Who is a Teacher?

Honestly as I ask this rhetorical question, I wonder who a Teacher really is. So much pressure is placed on Teachers today, because parents are more involved in their kids’ lives and have so many expectations.

So, who is the Teacher? There’s a saying, “Those who can’t do, teach”. Honestly that’s bullshit.  Teachers can do, and they do. The real question is why does a Teacher teach?

I’m following this interesting thread on Facebook of a friend of mine, who’s had a bad experience at a Parent-Teacher meeting today. Of course, the Teacher’s comments were ill-suited but everyone who’s commenting on that thread is blaming the Teacher! When did people start blaming the Teacher?!!?! In my day (not too long ago!) if I complained to my mother about my Teacher, my mother blamed me – there was something wrong with me, not the Teacher. Now, everything is the Teacher’s fault and the Teacher is to blame. Why? Because parents are paying good money for their kids’ education? Everyone pays good money, it’s all relative – whether you’re going to a Government School, A Semi-Government School or an International School (donations are massive, school fees are ginormous, tuition fees, travel costs, Smiggle and other accessories…the list is endless let’s face it you can’t boil it down to where your child schools – everyone spends, in their own way within their own budgets, on their own kids).

You know, a Teacher does not see the child at home. Children have different facades; different faces they show their Teachers and their parents…and that’s ok. While a mother knows a child best, there’s an angle to that child that a parent will not (perhaps never) know of. I’ve had many incidents in the recent past where parents are flabbergasted at the behaviour of the child in school, because surely my innocent son/daughter cannot and would not do this! This crisis is another ‘hard place’ because while it is painful to the parent (who mostly rejects the Teacher’s insight), it’s also painful to the Teacher. Honestly most Teachers would rather avoid complaining to a parent nowadays, because having to deal with the aftershock and random floating flotsam and jetsam, kinda sucks.

Then there’s the bone of contention concerning Knowledge; the parent and child are more educated that the Teacher. The advent of technology has been a real pain-in-the-butt for a Teacher, let me tell you that. If you’re not a person who’s willing to accept flaws and swallow that pill of Pride, then teaching becomes a tough profession. Everyone’s got a degree, and everyone knows how his/her child should be taught! Then is the Teacher obsolete? Is the tuition Teacher better? More knowledgeable? I am both, and my knowledge base is shared with everyone yet I am questioned too *roll eyes*

Here are a few flip-side scenarios to consider:

  •  A Teacher is a person: Teachers have feelings too, everyone deserves tact when dealing with each other
  • Often Teachers are not driven by a burning passion to teach a bunch of hormonal teenagers with tonnes of attitude, but they do it anyway – it’s your child multiplied by 20, or 30 or sometimes 40!
  • A good and great Teacher has the power to move mountains – I can speak from experience. I had one or two amazing Teachers, each with her own flaws but those were outshone by levelheadedness and practicality. Those women were my role models and motivated me to find my calling as a Teacher.
  • All Teachers have the potential to be great Teachers…but our educational systems do not allow this, additionally practicalities of life such as economic necessities prevent this – so what to do ah?
  • Children are a pain. I have two of my own and I deal with many daily, they can be a pain. Of course you can love these pains fiercely and fight for them with all your might, and struggle and strive for their benefit – but let’s face it, they’re not all angels.
  • Sometimes patience is appreciated, from everyone.

As a parent I understand the worries that can be faced too. My son had a bad experience at his first ever school and that set him a little behind. I blame myself for not identifying this sooner, so fussy mums – I get you too. I’m not saying parents are to blame, because they’re aren’t the only issue. These are the flesh and blood manifestation of all your hopes and dreams, they’ve got to achieve everything you couldn’t, you’ve got to give them all the opportunities you didn’t have – right? Let’s not bring money into this, because as I’ve said money is a fluid matter depending on your socio-economic scenario.

