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Amazing Memories of My Mathematics Teacher

Umesh is a freelance writer contributing his creative writings on varied subjects in various sites and portals in the internet.

Introduction

During our childhood when we went to school then after the parents our next guides or mentors were our teachers. At that time we were in a growing stage and we used to look up to them for guidance and used to get very much impressed by their grace and the way they presented their teachings to us and asked us to follow the lessons and do our homework. I believe most of us would be remembering our teachers in that fundamental way only. During the course of schooling, we must have seen so many teachers teaching so many subjects and taking our classes on various topics. We may not be remembering all of them but there are a few whose characteristics are engraved in our memory so deeply that we remember them for our lifetime. My mathematics teacher about whom I will be going to illustrate in this article was like that. I still remember him and all his gestures and behavioural patterns even today when I am crossing the age of 70.

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First day in class XI

I passed my high school in the year 1966 and then I took admission in class XI in the same school. Having secured good scores in High school in my science subjects, I chose the science stream with Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics as the main subjects and a few languages as subsidiary subjects. I had an interest in mathematics and was having a fancy for it.

The session started and our classes started in the usual way and one by one we got introduced to our new teachers who were going to teach us different subjects for the coming two years (class XI and XII).

So on the first day itself, we got introduced to three teachers before the recess and after it, the class assembled for the Mathematics period and the Mathematics teacher entered the classroom. The way he looked at all of us standing in an erect position staring at the blackboard and very seriously staring at us also with a look that frightened many of us as there was no smile on his face. We had heard about the Mathematics teacher of class XI and XII that he was a strict person with shrewd gestures but there is a difference between hearing and seeing and what now we found on that first day was that he appeared much shrewder and much serious than what we heard about him.

His serious personality created a pin drop silence in the classroom and except for a few breathing sounds of some students there was practically no sound in the background and we all were praying to God that let him speak something so that we get relaxed from this stressful situation having a silent tension over our heads.

School environment in those times

I am talking about the things around 55-56 years back when the school environment was totally different than what we are observing today around us. In those times, beating the students by the teacher was an ordinary action and no one opposed it including the parents. In fact, some parents were very happy when the teachers had beaten their children when they did some mistake in this school or did not attend to their studies seriously. It is interesting to note that our parents were taking sides with the teachers. Whenever we complained to them that the teacher had beaten us they took it so lightly. In fact, many students did not disclose those beating instances to their parents fearing that they will further degrade them in the matter. It is difficult to understand that thing in today's pretext but it was the truth of that time.

So, as I explained that beating was a common thing in those times and many teachers were always ready to beat the students whenever they did some notorious action or even didn't show interest in the studies. Students also did take this thing very sportingly and kept quiet while the teacher beat them. There was no other option also.

One interesting thing that I still recollect is that at that time if we were roaming in the market in the evening time and if any of our teachers was seen by us in the market then we either avoided that lane itself or moved straight with our head bent and not seeing to the teacher's face. You can well understand how much we were afraid of them even in the public places.

Toughest teacher

Within a few days of starting our classes, all of us very well understood that our Mathematics teacher was the toughest of the lot and it was not easy to withstand his strict and disciplinary attitude by any ordinary student who always likes to do some small mischievous actions or making whispering sounds or doing notorious activities in the classroom.

The fear was clearly seen on the faces of the students when he entered the classroom. The reason for fear was not only gestures and attitude but the main fear was that we had heard from the senior students that when he became angry with a student then he used to beat him for a long time without bothering whether the student gets much humiliated and physically hurt.

Soon we witnessed a scene that made us understand why students were fearing him so much. One day when class was going on one student outside ran across the classroom door and he was shouting also totally unaware that classes were going on in the surroundings. Our mathematics teacher heard that yelling and just kept the chalk in his hand on the table and with a rapid pace went out of the classroom and followed the student and grabbed him on his collar and then he brought him inside the classroom and started beating him. We all were much terrified and frightened by this scene that he was not tolerating any indiscipline from any student whether he was in the class or was running outside it. This was an unprecedented scene for us and most of us were breathing very slowly lest he might even come to us for making a loud breathing sound.

The information that he usually beat the student for a longer time also came true as the normal beating which we have seen as many times was for half a minute or a maximum of one minute but this guy had beaten this student for 3-4 minutes. It was really torturous and very fearful for all of us.

The daily ordeal

Our classes were being conducted in the usual fashion and every day when the Mathematics class started the atmosphere of the class became too silent and too orderly as students appeared to be very disciplined and controlled. Soon the half-yearly examinations were held and many of the students of our class failed in Mathematics that is they got less than 35 marks out of 100 maximum marks. This made the students sad and disappointed as Mathematics was such a subject that if you failed in it then you do not hope much even in the next attempt because if the concepts are not understood well then there was no use in studying further and some students were seriously thinking of changing their subjects and opt for some other subjects out of Arts/Humanities stream in the Higher Secondary by the end of the first year as there was a possibility to do so.

