The Realization Phase of my life!
The second phase of my life started after bachelors in 1992. I just did fine in the final exams. I had never thought of doing something extra ordinary. I dreamed like many other girls either to get married and settle down in my life or to continue my studies. But life had something different stored in for me.
Like many children of middle class families in financial crisis, I quit my studies after my bachelors. I still remember the day when my dad asked me to look for a job. My father did not like and was not supportive of girls working in offices, and he wanted one of his kids to continue with his family profession, teaching. Of course, by being a father’s daughter I couldn’t refuse him, but he knew that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do. As I awaited my bachelors result, I started teaching in a small, private school which paid me Rs. 1400 per month ($25). After 4 months, with the result declared, I was able to apply in a Christian school– a school just across the road to my father’s office. The news of my appointment as a science teacher at St. John’s High School came on the 1st of April, 1993 :). My first teaching schedule included one class of fifth grade math. Panicked by the fact that I had studied math only till grade 10 and that I was newly appointed, I went to the principal’s office to request a change in the timetable. His replied, “Insan ko daal khatey khatey, kabhi ghost bhi kha lena chaye” (which literally means, one should eat beef too once a while, rather than eating lentils daily). He wanted to encourage me to try other subjects too, rather than teaching science only. But with little effort, the principal was convinced that math should be taken out of my timetable. To my surprise, one math class was replaced by English for 3rd grade in the new timetable. I knew that I should not be going to the office for requesting a change again. Of course, it was my second day in the school as a teacher and I had a long journey ahead. Learned first lesson as a new teacher, that is, what it means to “compromise.” The first year of my teaching went by smoothly as a science teacher. The second year was different.
April, 1994: My second year- My first day as a class teacher in the classroom with 65 pairs of eyes of 3rd graders looking at me, with eighteen of them repeating the grade. I honestly didn’t know what to do and how to do anything. As Lortie (1975) argues that thousands of hours spent as a student in classrooms, are responsible for preconceptions about what it means to be a teacher and influence perceptions about teaching. I agree but these preconceptions also help untrained teachers like me to survive the beginning years. I won’t lie. I wasn’t interested in becoming a teacher and it wasn’t my choice. And it will be a cliche if I say, “I was always been interested in becoming a teacher” or “Teaching was my passion since childhood. I used to play teacher-students with my siblings/ friends and I always acted as a teacher.” The only thing I knew at that time was that I have to work hard and continue with the job. My priority was not teaching but earning for my family. The first time I felt something called passion for teaching was on the finals result day in 1995. The very first time I realized what it means for the parents that their kids must not fail any grade, especially for parents whose kids were repeating the grade. That day, the very first time I felt the responsibility I had on me toward the kids in my class. In the following years, things changed, I changed, and I don’t know when and how the kids in my class became my responsibility!
I was troubled in the beginning however, like majority of my national and international colleagues, I learned to teach in general through “sink(ing) and swim(ming).”There was no one in the teaching staff, who could spare some time to talk either about daily routines in the school or about teaching itself. I had third, fourth and fifth graders who did not like science, not because they found it uninteresting, but because they found it very difficult. I struggled and learned to swim safely. I must admit that I worked very hard to teach English as compared to science. After couple of years, Mrs. Christie who was an excellent English teacher, became my friend. I questioned her about anything I did not understand– words, their use, translation from Urdu to English, and so on. She became my mentor. I shared my problems with her. Sometimes it was just sharing, sometimes we looked for solutions together, and sometimes we just moved on. I also did B.Ed from Allama Iqbal Open University for job confirmation, to secure my job. ecause my job confirmation relied on the B.Ed degree. I initiated speech competitions, skits and other games in my class on every last hour of the day before the weekend. Students were happy. Here I must acknowledge the support of the principal Mr. Munir Gill. We collected absence fine from the students who were absent from the school without any information every month. I remembered requesting Mr. Gill to allow me to buy small gifts for the students from the fine money. He allowed me. I also organized annual school and Christmas functions. I also wrote short serious and comedy skits; directed students for performances and tableaus. The principal appreciated what I did as a teacher and I was able to make my position in the school as a very hard working teacher. Life was good, then everything changed with the sad dismissal of my father.
Feb 28, 2000… when death took away what I treasured the most, my dad. His death was sudden and just in an hour, he was no more. Since the day I was born till the day he died, in every minute of illness and pain, I saw him standing by my side, filling the refrigerator with all sorts of goodies along with cooking specially for me. I can’t compare anyone’s love even a mother’s love the way he loved me and took care of me. February 28, even after 13 years is as painful as it was in 2000. It not only took away my daddy, it also took away the mother I had in him and a friend, who was always there to listen and help me. But before his death, he had already bought admission form for M.Ed, and I knew what to do!
The dearest and the closest person in my life was no longer there. A girl who lived a very protected and dependent life, was suddenly no more protected and no one’s responsibility. Once again I was alone in the trial of life with no one to guide me through. But this time in my personal life, facing and understanding the darker side of relatives and blood relations. First time in my life, I understood how it feels when the protective, comforting overhead shade is taken away. It took me two years to accept the absence of my dad’s protection from my life and took my first step out alone in search of a post office to post my assignments. A colleague and a very dear friend of me, was generous enough to give me pick and drop from school to home and other way round. To go for personal chores was out of question. During the following four years, I did my M.Ed and M.Sc in Mass Communication from the same higher education institution along with teaching full time and doing tuition till late at night to support my studies, my mother who was a retired nurse. I was so busy in earning and studying that I did not have time to do anything fun or to relax. I used to get up at 4am, prepared breakfast for all at home, and left home to school at 6am. After teaching in the school, I went to three different places for tuition and returned home around 9.30-10.00pm. Sometimes I prepared dinner, when my mother hadn’t and then did M.Ed and then Mass Comm assignments. In her introduction for a TV reality show, The Undercover Boss (aired on November 30, 2012), the president of Cinnabon Incorporate, Kat Cole said that the circumstances she grew up in, gave her a strong “desire to be successful” and this desire was a “very powerful driver and differentiator in business.” Similarly, the circumstances I was growing up from, kept driving my desire to be successful. To become a person recognized by others.However, I must again acknowledge that Mr. Gill, the principal, always issue No Objection Certificate or service letter whenever and for whatever I needed them.
This phase of life which stretches over twelve and a half years of my life taught me number of things that I still cherish and want to instill the same in my students… trust thy self and have faith in thy self, along with keeping faith alive in Jesus, the closest friend I had since the day my dad died (whichever religion you belief in). I learned not to fall prey to self-pity. I did for two years. It didn’t do any good to me. I learned that you cannot be passionate about things in life that you haven’t experienced or even tried at least once. My passion for teaching and making a difference in someone’s life grew out of my first two years of teaching. Blood relations and friendships are good to have, but you should not rely on them. Never step back once you have started something because of the hardships. Let those hardships strengthen your inner self . Learn from every mistake you make, even a tinny tiny one. It will help you become a better decision maker by making you wiser. Last but not the least, SMILE no matter what, but don’t let others’ smile fool you!