The issue I feel is the barrage of knowledge and the pressure on everyone to learn! Yet we forget how to learn; we forget the joy of trial and error; the wonder of discovery when it’s been ‘discovered’ by you for the first time! I didn’t utilise many of the opportunities I was presented with till I finished my O Levels. My bone of contention with my mother, my school (and life in general) was that I had to learn in Sinhalese and that was hard enough. I became learned a lot later and funnily it was because I stopped everything I was doing and studied, by myself! I was smart, because I read. That’s it. I was not science-y, I wasn’t mathematically inclined. I regret these things now, but is it fair to project this onto my 5 year old and my 3 year old? For me to hound their Teachers and ask them to please broaden their mathematical knowledge because I have a BA and the Teacher only has a Diploma?!? I don’t know.

Schools and education are really overrated, because honestly we take so little from our academic knowledge into the real world. What we do remember are the social experiences that we’ve had…isn’t that enough? To have a good time? To laugh, play and enjoy childhood? School-goers are children too…do they deserve this? If a child can get by in the world, and live a happy and fulfilling life isn’t that enough? Some of the most educated kids in the best universities commit suicide, because they’re emotionally stunted; they’re unable to perform basic functions on their own – they’ve been busy book learners. Is that the projected trajectory of my children??! Success juxtaposed with emptiness??

All I do know is that everyone needs to be open minded. If we can be liberal about new methods of learning and technology, we can be broad minded about people too. We can accept the trials and tribulations of every villager necessary to raise our kids (because it takes a village to raise a child – in case you missed that cliche) and help each person along the way. A little help can go a long long way, not only for your child but for everyone.

Also, our education systems need to be revamped, but with all that marching on the streets nowadays let me leave that can unopened…for now 🙂

Confessions of a Fatty

Chubby. Big-made. Fat. Generously proportioned. Huge. Cuddly. Wide. These adjectives have never bothered me. I have been ‘big-made’ almost my entire life, my skin is more-or-less impervious to these terms…

As a child my cheeks have been squeezed so much, they ceased to be my cheeks. I have been told that ‘puppy-fat’ will diminish. I have been compared to thinner cousins, and asked (in shock),”how come you’re not like them?” My weight has never been a non-issue (to me), until recently when it became a threat. When that cushion and padding became something that threatened to ‘do me in’. Literally.

I’m writing this because obesity is an issue, and while I am definitely not slim nor thin right now I’m almost 20kgs lighter than what I was just a mere year ago. I’m writing this because I know many women, like myself, who are tired and exhausted, and find immense comfort in food. I’m writing this because I want my daughter to know that I tried to be healthy and fit, for her sake and her brother’s. I’m writing this because I want women out there to know that I never thought I’d be that girl; the one who counts calories and exercises religiously – but I am, and I am glad.

Being pregnant is every fat girl’s dream. Seriously. My first pregnancy came along just after months of starvation and forced periods of quasi-exercise in order to please Uncle Michael and the plethora of people who would attend my wedding. Also, vainly I felt one must look a little pretty on the most-important-day-of-your-life thingy. I became a pro at the dieting game. I walked on Marine Drive, because you need some exercise no? I was however, monumentally lazy and dieting was just convenient and easy. To hell with the hangry headaches. Anyway, pregnancy was a dream. Food. Everywhere food. Morning sickness was minimal, plus did I mention the food? And no guilt trips! From anyone! Then I got Gestational Diabetes and refused to put myself on Insulin. So I annoyingly put myself on yet another diet, and walked a bit mainly because the health of my unborn child depended on this. Breastfeeding brought on a hunger like no other. Maybe it’s just me, but man did I pack on the pounds. I’d be tired, sleepy and ravenous. Before I even thought of losing the baby weight, I was pregnant again. Running around behind a one-year-old increased my stamina a little, but the trend of eating-for-comfort continued.

