They’re cute, sure. They’re huggable. They manage to sneak their way into your heart long before you’re aware that you’re foraging in your kitchen just to give them something to eat. That is, in exhange for a smile, a dance or a reenactment of the latest craze or antic in the classroom. Children are so innocent-looking, so unadult-like and so gullible. But then again, doesn’t the last adjective also apply to us? Just kidding. But maybe, I am not.
I have a friend who used to teach in a posh pre-school. She is married now, living in Seattle and in the meantime, not teaching. A graduate of both Fine Arts and Interior Design, she used to teach Arts. All was relatively well, except that she was sharing the art world to young kids who happen to be mostly grandchildren of the rich and famous in the country. Bratty types, am sure you’re familiar.
During her teaching days, my friend would recount her ordeals, errr, the hazards of her vocation. According to her, the kids were usually noisy, jumping and running around like pets unleashed and shouting, “I’m telling on you to Miss (my friend).” This was a typical scenario whenever the class was in the middle of a seatwork, say, paper cutting or pasting pictures on an illustration board. Now, my friend was supposed to project control, if not authority, over this herd of very young students. She’s not supposed to be cowed by little tots, be they in line for millions of shares and costly mansions. Undaunted – that’s how a teacher is supposed to be.
So, what my friend would do was to rap on her table – the one on the front, or, the one in the middle – depending on the arrangement required for the art or project they’re working on. Rap it with what, am not sure, haha (Long bamboo sticks were the norm three decades ago, but it’s been prohibited in the country for years now). According to friend, rapping’s a must before delivering the admonition, the sermon or whatever threat or plea was called for by the occasion. Then, the teacher must say the STOP word in a commanding manner – loud and powerful enough to make the children do just that.
At this point in my friend’s narration, I would usually ask her, “So, do they go back to their seats and turn quiet?” Her face would become contorted and she’d quip, “They just look at the teacher as though a lizard (gecko) has fallen from the ceiling and then they go on with their noises and their jumping. As if nothing happened.” Then, an exasperated sigh from she-who-believes-in-the-power-of-pedagogy. I would then hold her hand in a gesture of pure sympathy. My friend, by the way, is an extremely pretty woman. But I guess, that didn’t help her situation with the children any.
Our own mother was also a teacher for many years. In our town, many families consider themselves indebted to her because she taught several of their members how to read. It was a tough feat in a small, sleepy town like ours. For years, I saw how our mother’s former pupils, all grown up then, would greet her like a long-lost relative, with deep love and awe for a former mentor. There were days when we’d be in the street and a child about eight years of age would dart across from nowhere and hug my mother, in broad daylight. It was very touching to witness such loyalty – unprompted and from a child.
Mother taught for more than 20 years. She really was an advocate of education. She’s been resting peaceably for a couple of years now, but all of us, her children, knew she’d fight tooth and nail so that young minds could be filled with good things and enlightened, so to speak. Once, when mother was still strong and active with her teaching duties, I observed her in the classroom. I sat in one of the small chairs at the back for two hours. Need I say that it was painful to watch the whole goings-on? Okay, it was excruciating. Afterwards, I asked the teacher, our mother, “How do you that? How can you be patient with them? They seem so ruthless.”
I thought our dear mother would discuss about patience being a virtue and about children being heaven’s chosen, blessed creatures. She was rather religious, by the way. Instead, she looked at me in all seriousness, as though I had much to learn in this life. Our mother said, “Sometimes, I want to bang one or two small heads on the wall but I know I cannot. So, I just go to my corner and bang my own softly.” I was flabbergasted. I mean, coming from our very own mother! She’s not one to say harsh words. More often, she’s very sparing and careful with them, believing fiercely that the less said, the better. But then, I hardly knew our mother. Not then and not long after she’s gone. With her, there remain miles to cover. But at least, I learned a little about the little creatures who were part of her life for a long time and who obviously adored her.
My own encounters and yes, skirmishes, with children are often and aplenty. I do not have one of my own, but that hardly saves me from the trouble. Where I live, children abound in the street, before and after their classes. Unfortunately, there are two doorbells for our house – the one on the right is for ringing people upstairs and the one on the left is for those downstairs. There are usually only four or five of us in residence and it hardly matters whatever part of the house one happens to be in. Both bells make terrible rackets, especially if you hear the ringing from the inside. Three consecutive, hard presses on the buttons are supposed to shake anyone inside, out of his seat and of his wit. And children, being themselves, that is what they usually do – make merry with the bells. For fun, of course.
Those children are the same kids who call me Ate (older sister), ask me for help with their quarrels and sometimes, I even treat some of them to ice cream or candies. No matter. They still llllooovve to press those buttons – incessantly. The girls would usually pick the tallest among them to do the act and then, they would run away to see if anybody’s coming. With the boys, it’s a different trick. Usually, two small ones would conspire to carry out the derring-do while the others would excitedly look on. The first kid would bend so the other could climb over his back and onto his shoulder. Then, he would stand up high enough for the boy on his back to reach and happily press the button. Presto! The noise produced would be loud enough for the neighbors to also get out of their houses and see young boys sprinting away after their trip with the doorbells.
Over the years, the family members have more or less, lived with this kind of disturbance. We have not exactly come to terms with it. From time to time, we still find it outrageous. But generally, I’d say, we have kept our cool over this… Kids are kids and doorbells within reach are like water pools in an open area. They would always want to mess with them. Now, my idea is this: Individually, children can be talked into being good and behaving properly. I mean, just look at the face of a child – docile, needy and winsome. With company, however, a kid becomes a little different. Two curious minds working together usually manage to come up with a little, uh, imagination. Now, more than two is considered society. And society, as we all know, invariably and inevitably entangles itself with, uh, sticky situations.
Physically, they really look the part – little cherubims and seraphims, usually on the verge of tears or laughter. And oh, how they slide and cuddle onto your bosom. Children need our attention, understanding and guidance in this complex and crazy world. Alas, they never run out of mischief, just like their adult counterparts. But unlike the latter, they do not know how to cover their tracks yet. Children have only their smiles, their frowns and their rolling eyes to defend them from the onslaught of older people who have had enough of rascals. Surely, they allow their cheeks to be kissed or pinched sometimes and yes, they permit you to hug them after an hour or two of being harmless enough. But so are these children perfectly capable of making troubles often enough, in ways one would hardly deem as innocent. 🙂