Tuesday, 19 July 2016

First Lessons..

Background: Sometimes parents have to live separately (in different cities) as an occupational necessity and in such cases; children invariably end up living with one of the parents. One such hapless single parent had the monumental task of sending the 3 year old kid to school while being ‘dedicated’ to another six month old in the house and also rising to meet the professional expectations whenever called upon to do so. The fact that this three year old (henceforth 3YO) was moving between places and joining a new school in July (as against the beginning of ‘Academic Year’ in April) certainly did not help matters. Yet, with all the enterprise (and uncharacteristic humility) at the command of the Not-by-Choice-Single-Parent (henceforth NBCSP), the 3YO managed to get admitted to the elitist pre-school (where the children of city’s glitterati learnt what it takes to obtain a seat in the Famous Fives (say five of the best schools in the country located within the city). Needs to be mentioned, that in this case, the NBCSP was not bedazzled by the promise of the fabled Famous Fives but was rather swayed by the fact that a time-twin of the 3YO (child of two dear close friends/batchmates) attended the same school (even the same class) and would have been a sort of anchor for the 3YO to look forward to school each day. Just a word of mention for elitist-preschool-Principal (henceforth EPSP), who needs to be thanked for accepting 3YO to the school without much fuss (as long as the rules of the school were strictly adhered to by NBCSP!). 

FORGET Scene 1/Scene2/Scene 3 as non-existent episodes of rudeness on the part of EPSP towards NBCSP or better still blame NBSCP as being over-sensitive! Only that perhaps in any other major city while such episodes will not even register as a blip on the radar of basic decency, in this city of tehzeeb it definitely could raise a few eyebrows.

NBCSP (Standing): Ma’m, Could I please speak to you regarding my child?
EPSP (tersely): Regarding what?
NBCSP: Ma’m, regarding her homework.
EPSP (already visibly irritated): What is it?
NBCSP (even more politely, trying to make her understand): It’s just that 3YO has just changed places last week and is unable to adjust to the new routine, so sometimes she may not be able to complete her homework.
EPSP: What do you want us to do?
NBCSP: Give her time to adjust. She knows her alphabets and numbers and colours but sometimes is just not willing to write it in her notebooks. She will take time to get used to it.
EPSP: Make her practice. Practice makes a man perfect. 
NBCSP (wondering about the ‘man’ part): Just that in her older school they were not very strict with the homework part.
EPSP: Put her in Playgroup then. We don’t have any homework for playgroup children.
NBCSP: Why would she go to playgroup if she is three year old and knows everything that is expected from a child at her age?.
EPSP: In other schools, they give up to five pages of homework. We give only two. And you want us to do everything and you want to do nothing.
NBCSP: She does her homework everyday but sometimes its just too difficult to make her write. Also, I have been in the education department for the past one year (looking at all the primary schools of the State) and understand a little bit about early childhood learning. I was just requesting you to give her time to adapt to the new environment.
EPSP (rolling her eyes): We could completely exempt her from any homework in that case.
Also, there’s a big school here which expects your child to write ten pages. And whatever power you have gained in the education department, use it there.
If you still wish to talk more, you could wait in my office.
NBCSP (completely quiet, appalled by EPSP’s rudeness and  at the same time controlling her instinct to give a befitting reply) : She has been regular with her homework so far. I do not see there is anything more to talk about.

  • It is actually impossible for people who live in fixed places all their lives to understand what it takes to call a new place home every six months, grow roots there, knowing you will surely be uprooted again. (Not even trying to suggest that one needs to look from the perspective of a 3YO who cries herself to sleep each night, hoping when she wakes up both her parents will be there to comfort her like always)
  • Sometimes people who are in the business of imparting education (including myself) too need an education especially when it comes to children as young as 2-3 years old.
  • May be there's a certain bit of pride in sending one's child to a famous school (not to mention the 'label' you carry for the rest of your life, and I include myself in this too) but how many things can a 3YO whose heart is constantly elsewhere, can be made to drag through forcibly in the course of 24 hours.
  • What if the child of a famous set of parents fails to make it to institutions like Famous Five. Is it end of life before it has even begun?
  • What about children who might have the calibre to make it to any top school but complete their education in small towns for a variety of circumstances (like the above mentioned 'occupational necessity').
  • Lastly, thank you Maria Semple for writing Where'd You Go, Bernadette.