I can now look back and, in retrospect, state that after my daughter was born the quality of my life deteriorated. By the time my daughter was 2 years old I was 98kgs. I was the heaviest I’d ever been; before I gave birth to my daughter I only weighed only 96kg. I hid my weight. I began wearing my mother’s old clothes, too ashamed to go out and buy new clothes. I didn’t let myself be photographed. I avoided going out. Weddings were the worst. I think we avoided so many weddings, we don’t get invited to any more. When well meaning strangers commented on my weight I’d get defensive and say something like, “fat people are happy people”. Clearly I was not happy. I’d sit with a book, after having a dinner of soup at 6pm (because I’m trying to lose weight no?), and then stuff my face with McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or KFC just before my husband would come home, and then proceed to elaborately hide the paper bags and boxes from the prying eyes of Kusuma, who would tattle on me to my mother.

If no one saw me eating, then it didn’t count. Yes yes laugh at my stupidity.

In November 2015, I had a cold that wouldn’t go away. It was the 4th or 5th in the line of infections and I was sick and tired of inhalers, and medication. My colds and coughs melded into each other and would not go away. I saw a plethora of Doctors, to no avail. My mother took me to see a grumpy old doctor in Wellawatta, for whom we had to wait 2 hours to consult. I have never been yelled at, like I was by that Doctor. I never went to see him again (my fear of him is strong). He told me that my PCOS was worse. I was a likely candidate for Ovarian Cancer (because I couldn’t remember the last time I had my period); he told me the lack of menstruation put me at higher risk for a heart attack; he said I was obviously pre-diabetic; he told me my colds and coughs were because my lungs were weak and there was so much fat in there it was probably an issue; he told me I should put my affairs in order because if I continue on this trend I would never see 40, and I should try to live unto 35.

Now I exercise with a Personal Trainer thrice a week, and I run twice a week. I don’t binge eat. When I eat from McDonald’s of KFC now, I purge. I take my Metformin regularly, to control my PCOS because I’m no longer Pre-diabetic. My cramps every month are gone, my cycle is back to normal. My underarms are not black and lumpy. My sweat doesn’t smell sickly sweet. My neck doesn’t have as many rolls as it used to. My hump between my shoulders is almost gone. I longer buy 2XL clothes, but L sized clothes. I haven’t gotten a cold since June. I can wear my wedding ring again. I have more energy than I’ve ever had. I’m not on any more crazy diets. I still enjoy food, I just know how hard it is to lose it. I need to exercise every weekday or I feel fat. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I work out with my 5 year old and my 3 year old because I want them to know that while I am doing this for myself, I’m also doing this because I want to show them what it means to be healthy.

For the mother who thinks she has no time; for the mother who is exhausted at the end of the day; for the mother secretly binging when her children and husband are in bed; for the mother who cannot wear a single piece of clothing she owned pre-pregnancy; for the mother whose kids have started school and doesn’t know where to start – I’ve been there. I feel you. It’s so hard sometimes. Many women don’t struggle with weight after childbirth , they manage to lose most of it (miraculously sometimes). Many women lose weight when they breastfeed. Many women are already very conscious of their weight and size and take steps to mitigate a sudden weight gain. Yet there are those of us who don’t. Who can’t. Who forget about the weight because everything is new and overwhelming and at that moment your weight seems like the least important thing. Please know that it isn’t. Know that you are not done. You need to be there for your kids. To run and play, to shout and scream, to climb a few trees, jump a few trampolines. You may be older but you have to give them the illusion of youth and vibrance so that they go out there and they’re active. I didn’t do that initially. I don’t have many regrets, but I regret not starting a little sooner.

I hope this helps.

Holy shit my kids start ‘big school’ tomorrow.

Yes. Tomorrow. Uniforms, socks, shoes, the works. They may be in the Infant School, but it’s basically a new thing. A different concept. Bells, more rules, more older kids in one place than they’ve ever seen in their lifetime (granted, it’s been a short lifetime).

Given my past experiences with schools and educational institutions, putting my kids into a school has been a breeze. I thought I’d be blacklisted as the ‘mother-who-had-no-school-spirit-and-wrote-that-blog-dissing-her-school’ and no school would give my kids a chance!

