Love is a nice thing. I mean I really love being able to love. Some days, when I close my eyes and think about her, I love her so much. Almost unconditionally. Yes, I get furious with her. We routinely fight. Its strange, my husband calls me on it often. But our relationship is a lot more equal than it ought to be. I mean, I am thirty years older, and presumably know better than her. But all my new-age - What do YOU think about that?; I believe this, others believe that, you can choose one; The important thing is that you learned something from the exercise - all this crap has ensured that I cannot be that School Marm-ish Mom. You know, the one with the glasses and the severe ponytail (or bun), whose word is The Law. When I am angry I blame the husband, he treats me like that, thats why she does too, I insist. Of course the truth is that I ALLOW her to be like that, I enjoy being her friend (somewhat), I am willing to take the fact that she ignores me at times as long as she feels comfortable telling me some ridiculous thing from her school.
One thing that I feel I must insist on is homework. I got into a zone in the past few months where I was happy that the school was not assigning any real work to be done at home. I assumed that this meant that they are teaching things themselves, and doing well with that. I mean, thats my model of teaching as well. I rarely assign homework (the reasons for that are different, however. I rarely assign homework because my uber-smart students cut corners. They copy the solutions. I hate that. But also recognise on some levels that they copy because its boring to do themselves, not because its difficult). Anyhow. I presume that I do a good job 'helping them learn' in the classroom; I assign problems to be solved in class; I walk around and nudge them towards the right way of thinking/answer, etc. But heaven knows how much impact I have. Its completely impossible to measure. But anyway imagine my chagrin when I realise that thats not really how it works in school.
Okay, this deserves its own paragraph. What do I think schools should do? Its very simple (perhaps). They need to ensure that the kids LOVE all that stuff. You know, that math, the science, the stories, new languages and new words, drawing, everything. Is there a place, in my opinion, for routine stuff, you know, such as the reciting of multiplication tables and writing a word that they spelled wrong, four times? Well, yes, as long as its fun for them. I love reciting the tables, I swear I do. I would have loved 'imposition' if my school teachers had given it to me, really. I know that its not always possible to teach things in super creative, innovative ways, without the child even knowing that she is learning. Sometimes its okay to recourse to conventional stuff, especially when you are a conventional school with a teacher:student ratio of 34:1. I think its okay, as a parent, this is a choice I have made and am willing to go with it. In fact, I might even believe in its benefits (unmeasurable as they are), to my child. Again, as long as you make sure that she is having fun and not cribbing about it.
So anyway the school barely assigns any homework. Her normal teacher (the one who does math and science and english), is, in my opinion, very good. She is quite eccentric - which is why I like her. She suddenly throws some idea out and before you know it, some of the kids are making monkey tails and so on. I don't know her well enough (and I don't follow the school activities closely enough) to know which are the things that she does herself, out of her enthu, and which are required by the school, of course, but still. But the tamil part is a LOT more routine. I realised this recently, so now I try to work with her on it regularly (which is a struggle since I am learning as we go along as well; my mum-in-law, you know, the real one who never says anything to me about stuff, she has been helping her as well). The process takes about 10 minutes. Thats all. And I am quite capable of doing crazy things. Like, dictation. She was getting really irritated at having to do that. So I said, okay, I love it, so you give me dictation. So now thats what we do. Of course she feels immensely pleased when I score 12/15 and she draws me a nasty face and shows my book to everybody, but I guess (hope), its just as effective in terms of figuring out the spellings as the other way around.
Which goes to show that despite the following:
14 years of school
4 years of college
5.5 years of grad school
1.5 years of post-doc experience
8.5 years of work experience as a professor
I am nothing but a dork who scored 9/12 on a tamil test (given by my daughter) last week. And a large part of my relationship with my child is based on my being crazy, and a complete lack of a plan.
"So, does she run?" people ask me, you know, because they know how nuts I am about running. Not to mention basketball. And soccer. Cycling. Kick Boxing. Yes, I love (to play) almost all sports (except cricket, golf, and table tennis, I hate those). The father of the child is a hulk of an athlete (in his non-corpo avatar) as well. But you know what? The answer is NO. As in, I don't insist she does. I cannot be assed to run with her. I don't have the patience to coach her in basketball. I have taught her cycling (somewhat) and occasionally give her tips when we are swimming, but I really cannot be bothered about doing these things seriously. Its up to her to ask me, perhaps when she is older! Meanwhile, I am happy enough making monkey masks and sticking sparkly stars on her diwali diya, with her.
(so, Kiran Manral, there.)