After the half-yearly examination, our Mathematics teacher became more strict and tough in his behaviour and was telling us that if we did not study seriously then all of us were going to fail in the coming annual examinations of class XI and that was a piece of bad news to all of us. By that time some 3-4 students had already got the beatings by him on one mistake or another and the other students were fearful as no one knew when one's turn would come. I also tried to keep my gestures and face patterns as polite and gentle as I could so that I remain in his good books. Unfortunately, man proposes and God disposes and one day while one of the students did some mischief in the class and I could not control my laughter, he first beat him and then saw me with an angry look and before he could summon me, I stood up and bent my head low. It was my sheer luck that he did not come near me but told me that if I repeated that type of thing in future then he would dig a hole where I stood and then through that he would push me down till I reach America (at that time we used the word America for the US) and then I would remain there only. At that time I couldn't fully understand what he meant by that but later I realised that as America and India were almost two opposite points on the globe it made sense to tell that if a pit is dug straight down from India it would eventually one day reach America. Of course, this proposition ignored the molten lava inside the earth between these two points. Anyway, I was so frightened that tears came to my eyes and I inside my heart took a vow that for till the end of the next year I should not even venture smiling in the Mathematics class.

Preparing for the final year examination

That day I narrowly escaped beating by my teacher and today when I recollect I find the reason for that because whenever he asked questions, I always answered correctly as compared to the other students who could not answer and even stammered in between. Probably he could make out that this particular student is doing good in Mathematics. At that time I find myself very lucky that he did not beat me.

I was giving a lot of time in studies of Mathematics so I was doing good in that and I hoped that in mathematics I would be scoring good marks so that will pull up my overall score in my 12th class (final year exam of higher secondary) and then I would get admission in a good college for undertaking my UG degree in science.

Final year exam

The academic year was ending and our examination dates were announced. Our exam papers were mostly in the morning session from 10 AM to 1 PM and almost on the alternate days we had some exams and our papers were going to be finished in the next 15 days. The practicals were scheduled after that after a gap of 5-6 days as some external examiner was supposed to come to conduct them. That time we used to have examination papers for a period of three hours in which we had to answer generally 6 to 7 questions out of the 10-12 in the examination paper. At that time multiple-choice questions were not in use and we had to answer our answers elaborately by writing them on answer copybooks provided to us in the examination hall. If the answer copybook was fully used by us then we were provided additional ones to be filled ad then attached to the first answer copybook.

Just a day before the examinations were to start we went to school to find out where our seat was located so that the next day we straight go there and sit down and start taking our exams. I found that my seat was in the hall in the corner of the school building.

The Maths paper

The examination started and one by one we were clearing the papers. About 6 days later it was the turn of the Mathematics paper and as I had done good studies and hard work in that subject of my choice I was hopeful that I will be doing good in that one.

We entered the examination hall and took our respective seats and soon Mathematics paper was handed over to us along with the answer copybooks. When I went through the paper I was having much excitement as all the questions were almost well known to me and it was only a matter of time that I have to write them in my answer copybook within the stipulated three hours time.

I started to write the answers in my copybook and was so much engrossed in the work that I was not aware of what was happening around me. About one and half hours passed and I was doing well and seeing my speed I was happy that I was going to complete them within time maybe even well before the time. Suddenly I felt someone coming to me and was telling something in my ears. I feel distracted and when I saw then I found that it was none other than my mathematics teacher. I was a bit afraid because he was not the invigilator in our hall and his duty was elsewhere. It seemed he wanted to tell me something in private. I was surprised. He was a very reserved fellow. He never talked with students like that. I gave him my full attention. Actually, he came here to tell me that there are some students who were sitting around and were simply copying what I am writing and that would be a matter of mass copying in future if the examiner finds the material same in all the copy books so he told me that please hide whatever you are writing and don't show it very clear to the other students and with that he left the room in a hurried pace in his usual style.

I was a bit shocked by this incident and it seemed possible that if someone is overseeing my copybook from that distance then he will be able to copy my answers. I knew that I was the best student in the class as regards mathematics subject and probably some students might peep into my copy books and simply copy but I never knew that this could have a far-reaching effect like getting it found by an examiner who raises doubt for mass copying and then I also get punished along with those students.

That day I realised that probably the teacher liked me and was happy with me because I was doing good in Mathematics and that day he came and saved me from all sort of problems which could arise in future. I was much impressed by him then and his respect increased in my eyes manifold.

He is always there in my memories and I remember him and salute him from time to time even he is not physically present here. Who can forget such concerned teachers?


Teacher

© 2021 Umesh Chandra Bhatt

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