There are so many different thoughts whizzing through my head right now. Things I may have forgotten to do or have done; worries about this new schedule; worries about them settling in; what happens to teachers’ kids; is this the ‘best’ fit for them…endless. Like bees. Buzzing in my brain. A hive of buzzes.

I spent the last ten minutes watching a series of videos. Each video shows less babyness. Less chubby cheeks. Fewer lisps and mispronunciations. They aren’t my little babies. They’re not babies. They’re little pains in my butt, whom I love and adore. I wish I could bottle up those memories and relive them, and appreciate them more in the moment. Not just watch the videos on repeat. I wish I could tell the me-of-a-few-years-ago to take more pictures and make more videos. Great. Now I’m tearing. Sigh.

This is a terrible and blubbery post. If any of my students’ read this, they’d massacre me for having no structure and no cohesion.

I know this is a recurring trope of mine, but parenting is so hard. There’s nothing ‘right’. I’m an advocate of going with your gut and ignoring the aunties out there, but by gosh you’re blady fumbling in the dark a lot no? I enthusiastically purchased all my kids’ school books and began, with gusto, to cover them and paste stickers and name tags on them. Somewhere down the line I realised that despite loving to cover books and engage in the whole shebang, this was kinda sucky. That killed my buzz. The books lost interest and the polythene covers were honestly not my best work. What I’m trying to say, in the most convoluted manner, is that the little things are what we focus on instead of the big picture – and I don’t know if that’s good.

In conversation with a mummy-friend recently, we deduced that parenting today is harder than before. There are more social evils at home. I think it trickles down from massive urbanisation and the technological boom, but raising kids (fewer in number than the average parent in the 1920s) is tough now. Another friend confessed that she had had enough of her career and wanted to stay at home now, I told her about my depressive angsty time at home. How I felt useless and angry at everyone but myself because here I was making the ultimate sacrifice and staying at home with my kids, and no one appreciated me! Of course, this is just me and I go through many phases in my life and I needed to be useful. Work was the best thing that happened to me because it gave me purpose and I think it’s made me a better mother. I advocated to her the importance of utilising her education and her knowledge and to work because she could. Anyway, I digress.

My kids start school tomorrow. Here we go.

Bullying and illusions of control

You cannot control may things. While there is also a lot you can control, there’s plenty you cannot. 

These days I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can’t control. I’ve also begun to wonder what I can do to feel a little more in control when it seems I cannot be. Haven’t you had that feeling? When you know you’re not really in control, but you like to give yourself the illusion that you are? Feelings like these really appeal to me; it could be the sign of something deeper. 

I was just sent a link to this post. It reads similarly to mine. Very similarly. So alike it is, that I am flattered. I’m also haunted by the fact that I may have taught this child, but I can’t put a finger on it. No actually, I don’t want to. (See what I mean about control?) 

Bullying is a phenomenon that’s so hard to control. I’m not going to expound on it in this post, because there’s no point but what is frightening is that synonyms to bullying are present everywhere. 

Presently I’m experiencing something similar with a family member. My heart goes out to this person who’s being stressed out by something she cannot control. You can’t control who’s in your family, you’ve got to suck it up and deal with them. Right? I’ve learned the hard way that there is no point attempting to change the mind of my grandmother on certain matters that are fundamentally important to me. I wonder how can I be her granddaughter? Sigh. Of course it’s no big deal, because this is an element of life one cannot control and hence must accept as inevitable. The bullying though. That’s got to suck. How does one attempt to paint a façade over being bullied by near and dear ones? 

This is why sometimes I agree with my mother, she says (and I paraphrase) ‘sometimes some friends are better than family’ and I agree wholeheartedly. You’re not born into a family of like-minded people. However you make friends with like-minded folk, who perhaps get you more than your family do. Some may think this strange. Sometimes I do, because of the whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ cliché. But when I think in retrospect, perhaps it’s true. I know my friends have got my back, I know my parents have my back…my brother will probably complain to me but he’ll have my back…my grandmother though 😂😂

the inevitable

There’s been a lot of death around me lately. I specify, me, because I don’t know if it’s been the same for you.

