Tips for the aspiring teacher

The start of my teaching career was a daunting experience. I was completely clueless about things like classroom discipline, how to deal with difficult kids and what punishments to employ.  Of course I didn’t remain in that happy state forever.  I learned, and fast.  I had to, to survive the rigors of my chosen profession.

Though some punishments were considered a bit much. Wimps.

Now my first class was a roomful of feisty eleven-year olds who were delighted at the prospect of having a teacher who was so green around the edges.  I learnt a lot from this class.  I learnt a lot about what NOT to do in a class too.   So here goes.

NEVER EVER play ‘Donkey Donkey’ in class.  Now this highly educational game was one I resorted to in sheer desperation.  The lot of them would finish their work and then just wouldn’t SHUT UP.  So, I told them we’d play a game. That got their attention alright.  The game was that one person would call out “the biggest donkey in all the world is just about to speak.”  Then silence.  Anyone speaking up would be the donkey.  They actually fell for it.  They’d sit in silence and then some smartass would whisper to a friend and they’d all erupt into howls of laughter.  Every day we had a new donkey in the class!  They loved it.  Then one day, as they were all sitting, silent as mice waiting for the next donkey to speak up there was a knock at the door.

Of course I didn’t call out.  That would make me the donkey.  So I sat still, hoping whoever it was would think we were having a big important test and go away.  No such luck.  The door opened and, horror of horrors, it was the principal.  She looked at me enquiringly.  I smiled encouragingly at her, willing her to speak first.  The kids waited with bated breaths.  The sight of their principal had dampened their enthusiasm somewhat.   Clearly mystified by the obstinate silence in the room, and, even more so, of the teacher, she spoke to me and of course I had to answer.  After she left, the room erupted into howls of laughter.  Trying to gather what shreds of dignity I was still left with, I sent them all outside to have their lunch.   But before they left, one genius turned to me, grinned slowly and said, oh so clearly, “teacher, today even you were the donkey, hehehe.”  Well, and what about the principal.  “Oh, she wasn’t part of the game, she didn’t know what was going on, the donkey is you alright,” he assured me.

And chuckling and nodding smugly to himself he left before I could come up with an appropriately withering retort, which in any event I only thought of twenty four hours later.

Secondly, and this is very important, never EVER admit you’re wrong.  Oh no! don’t listen to those smug, know-it-all types who say it is better to admit your mistakes honestly, the kids respect you for it.  PLEASE! The only thing these monsters respect is their games period, and that’s it.  So, if you’re wrong stick to your guns, don’t let them out-argue you, or they’ll think they can do it every time you open your mouth.  You’ll have no peace, they’ll be arguing with you about everything, putting in their two-cents worth all the time.  Use all the means at your disposal, smiling disdainfully and contemptuously, treating them to a long, cold stare, (always works), yelling that you’re the teacher and teacher equals, boss/lord/king in the class.  (I’m not talking about academics here, there you can’t afford to be wrong, but things like discipline, general discussions, opinions, extracurricular activities, etc.)  As a last resort, threaten to take their games class, nothing shuts them up faster.  Trust me, I know.

Now, and this brings back some really painful memories, don’t even THINK about making a wager or a bet of any kind with these fiends.  See even if you win, you can’t, by virtue of being the teacher and the only mature adult in the class (hopefully) claim any prize.  But if you LOSE! Shudder, shudder.  They’ll extract their pound of flesh alright, and rub salt into the wound too.  I once made a bet with them that the Pakistan team would lose a match that they were to play against the formidable Australians.   Our pathetic performance in the previous matches of that tournament gave me great confidence.  I told them, fearlessly and, perhaps, foolishly, that their lunch would be on me should our team win.  No prizes for guessing what happened next.  We won! Yes we did.  Darned, stupid, unpredictable team. Can’t even count on them to lose!

Though we can count on them to…

But I lost alright!   Imagine losing to a mob of babbling, snickering, howling, snorting, not to forget, mortifyingly smug seventh graders.  Oh how they crowed.  I was marched off to the canteen most unceremoniously because they weren’t going to let me off the hook, oh no.  Thronging the counter, those greedy little thugs began ordering the choicest and most expensive items on the canteen menu, while I stood by, feigning calm but quaking in my shoes and watching my money disappear into the oily palms of the smirking ‘canteen-wallah.’  Sigh.  We all know how far a teacher’s salary goes.  And mark my words, they didn’t let me forget till the end of the term how they had outsmarted me, albeit only once, because after that I came to my senses.

Finally, do NOT be taken in by their flowery compliments and vows of undying devotion.  They may tell you that you’re their favorite teacher, but these wheedlers have got flattery down to a fine art.  They know how to get their way, especially with a new teacher, so BE WARNED.  You may prance into the faculty room, smiling triumphantly and boasting that your class has never had a teacher quite like you (oh yes, they say that), but chances are that you’re going to fall flat on your face (figuratively) when the science/history/geography/urdu/math teachers have the same little tale to tell.  And once they graduate to the next level, you’ll see them trailing along behind their new favorite teacher, hanging onto her/his arm, barely deigning to glance at you as you stalk by in self-righteous indignation.  No hard feelings of course.  In with the new, out with the old, they’re practical, hardnosed, rational types, are the kids of today.   Sigh!  It’s a tough, tough, thankless job.

Admittedly with less poop.

 Rumina Iftikhar juggles teaching, writing and motherhood.



Categories: The World I Know


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2 Comments on “Tips for the aspiring teacher”

  1. Kashan
    August 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    hahaha. a very funny&insightful piece. thank you, master.

  2. Alliya
    July 29, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    i did it for one year and all i can say is: HATS off to all teachers. its the toughest job in the world!!

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