Friday, April 12, 2013

Quiet

Quiet. I have found quiet. The sound of my fingers hitting the keys sound like the clicking of palm tree leaves in the breeze. Fans whir above my head in soft murmurs. The afternoon air is velvet on my skin. I'm surrounded by blue, chalky walls, and when I glance up from this screen I see a black chalkboard covered in algebra equations.

Be present. Write what you know. All week long, I have been coaching and drilling and testing my middle school English students to be present, use their senses, just write write write. Let expression emerge by movement of the pen.

So right now, I'm letting expression emerge by movement of my fingers. I just concluded my second week of teaching, ever. For two weeks I have been amazed, humiliated, surprised, exasperated, and utterly absorbed. Although I am surrounded by whirls of activities and noise and meetings and lessons, I have rarely ever felt so quiet in my life.

Quiet.

Just quiet.

I am doing my duty. With that comes this quiet inside. Even in my depths of discouragement in teaching, I always conclude: where else would I be? What else would I be doing?

My teaching needs a lot of improvement. A lot. Yet Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "Better to do one's own duty poorly than another's duty well."

I had found quiet in this computer lab, and now boys have filled the room, their voices reverberating off the walls in discussion of fight scene choreography. Laughter rises. There - a boy just rang the bell that hangs on the tree outside - bong bong bong bong. The boys filter out of the room, chatting.

Class begins soon.

Once again I can hear the clicking of my fingers moving across this keyboard, like palm tree leaves moving in the breeze. All is quiet.   

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Quiet, Epic Moment

"What is the most honored profession in Japan?" I asked my 7th grade boys class. Today was my first day of school as a teacher at Sri Mayapur International School, and I had just reviewed my discipline system, reading, writing, and homework system.

"Anime drawer!" a boy quipped.

"Anime? No," I said.

"Noodle-maker?"

I laughed. "No, not a noodle-maker. Come on, the most honorable profession?"

"How about someone who figures out earthquakes and tsunamis?" one kid offered.

"Nice try, but no,"

One kid raised his hand. His name was Balaram, and I'll never forget that moment. He said, "A teacher?"

The moment hung in the air. I was deeply moved. I looked at Balaram and said, "Yes, yes, a teacher,"

"A teacher, ha!" some kids laughed, some snickered a little incredulously.

"Why?" I asked. "Why is a teacher the most honored profession in Japan?"

"Because they do what nobody else wants to do," one kid said.

"Not quite," I said.

Balaram said, "Because they give knowledge and stuff,"

"Yes. Teachers are the heads of society, they give culture and knowledge.

"You see," I continued, "When I was in 7th grade, one day my English teacher asked this question to the class. My classmates said, 'doctor,' 'lawyer,' 'firemen,' but my teacher said no to all of them. But then I raised my hand, 'a teacher?' and my teacher said, 'Yes, a teacher is the most honored profession in Japan. They give knowledge and are the heads of society.'

"That was the moment I decided that I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I was 12, not even in high school yet, but I knew what I wanted to be.

"So I find it very curious that although I wanted to teach high school, today is my first official day of teaching, and I'm teaching a 7th grade English class. I feel honored to share with you that after all these years, 13 years later, my desire is finally coming to pass and I get to teach you."

Some kids started applauding and some said, "Way to go, Mataji!"

A little surprised, I then smiled and did a little curtsy. "Thank you. Maybe one day, one of you will be inspired to become a teacher."

I looked at Balaram and gave a nod. 

To write is to dare the soul. So write.