I lost a student. There’s been a flood. A close friend’s death anniversary looms ahead. There is death. It is inevitable. You’ll never know when it comes.

Yes, I’m a bit maudlin right now. Another student recently told me, ‘what’s the point in life when I might die tomorrow?’ Of course I combatted that rhetorical question with an arsenal of optimism, hope and positivity. Perhaps I’m surrounded by too many moody teenagers these days, or maybe it’s just that time of month, but I’ve been thinking about death a lot.

Of course, no one is ready to die. No one wants it per se. I don’t. I haven’t lived enough yet. I haven’t taught my children enough…yet. I doubt even when they’re 20 I’d still not be done, but still. Death frightens me, as it does everyone, because of its uncertainty. You have the poets and writers who’ve explored the topic senselessly – of course. Harry Potter survived death, in a way. I’d like my death to be like that. Meet a sentient being who gives me the choice of moving on or staying back. I’d also like the maturity to realise when I really need to move on. Right now, could I move on?

I seriously hope I don’t die in a few days cos this damn post will be used as evidence for my apparently obvious suicide. *rolleyes*

I need to teach my daughter to be less of a brat; I need to ensure my son is less of an introvert; I need to make sure my husband doesn’t spend his life in front of a screen; I need to act again; I should write a book; I need to read for a Masters degree; I need to look after my parents or at least teach my brother how to; I need to see my brother get married.

That about sums up my list of absolute-essentials-to-do-before-i-die.

 

A grown up ‘pandithaya’

I’ve always been a pandithaya.

Also known as a brat, smart aleck, smart ass, mouthy..you get the gist.

I’ve never really been ashamed of this fact, it’s been a part of me for so long I’ve learned to love it. However, I was always under the impression that I’d eventually grow out of it.

I haven’t.

Earlier today I bumped to an extremely interesting gentleman, whom I’ve impressed as a school-going debater with my smart aleck comments. Something about gender roles, when he had a ponytail. I laughed out loud as we reminisced because…honestly…that’s so totally me!

In the course of my work with students I come across many such pandithayas, and it’s interesting because as a Teacher students like this are supposed to be a pain in the ass. They’re not to me, because I know they’ll grow up to be someone like me…and I’m not that bad once you get to know me 🙂

The thing about pandithayas is that we’re all pundits (i think that’s the root of the sinhalese word). We start off on any given topic armed with a substantial amount of information, and then sometimes we just can’t help ourselves we go overboard. Either we get blind sided by our own pomposity or our egos are puffed by an ardent audience member we always take it a notch further. That’s when it all comes crashing down (Humpty Dumpty seems an apt comparison here). Obviously someone who knows more, or bullshits better always calls us out. I think a true smart aleck will recover from a telling off with the nonchalance that he/she started said BS initially (that’s what I do anyway), and then the whole episode is just another cog in the wheel of experience, and said pundit only learns more on the fine art of pandithaya-ism. This trait I’ve seen in students and while I find it hilarious, I also realise that I’ll probably never ‘grow out’ of it.

Just a little food for thought that came my way when I should have gone to bed about half an hour ago.

10 signs you’re married to a Gamer

I wrote this some time ago for a magazine my friend was to edit; somehow the magazine never got published and I forgot about it. Came across it this evening and thought because tomorrow is of Valentine’s Day will publish it as a sign of my love for the Geek 🙂 

Playstation, Xbox, Wii U, DS…if it’s a console, I’ve heard of it and I probably have it in my house. Not because I am an enthusiast, but my husband is. Of course, this was a passion that I have had to contend with over the past 12 years of being with him. Now it’s just a part of the package of the man I’ve married. Turns out I’ve become immune to certain elements of the ‘deal’, and was reminded of the funny aspects of it recently. So if you’re dating a Gamer, just got married to one, or your beloved is considering becoming a Gamer, here are a few things to look out for. Consider this a disclaimer. Facts of life you’re going to have to accept as part and parcel of the man you love, along with the eternal toilet seat up, the burps and excessive body hair.

