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A Teacher's Missing Connect With Students
by Vijai Pant

The Parent Teacher Meetings (PTMs) in the school come with their own set of problems for me. With more than three decades of teaching behind me, it is not that I’m not able to deal with parents patiently and politely, something which is expected, and rightly so, of the teaching fraternity. Difficulties arise if the child does not accompany the parent, despite the school’s instructions.

The standard question, “How’s he in English?” is fended easily enough with the help of the class tests records, but if the parent comes up with, “Otherwise, (meaning besides marks) how’s he in the class? Does he answer questions? What about his class behaviour?” these leave me fumbling for the ‘right’ words to describe the child’s response. Unable to zero in on the child, I try to wriggle out of the situation with a counter. “Why’s he not here?” The parent, put on the defensive, gives a lame excuse and decides to co-operate in the matter by describing his son’s looks, but my dead memory refuses to ignite.

Barring the very few who create an impression- whether right or wrong that’s another matter- on me, my memory is a clean slate so far as children’s names are concerned.

My problems get compounded if I happen to come across such a ‘low profile’ child’s parents outside the school, say in a social do. Then I would employ the tried and tested method of making perfectly safe and generalized statements, giving me ample room to revise my opinion about the child, as per the feeds provided by the parents during the course of the conversation. 

Using the same modus operandi, I’m overcoming my porous memory during the Parent Teacher Meetings too. I now avoid extremes and take to the middle ground while briefing the parents who come unescorted by their wards. Without blinking an eyelid I respond that the child is OK, but has the ability to do better. That leaves me smug and the parents satisfied. I see no point in unsuccessfully exerting my mind to recollect the child being discussed. I agree with you that it is not very honest, but it is the only approach to save myself the blushes.

Now, when there is the school’s annual inspection coming up, I’m on to this extremely difficult mission of remembering as many names as possible of my class children. I know you would suggest me to get busy in preparing my lesson plans and teaching aids and update my knowledge in the topics to be taught, like the rest of my colleagues are doing.

Actually, in the inspection last year the visiting officer had generously complemented me for my lucid explanation, but had tempered it with the need for a closer bond between the teacher and the taught.

This time, when my lesson will be observed, I’ve been suggested to call students by their names while interacting with them to establish that apparently missing connect.

I wonder will I be able to do it. Still, please wish me luck.