Teacher's Day Post by Mohini Choudhari

At the age of 10, my family went through an emotional, financial downfall. This resulted in many changes in our lives and one of which was a change of school for me. I was 14, my mother had me enrolled in a new school (for me), my elder sisters were already studying in this school so there was a level for trust and safety that my mother had with the school. I was excited, shy, nervous and all sorts that a normal teenager is.. I did manage to make new friends. Some who are now family, some whom I cherish meeting.

However, this school opened an entirely new world for me. In the world where we now believe in equality, a strange bias (we called it favouritism then) existed. The pets (please read top talents) by default would take part in all the competitions, school functions, interschool activities, sports, etc. Oh yeah, they possessed some super powers I wondered. The teachers did not put any effort in encouraging new talent. This was a very well oiled machine, the process was smooth and suited everyone. Pick up the pets.. Sorry top talent and keep rotating them in all the competitions, while some stood as bystanders wanting someone to show a little faith in them too. This is where I felt the first pinch. I studied in Bombay Cambridge for 10 years of my life and the culture was just the opposite, we were encouraged to participate in everything.. At least try and test the waters and it was up to us if we wanted to pursue it or not.. But they believed everyone should get a chance. It was a confidence boost for every kid, and I cannot thank them enough for this.

This bias in my new school also created a very fake and unhealthy sense of superiority. I was at a cultural cross-road. My new school had a 3 division system A, B and C, kids who academically do well get placed in C and the not so good performing kids go in A & B. So if you don't fall in the top 50 kids in that year, by default you stay in the lower division for your entire secondary school and you start believing that you aren't good enough. And most of division C had their heads in the clouds.

You can't blame them, the system made them believe they were superior. It was difficult for me to see. I would have loved if we were a mix of 14-year-old with different talents and skills in one class and learnt from each other and not feeling inferior to others. I wouldn't be surprised if the caste.. Sorry class system still exists in the school.

So this is one of the top SSC Board English Schools of all time. However, Marathi seemed to be the comforting language among kids and the teachers approved of this. Marathi was the mother tongue of almost 80% if not more. Don't get me wrong, Marathi is my mother tongue too. But I wasn't as fluent as them, and was often laughed at for my wrong choice of words. Probably if the school focused more on embracing flaws, the students would have had a different mindset. I again hold the system responsible for this.

This school is an alma mater to my siblings and cousins. It's a full fee structure private school. This school has kids from the upper-middle class (way upper) families. My family was nowhere near to their status, but my parents dreamt about giving us the best education. The teachers were well aware of my family's ups & downs. When I started here as a 14-year-old, I was only made to believe how financial status is supreme and nothing else matters. The then principal was anything but tolerant towards me. And my class teacher, who also happened to be the English teacher was no less.

So in my first semester, I scored very low in my papers. The English teacher slammed the answer sheets on my desk. She muttered some words which I do not recall, but I do remember feeling humiliated. I was not the only one with those marks. This was the first time i knew i was a misfit here and last them I let her question my academic ability. Anyone who went to my first school (Bombay Cambridge) knows we did not study textbook style and we had our own system. Adapting to this new pattern took time. Not a single teacher approached me and offered any help. I was a new kid and could have certainly used some support. This is the same school who conducts a by default class post-school hours "SPECIAL COACHING - SPECO" for the highest scorers to push them more.

However the humiliation did not stop there, they were geniuses in finding ways to do that.

Every time I made friends with my bench partner, my English teacher would change my seating. This went on forever. She even went to the extent of changing my best friends division. She failed at it within a week and my best friend was back to my division again.

Then there were the Charlie's Angel of my class. Everytime i did something stupid (i would like to believe it's normal) they would report the same to my English teacher. Well, she was determined to make my life miserable anyways. The constant feeling of you are being watched was just suffocating.
With time I had my group of friends, a mix of girls & boys. It seemed so unacceptable to my teachers that they went to an extent to call me & my best friends mother and tell her that I was a bad influence. This clearly did not do anything. As our families were way more mature, then this whole institute put together. My principal then decided that I would no more be allowed on the school trip. Yes, she did that. When she clearly was unable to break my morale and everything failed, the principal would then call me often to her cabin and hit on my palm with a wooden ruler for reasons not relevant to me. This went on for 2 years. Somewhere it made me believe I was so unwanted in this place. Did I give up on my ways, NO. I believed I wasn't doing anything wrong. Maybe I was a misfit for a classist institution like this but whatever.

They say with time you forget things. It's been 15 years since I left that school, but nope, I haven't.

The fact that the 30-year old me remembers their actions, and it still makes me heavy is reasoning enough for me to talk about this. I remember almost every incident, the humiliation & suffocation and the embarrassment. I need not emphasise on how important the role of teacher is in every child's life. To everyone who wants to be a teacher please think again. It is not just about teaching the Syllabus, it is about shaping the most crucial years of someone's life. The influence of a teacher extends beyond the classroom and well into the future. If you cannot help them grow please don't make it difficult.

When I spoke about my experience to a few people, I wasn't surprised that I wasn't the only one. They too felt heavy and chose to be silent but not me. 30-year-old Mohini does not wish to shed a single tear when she speaks about this again and maybe letting it out to everyone will help me do that. So, while the above said people failed me and probably continue to do so. I have had some fantastic teachers too. Kavita Kapoor and Swati Thakur Desai you were my knights in shining armour.

I am not sure where you are today but thank you for all the love & support. And to every teacher at BCG.

Happy Teachers Day!

About the Author
Mohini Choudhari is a 30-yr old flight attendant with Qatar Airways. She also pursued her entrepreneurial instinct and runs her own brand - Thea Design for cruelty free, handcrafted belt bags. She is an avid traveller and has visited around 80 countries.


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