Friday, March 25, 2011

A teacher's high

I teach the numerically gifted of Class 5.

My eligibility? Well, let’s say this assignment goes a begging every year.

Maths was not my favourite subject in school. But I would have you fooled today.

When it was first suggested that I take this on, all I saw was the challenge, quietly telling myself I would figure it all out. It’s another thing that my band of Number Crunchers believes I was born to teach the Fibonacci sequence.

They troop into my Resource Centre every year, clutching brand new Maths Club notebooks, a boxful of sharpened pencils under one arm, eyes a shade wide. They have been identified to possess an aptitude for the logical and have parents who declared a whole hearted support for the program. Some are even familiar with the Soroban and Vedic Maths. Without losing much time and very soon at that, we are a bunch, regularly biting off a whole lot more than we can chew.

We start with the fascinating story of numbers. We marvel at the audacity and clarity of the legendary Mathematical minds. There is a lot of scribbling, poring, and manipulating. I know we are on track when I begin to hear the long suffering sighs of their class teachers as they watch the gigantic magic squares materialize on their green boards. Before long, this lot wants to miss other activities to work on a puzzle or a pattern or a sequence. They puff up their little torsos and prattle how a zero is not “nothing” but an “absence of something”. They will tell you a thing or two about the Sieve of Eratosthenes, rules of divisibility, painted cube question, pole in water working and why we place that darned x or 0 in double digit multiplication; short of the universal truths...they are hearing a lot.

As we progress, I am becoming the wiser too. I realize how much the children love to learn. They are intellectually resilient and quite up to the high demands placed on them. In fact, they mirror you right back. There is something altogether unique about this class. Their similar aptitude; that ease with numbers, and the residence we are all forced to take out of the box lends itself to a cohesive group effort. We make short shrift of several topics. I had begun in the lead but there are all too suddenly these four feet geeks stamping all over my toes. We happily and routinely miss our play/break time to deal with work sheets. Inside my huge, well lit centre, they are a maze of small heads bent over the Dienes’ block but when I gaze up into space, I see an array of outstanding professionals...there is a geomatics engineer, photo grammetrist, geodesist, environmental mathematician, robotics engineer, cryptologist, inventory strategist, an actuary, attorney, economist and air traffic control the capsule advances, our alliance becomes stronger. They begin to appear at my door out of nowhere, “Ma’am, I have a doubt here.”

The year goes by in a blur; school is such a roller coaster of a place. Before long, I am compiling a list of the mathematically inclined for the incoming sections. Another set of the number happy! My graduating batch has long ridden into the senior wing’s horizon until one fine day, during a regular Parent Teacher Meeting; I sense a tall figure shuffling in my peripheral vision. It is Rohan, precisely five years from when I gaped at him, calculating in air! Today he is clutching two papers.

I flip the first over, it is a Maths question paper in Greek! As I reach out for the second, he leans over shyly and points at his score in Maths. I look up and see his Dad in the shadows at the door.

I have trouble comprehending his paper but I can read the two smiles perfectly.

It is hard to explain.

You have to be a teacher to know that high.

1 comment:

Kartik said...

At University in Washington, I was in a math class taught by a no-nonsense woman by the name of Das Gupta She was a tough cookie. We all joked that no one had ever seen her smile.

Her class was a killer. Having trouble and falling behind, I came to see her one Spring day during her office hours.

Her intense gaze focused on my assignment, without looking up, she said, "You're Indian."


"But you were brought up here."

Before I could reply, she burst out laughing.

"I can tell by the way you do math!"