The drive to the school is about half an hours time, and it helped that I was driving. kept the mind from wandering to the classroom before the appointment. The kids were quiet at the back lost in their own thoughts. They usually dont speak much in the mornings, sleepy-eyed, tounge-tied kids in school uniform and bags, tiny adult figures! Thats what I think when I see them at this time of the day. But then I was just concentrating on the road and keeping the reigns of my imaginary conversation with the class teacher in strict control.
To get a parking anywhere in the vicinity of the school gates is an impossible prayer, but that day, we got one bang opposite the gates! "Lucky", said my daughter, Bond still didn't utter a word, I remember thinking," hope the luck prevails for the next hour or so!"
Got out, got the kids out, forgot to take the keys out of the ignition, went back in the car took the keys out, locked the doors, double checked, got muddled up with the keys, the glares, the hand bag and the phone, stopped, put everything inside the handbag, saw daughter shaking her head in indulgent acceptance. Saw Bond taking my hand in his tiny ones. We crossed the road and entered the school.
Both my kids have their classes in different blocks so it was a kiss and a pat on the back to my daughter, who in turn hugged bond and said, "Just stop being naughty and things will become alright." Then she was off. Bond and I trudged along the steps to his 2nd floor classroom. the teacher greeted us with such a smile that for a moment I thought, I was being mistaken for somebody else, but then she called his name and said come dear, let's go the class, and I shook myself and followed the teacher and the student to their classroom. Sitting beside bond I awaited the teacher to open the conversation, as I kept looking for the smile that was now hidden behind worksheets and notebooks.
Teacher: " Sujata, your son needs discipline. He needs to get into the study mode, he has to get serious. From class 3 they will have long question and answers to write.."
Me:(nodding my head like noddy and taking hope from the last sentence of the teacher): "What exactly do you see him doing in class? When I teach him, I feel he is good at grasping any new topic, but then his retention is not strong, he forgets the details."
Teacher: "Why does this happen? Haven't you wondered? It's not because he has memory problem, because in that case it would reflect in other ways, It's only because of his lack of disciplined study time. He has to sit down and study, revise, do sums,write and do all this regularly for atleast two hours everyday. This might not be true for other kids his age, but for him its required, as he is still very restless and gets distracted very fast. Once he gets into the habbit of studies, all that you percieve as erratic will slowly go away."
Me: "Has he made no progress at all this year, at home I do see improvement with his spellings, with his writing, he is still very bad in hindi, but the note did come as a shock as I did'nt think he was performing that bad as to be called minimal"
Teacher: "Had the letter been not strongly worded, many parents would not have bothered to drop in, He has improved, he is a very social boy, very good in his interpersonal skills, I have no complaints against his oral work, his framing of sentences, but he needs to work on his writing, on his spellings, on his hindi and in general neatness and upkeep of books. Sujata don't spare the rod and spoil the child, be strict, its okay he will still be yours, but if you dont discipline him now, you will lose him forever and then it will be too late.. boys are different than girls, and it should not happen that your weakness towards him is taken advantage of."
Me:(looking at bond and seeing him visibly shrinking in his chair found it very difficult to imagine him taking advantage of me, but in some far corner of my almost non existent logical mind, I did see that as a possibility) "Thank you teacher for having this conversation with me. I will ensure that he sits with me for 2 hours of study time regularly and will come and see you again in 3 weeks time and take it up from there."
Teacher: "For me he is a student, however dear he maybe, he is still one of the 40 kids in my class, to you he is your future, your son, just be strict and ride him for the next couple of years and then there is no worry, you lose him now, and he is out of bounds forever."
Those last lines made quite an impression, I know in my gut that I am lax with him, much more than I was with my daughter but I didnt realise that it was going to take this magnitude. On my way back I kept thinking of how much time I spent teaching my daughter, how rigorous I was with her in her early school years, how insistent on a page of handwriting everyday, on 10 sums everyday, on reading each chapter thoroughly, on answering questions, I guess that was study time. My mind forwarded to the time when bond started school, was there too much on my plate then? Why did I get so relaxed with him, why did I keep thinking of him as just a baby? Frankly I have no clue and there is no point rummaging through the ifs and buts!
Pull up our socks!! shall we! And that is what I have been doing with bond for the last week, a page of handwriting, 20 sums, spelling dictations, question and answers, a stern eye whenever he tries to wiggle through, a pat on the back for a difficult word correctly spelled.
There is improvement in the fact that he sits with me regularly and concentrates for the complete hour, there is visble improvement in his writing, he is still weak in hindi, but the spellings are better, and he still likes maths a lot. Its too early to say where his destiny lies, but if the road has to be through study hours and discipline, I dont see any reason not to comply! Do you?
The picture is from 3 years back at the sports prize distribution ceremony at the preparatory school!