This article appeared in Jagran City Plus, Bangalore on the eve of Teacher's Day,2008 . Your comments welcome.
Here it goes.
Know Your Neighbour, 'Being a teacher she comes in constant touch with children, some of whom have lost their near and dear ones.And their feelings are thrown in sharp contrast when, as a teacher, she takes lessons that are closely linked to their traumatic experience. And that's what makes Mathangi Kumar a sensitive person who knows her students too well.
She can't forget those touching scenes
Every individual has some important things to remember while 'in service'. Sometimes they put us in embarrassing situations. Mathangi quotes a few incidents that put her in delicate situations in her 17 years of teaching.
"While introducing the lesson 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' in Class III, I wanted to know how many of my pupils help their parents in household chores and each and everyone started narrating. When it came to a particular student, he told me casually, 'I have no father'. That was a shock to me! I never expected this reply and that, too, in a very innocent way he mentioned it! I shared this experience with some of my colleagues later and this episode made me get into the family background of all my students. I was ashamed of my own ignorance; how I could hurt a small child's feelings without even giving a second thought! I narrated this to the mother of the child when she attended the PTA. I never thought in my dreams that such a sensitive incident would be waiting to come in my way," she recalled.
"Another time a colleague of mine had lost her husband. Her son was studying in my class and I was teaching Lord Tennyson's 'Home they brought their warrior dead'." It is such a heart touching poem. (The warrior husband dies and his wife is in shock; all efforts by the people around her to bring her to senses fails and an old lady gets up and places her child on her lap and says 'Cry for thee'). This was a very emotional one, the boy who has lost his father being present and I was teaching the poem within a week of his father's demise. I could sense the heaviness in the classroom and the other students who normally raise their doubts did not do so considering their classmate's condition and it was clear that they were taking part in his grief.
"Later, after a decade, I took the warm-up activity for the poem "Gulzaman's Son" by Keki N Daruwala, highlighting the role of a father and here again a girl student had lost her father in a road accident a few days ago. I could neither skip the activity nor take in detail. Considering the liberty given to a teacher, I just touched the topic and carried on with the explanation of the poem."
Mathangi K Kumar was born on November 19, 1954, in Bangalore and brought up in a joint family. But she did her schooling and graduation in Chennai. She learnt that there was a place called Raipur (Chhattishgarh) only after her marriage. However, she blames the then government of Tamil Nadu for banning learning Hindi in schools, which left her landing in Raipur with zero knowledge of Hindi. Due to this she gave a miss to the post of a Probationary Officer in State Bank in spite of clearing the examination. Destiny had something else in store for her! However, this she took as a hint and learnt to speak and read Hindi.
Due to her husband's shifting of job from Forest Corporation to National Dairy Development Board (dense forest to White Revolution) she landed up in Anand, Gujarat.
Having two young kids of seven and five did not deter her from attending regular college to professionally qualify herself to get her B.Ed. degree in English. The Gujarat Government's scheme of free education (no tuition fee) for girls came as a blessing in disguise. She completed her MA in English Literature while working in a State Board School. Later she did PG Diploma in Higher Education and PG Diploma in Human Resource Management through IGNOU.
She proudly says that she was part of the team of teachers who worked in a newly established CBSE school Anandalaya in Anand, started by the Father of White Revolution, Dr. Varghese Kurien. This school gave her a great opportunity to widen the horizons of teaching with the flexibility in the methods of teaching, and this freedom made her explore communicative teaching to 'chalk and talk' method. The school also provided a wider exposure to attending many workshops conducted by publishers and CBSE, a platform for mutual sharing of ideas to experiment language games and activities in classrooms: this definitely boosted her confidence in teaching and job satisfaction as well.
While quoting her experience of evaluating the Class X and Class XII English Board papers of the western region, she says the requests and remarks written by candidates for passing them made the stressful task lighter. She owes the credit for enhancing her qualifications and her sincere work to her husband, son and daughter, without whose support and co-operation she wouldn't have fulfilled her ambition.
Her pastime includes surfing the net, listening to Carnatic music, watching debates, discussions and reality shows on television, with occasional penning of her thoughts in her blog. Also she has contributed a number of articles on general topics and tips for students, which have appeared in major dailies, including Cityplus.
She proudly says a few years back her suggestion to the traffic police, in letters to the editor column, of a need for the median and signal in front of the Koramangala Indoor Stadium gate towards the police station was well received and a police officer rang her up appreciating her suggestions.
Basically she likes simple living and high thinking. She avoids people who flaunt and fret. With her humorous nature she is able to increase her friends circle. A friend to her kids, a helpful person to neighbours, she feels duty with discipline, and dedication and devotion will definitely bear fruit.
She says, "I think of myself less but do not think less of myself because one should know one's potential well. Being positive and open to changes makes my life meaningful."