Yellow Pages

post-it-yellowWe have seen 3 inch x 3 inch yellow coloured sheets that can be stuck to frequented surfaces to remind us of ‘things to do’.  First time I saw one of those was more than 12 years ago on a teacher’s table.  He also had a monthly calendar on his desk that did not carry any picture.  It was just a calendar with some space for writing an important schedule.

He was one of those teachers who could teach any subject in a classroom.  He could ‘fill in’ leisure periods, he could come into a class room on time and could wind up just before the bell, and he always asked students to come to the board and write what they thought of the subject.  He would not mind if students wrote an unrelated random thing on the board.  He would try and relate them to the relevant subject under study.  All in all, he was versatility personified.

I used to meet him after the class in the staff room to clear some doubts.  One Saturday, I asked him if could see him after a class and he said he would meet me on the then coming Monday at 3PM.  On Monday, I went to his desk around 2:55 PM.   He was not there.  I saw a small yellow paper on his desk that said ‘Srikanta, 3PM’.  His calendar read “3:20PM, Meeting, Principal”.  As I was reading them, he entered with a smile on his face.  We discussed for about 15 minutes.  I wanted to continue but he had to leave to meet the Principal.  He asked me to wait and left for his meeting.  He came back after about 15 minutes and said we had to continue on another day.

Like many teachers, he had many pet students in our classroom.  Being a pet student is not easy.   Almost every student in a class will be a pet student for some teacher for some reason and all of you understand it when I say that it is basically ‘kind pressure’.  Although, I was not a bad student, thankfully, he had many other favourites in our class.  Many of them could write faster and more clearly, some of them were heavy scorers, some of them could find short answers to long problems and above all his favourite students in the school, as I understood then, were those who could do things outside the curriculum.  I depended heavily on the classroom and teachers.  It was more important for me to be in the class (although sometimes pointless)…not that I didn’t study on my own.  I did.  However, my answers in the class were from the textbook.

One of the most challenging aspects of his class was the fact that we were asked to write in un-ruled white paper notebooks.  For students who were used to writing on ruled paper, it was not only difficult but also refreshing.

As mentioned earlier (it should be evident by now that he was not natural to me), I had to meet him several times after the class in the staff room.  I always used to ask for an appointment and he would always say yes.  A typical meeting would last for 15 minutes.  I could see that he was fascinated by me coming to him so regularly and I was just catching up with a teacher who wasn’t catering to my type.  I was not in his top 20 pet students…he was not in my top 5 favourite teachers in a classroom.

…Like his calendar, soon my notebook labels became plain-white-basic stickers without any cartoon or superhero on them.  Now, when I look back, I think he was going by the book (outside a classroom) more than anyone else and that’s what fascinated me and made me go to him after a class so many times.  I still remember during one such meeting he had remarked,   “ We do need some people who will go by the book”.  He showed me the way to imagine lines in an un-ruled white notebook and I enjoyed filling up his yellow pages.

6 thoughts on “Yellow Pages”

  1. Very well written! I have had the pleasure of learning how to think clearly from a great teacher of mine too! This post also reminds me how being a pet for a moron almost made me the most unpopular creature in the school! I’m sure we all have fond memories of someone who shed light in some random direction which made us happier in the long run!

    1. Yes lekha. Teachers come in ‘pockets of brilliance’. Even the worst communicator in a class will have a lot to offer outside a classroom. If we interact with them more, we have greater chance of coming across their other strengths. At that age (12 to 16), we will be more than willing to go an extra mile to please a teacher. A good teacher will make us realize that we have to please ourselves first.

  2. So nice…when i went through the yellow pages i remembered my college days… We had very good teachers during that time who made us realize our goals…i never met any teacher during my school days…

    1. Hai Murthy… You have an instinct for teaching and hence your expectations from a teacher (in school) could have been very high. Your experience makes me think that ‘school teachers’ can make an impression by not making any impression also.

  3. General Comment to Explain the Metaphor in the Article.
    I received many comments in person, which conveyed to me that some of the symbols are unclear.
    I know that it is an indicator of my article’s readability and comprehensibility. I will try and improve in future.
    The comment starts here…

    As school children, all of us had certain set standards for both behavior and performance. Those are the rules I am talking about (ruled books). Then you grow and go beyond following lines. It doesn’t mean that you are out of order. It is so important to imagine rules even when they are not there, to remain human.

    You have the freedom to make your own rules. At the same time, you have to play with given tools (book).
    You weigh several examples that you come across to make your own set of rules. Teachers offer the most examples for school children (more than 50% of intense time is spent in the school). You pick up whichever is close to their heart.

    Teachers do not play ‘favourites’ by comparing two individuals based on one criterion. We are not making their personalities less or more. I realized it long ago that measurable traits do not measure people. But, comparison is FUN…and more so for school children as long as they take it in the right spirit!

  4. I really liked this one. Nice analysis of a childhood memory.
    It is true that it sometimes one has to colour outside the lines to understand where the lines are and then one can choose to draw their own lines when there are no lines present.

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