When you tutor a bunch of hyperactive know-it-all kids of pre-adolescent age, the bond tends to be a love-hate relationship more than anything. I’m very fond of the children I’ve had the enormous luck to know: they are caring and intelligent and engaged and rather wonderful human beings. At the same time, some of the antics they get up to can be both amusing and exasperating. Here are 7 of the most annoying/ hilarious/ endearing lessons these imps have taught me:
Lesson #1: When in doubt, blame your school teacher.
A silly mistake in an exam? “Oh, our Miss said so-and-so and I didn’t know what to do.” An assignment missed? “Didi, you have no idea how much work Miss gave us this week!” In no mood to study? “Oh my god, Didi, did you know what our Miss called us the other day?!” And then turn up in school and say the exact same things about Didi to Miss, no doubt. God knows I’d do the same thing.
Sometimes wires do get crossed. Teachers at school can often be unbending and the poor child gets caught in the middle. These are the times when your ego should take a hike, no matter how right you think you are. Nothing justifies the kid suffering because of you. Didi learnt this the hard way.
Lesson #2: “Tuition Homework”? What kind of an oxymoron is that?
Who wants to? As if there wasn’t enough to do, like school stuff and video games and dance classes and maybe a favourite TV show airing a special episode. And seriously, these kids juggle more than most of us could handle. They maintain multiple hobbies while dealing with academics and adolescent issues. They are the true MVPs of this planet.
But I’m also very proud to say that all of my brood have discovered first-hand the benefit of practicing at home, bless them. Non-submissions have reduced by half (which is HUGE). Now if only their teacher could learn the same lesson.
Lesson #3: Snacks must be had during every revising session.
Now, usually my litter and I hand around the bites that kind parents provide us with. But then occasionally exam season rolls around and the nerves kick up a notch. In this case, ALL food must immediately be streamlined to the exhausted brain dealing with this. With the single exception of the steaming cup of chai, any muri, biscuits and cakes deposited on the table have to be surreptitiously channeled to the opposite side.
Then the hunched figure, furrowing with intense concentration and grappling with Didi’s question paper, will slowly power their way through by the power of Bangali side-dishes alone. It’s only fair: if they get the stress, they also get the snacks. Studying is hungry work, y’all.
Lesson #4: Have balanced conversations.
For example, you can start a sentence with topics like feminism and God and then end it with how your friend betrayed you during recess. Sometimes you might discuss ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers and then wonder why Tagore won his Nobel Prize. You can also talk for 40 minutes about String Theory and then 40 more minutes about how Finding Nemo and Toy Story actually explain the evolution of Artificial Intelligence on earth.
It is a wild, wild world without rules and it’s amazing.
Lesson #5: What do you mean, you don’t know this obscure fact from that obscure corner of the world you never knew existed?
If you think the younger they are, the easier they are to teach *cough* fool into thinking you know everything *cough*, you literally could not be more wrong. No matter how prepared I am for these classes, somehow we end up Googling at least three things during them.
The searches don’t always have to be relevant, either. I remember this one time we were studying a Sherlock Holmes story and we ended the class by looking at the backstory for Assassin’s Creed. What?
Lesson #6: Become strong independent human beings with thoughts and opinions and start to express them flawlessly, so your teacher can be like, “Wait. When did this baby grow up?”
This is happening more and more frequently. I have incredible conversations with these kids about social and political situations and all the things they love and I love. It’s so fulfilling and enlightening.
You can’t force your personal beliefs on children, no matter how passionately you believe in them. All you can do is present your perspective, cross your fingers and hope they will make the right choice. And when they do, which happens surprisingly often, it feels like a bubble of pride sweeping you off your feet. I will never forget the day I watched an 11 year old boy yell at a sexist character in a book.
And most importantly:
Lesson #7: Make your teacher watch you slowly fall in love with the subject so she can get emotional and ugly-cry internally at home every night.
This phenomenon is quite rare, but it does happen. And when it does, I just thank my lucky stars that I managed to infect another person with a love of books and literature and all the beauty that comes with it.
Twelve-year-old smartypants are precious munchkins.
The kids I ‘teach’- a grand word that I don’t really associate with myself- often educate me about the world and about myself. With their help, I’ve learnt to be more patient. I’ve understood how to adapt the little I know, to their understanding. And I’ve often rediscovered the childish sense of wonder that I thought was gone forever.
I hope they’ll understand how much I owe them one day. ❤️
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