  1. Headphones

Very expensive headphones were purchased, ‘for the sake of the family’, to save us from the incessant gaming noise. Now I’ve realised it was to save him from me. My requests and demands literally fall on deaf ears. Sometimes, I think he ignores me intentionally because if I say something like, ‘your tea is ready’ up he comes. Yet if I complain, ‘you forgot to put your towel out’ he doesn’t move a muscle. So yes, headphones are a sign that your nagging is about to be ignored. Fight it ladies. Fight for the right to nag. Say no to headphones.

  1. No sleep

They say sleep is for the weak, ‘they’ have probably met a Gamer. Sleep is not for the hardcore. My husband gives up sleeping for gaming. Apparently it’s the best time to game. This man, who was dozing off at 10pm while watching Game of Thrones, stays up till 3am…gaming! Logic and reason fail to explain why this is really a bad idea, so I just go with it (and post a whole bunch of stuff on his Facebook wall about the importance of sleep).

  1. Dinner/date night conversations

If most of your dinner conversations revolve around him telling you why ‘Arkham Knight’ is so amazing, then my child you and I are in the same boat. I now know the backstory to ‘Witcher 3’, ALL the Batman games and why the next Halo game won’t be as good as the previous games because a different developer did it. For a week he moaned about how Vesemir was killed by Imlerith! Vese-who? Imle-what?

  1. You know lots of useless information

Heard of Bungie? Naughty Dog? Rocksteady? They’re game developers. Kratos ring any bells? How about Princess Peach, Yoshi and Luigi? Yennefer? Ciri? They’re all characters. You probably know most of the DC and Marvel characters because of the barrage of comic book movies these days, so I won’t go into that.

Lately I dream of my husband shouting, “THRALL COMING MACHANG!” – that’s cos he’s really into Destiny these days, and Thrall are some form of enemy. Personally, I now hate that word. It’s amazing how his English is generally grammatically correct, but his gaming language would kill the Queen.

  1. Your kids consider ‘watching-thathi-gaming’ an acceptable form of recreation

‘What shall we do today?’ I ask my four year old son, who’s just woken up from his nap. “Watch Thathi play Batman!” which will be echoed by my two year old daughter, who will do a jig and then run off behind the brother.

Really, need I say any more?

  1. Best friends are gamers

My best friends are those I spent the last few years of school with. My husband is in touch with a maximum of 3 friends from school. His bosom buddies are all introverted gamers, who are enthusiastic extroverts when they meet up and then yell at each other in gamer gibberish. ‘Tis fun. They boast about how tolerant their wives and girl friends are. If only they knew. If only they knew.

  1. Money spent on games, not groceries

The only way I know how much is being spent on games is because I am the one who accepts the numerous packages from the courier, and pay the duty (till he comes home and reimburses me, of course!). It is an expensive passion is all I have to say. Sigh.

  1. Core leave/annual leave is taken depending on what games have been released

“Uncharted is out in September! It’s a good thing I’m on leave then” – coincidence? Nah.

  1. Non gamer visitors are ignored

Literally. As if they’re not there. The headphones are on, and they eyes are directed towards the TV. No one else, except the kids, is taken any notice of.

  1. You suck at being a Gamer

I am really bad. No one likes to play with me. I cannot walk with my head up in Halo, because I don’t really get the whole up-is-down and down-is-up controller thing, and even in Mario Bros. I’m always the last. I put it down to the universe deciding that my husband is enough Gamer for the two of us.

 

Yes, I like to complain. I like to nag. I also love my husband. While he’s a passionate Gamer, he’s also a gentle giant of a husband and a loving father. He games, not smokes. He stays up, at home; he’s not out drinking. I am grateful for my small blessings…but a girl’s got to complain 😉