here have stemmed up the sudden increase in reunions!! I need the “rolling of eyes” emoticon so badly!! I do not feel the attraction for reunions and don’t share that enthusiasm- for a few friends yes but there are a lot of unknown faces and a very few known ones. I love to see their enthusiasm and can understand it and I am sure they are disappointed with the lack of mine. School and school related activities have never brought emotions to my heart except the silent relief of “good riddance” so why would I want to relive those moments again??

My daughter is at home today. She didn’t want to go. No reason. She begged me for she knows I’ll melt. How often have I begged my mother to not let me go to school and I have seen my mother nearly melting at times but the thought of my Dad’s questioning used to steel her resolve to send me. In this case, it’s the same dilemma; the person in question, however, is not my daughter’s father but still my Dad!!!!!! I have told my daughter I cannot take the stress of taking on my father even at this age but I give in. That is how much I disliked school that I feel like sheltering my daughter from it.

College was a different ball game. I joined Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi. I was in for a culture shock along with the fact that I was on my own away from my over protected life at home. We had a bit of ragging in the hostel as well and I felt like a deer in a jungle full of lions and tigers but after the very first day in class, something changed. I woke up without the tummy ache. I looked forward to my class including the subject that was forced down my throat. I just loved college. I blossomed there. In the three years I spent there, two years of which I was in the hostel, I grew in a way that I couldn’t have imagined  anywhere else. Under the able guidance of Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath, who was a perfect example of an intelligent, self assured, confident and graceful lady and a Principal as tough as nails, the faculty and students thrived and dared to dream!

My son has joined BITS Pilani nearly two months ago and I can see the same change happening to him. Of course, he always liked school or at least didn’t have a problem with it. Yet, this magic wasn’t there before. I am not surprised for I have heard the Director speak and have seen how the admissions were conducted. As we exited the campus after leaving our son to fend for himself, my husband and I looked at each other, relieved, for we knew that he was in good hands.

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After much deliberation I realized the reason for my utter dislike for school. It stems up from the feeling of oppression. Before school, you are like a pup without a collar, happy and free, loved and mollycoddled. When you are at school, you are like the pup who not only has a collar but is leashed and punished or has fear of punishment hanging over his/her head. In college, you are like a grown up dog, who remembers the happiness of being free but have been tamed enough to know the benefits of having a collar/harness; you are stronger physically with a loud bark and cannot be pushed around as much and most importantly, there is no leash!!!


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That is saying something! We are treated as adults and are respected for being ourselves. We are given the freedom to attend or not attend classes, we are free to wear what we want and we are not talked down to. This boosts our confidence. For freedom loving, rebellious by nature personalities, school is very stifling despite all the good education it imparts. Indian schools are rigid and conservative and only routine loving, diligent children or complete thick skinned brats can tolerate it.



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I have liked all my teachers, give and take a few, for different reasons but the only ones who have inspired me are those who didn’t treat me as lesser than I was, who spoke to me with respect. Somehow, we believe that respect is to be shown only to elders and that is so wrong. Every living being deserves to be respected. It is not about hurting our ego but helping us speak up fearlessly and learn without the fear of making mistakes. I guess we cannot have a structure like college in school because kids aren’t mature enough and do need a firm hand but it can be done without squeezing the fun out completely. Afterall, there are wonderful teachers who are a pleasure to learn from and whose classes we look forward to. We are also naturally on our best behavior when they are around!




Comments

  1. Always a pleasure to read what you write .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Now i know better why i disliked schoolšŸ¤£

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :D I guess you always did ;) Free spirits cannot be confined!

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  3. Quiet similar bits n pieces I can relate too!!!Fun to read and remember them at this point of stage. Good on ya!!!

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