Journey of Teaching Lifelines #2
Chapter 2: Bold, Italics, and Strike
I said, ‘Kiran! You better find a way out.’
Francis — “It’s not that hard to find a way out, man. Look! The door is behind you.” and he snickered.
Kiran — “Francis! It’s not funny.”
Me — ‘You know if you ever played a fancy dress competition about you, you’d come last.’
Francis side-eyed, “Ray! That’s ridiculous. I’d never let anyone dress up like me.” A brief moment later he realized what he said.
Kiran — “Yeah, one is too much! Ray! Talk to your kids. Lemme check about the summer classes for them.”
At the Faculty Lounge
As I entered the faculty lounge looking at the letter that my students got, and there stood my beloved friend, an Odinson for a Thor, a Venkat Prabhu for a Premji, and uh.. you get what I am saying.
‘Hey there, Avi!’
Avanthika — “Oh, look who it is! Rant-master General. What’re you here to rant about today?”
Smiled and asked, ‘Do you know anything about these counseled out letters?’
Avanthika — “The Not-our-Problem-Anymore letters? Look, Ray. Let me tell you something. When I was back in that high school working as a teacher for the 10th grade, it always bummed me out when I realized I was the only person in the class who took an effort. If it wasn’t for that one boy named David who was always the one standing up for his friends, no matter how badly he was hated by some, I never gave up. Find your David. In fact, your class is full of people like him.”
Gave her a fist bump, ‘I am old enough to help my kids choose what they wanna be in life. There are still times when I need this from you.’
Avanthika — “Now that stands! Buy me a beer this evening.”
Me — ‘Ah! Asks the person who’s been sober forever.’
Lunchtime was almost over and I was walking back to my class to see Meena reading, standing near the class entrance.
‘Hey, Meena! Pump the brakes. Classes don’t start until next month. What you readin’?
She gave a paper to me and said, “Yeah, the obituary column.”
I got furious about Meena receiving the dismissal letter from Francis and it was all because she had been missing out on her afternoon classes during 11th-grade revisions because she has to take care of her very ailing brother.
Me — “This is beyond limits. Imma find someone to fix it.”
Abhirami looked into her laptop sitting at the front desk across my table and said, “Mr. Rahamat! I can’t find any central database. It’s not really hard to look for such data in our server. But believe me, if I can’t access the list, I can’t change it. Gosh! I need to change it. My credentials are being kicked out once in a while.”
Me — ‘Wait a minute! Back up. Kicked out and need to change. That’s not your language in the limited vocabulary you’ve got. Did you get the letter too? But why?’
Abhirami — “For doing such kinda stuff.”
Avanthika entered the class, “Ray! Can I use this room to discuss with our union board?”
I asked Abhirami to leave home and promised her that I will figure this out.
A few minutes later, Avanthika pulled up a chair and sat. Lied her head down on my table.
Me — ‘Hmm! You know how pets behave like their humans. Life has come in a circle. You sound exactly like your dog when he was angry.’
Avanthika dialed Maaran and Pooja, put them on speaker, and said — “Look, our school is going for the government-aided category and the Teachers union of our district has asked us to join the club. The problem is, that they are having some setbacks with the education department because they’re cutting down some slacks on our paychecks. The health insurance, tax advisor, and many other important things are looking like it’s a private company. I mean, out of the window. As your union rep, I have to inform you that this is going to be some time until you can teach your students.”
Maaran said over the phone, “We’re coming there Avi! 1minute.”
Me — ‘Hey! lucky for me, I have all the summer to take a break.’
Avanthika — “You’re gonna have to teach summer school for your kids. So, no break. No driving with the top down to beach city.”
Maaran and Pooja walked in.
Me — ‘Did Kiran approve that? Wow! With Francis around, I’m never gonna get the news straight from her anymore. Kiran to that drip-tray to you and then to me.’
Avanthika asked Pooja if she’d sign up for the strike authorization.
Pooja — “I love doing the math. Ask my Accountancy students. I do love the job of being a teacher. Being a teacher is the most precious thing in the world.”
Maaran replied, “Pooj! We’re teachers. Not driving cross-country in a motorcycle to save soil. Look, we’ve been getting supplies for our kids with our own paycheck. Not that precious, I’d say.”
Avanthika — “Maara! This is exactly why I am asking you. I was just having a talk with the union board and the other teachers a while ago. They’ll call me once the strike is on, that is by morning! Only you guys are left to say yes. We want the school to supply the demands. We have a reasonable demand. You know how reasons have always existed but not in a reasonable form.”
I said, ‘I agree with what Karl Marx said. But Avi, summer classes are just approved. I should be there for my kids when it happens. It’s not fair to back out when they need me the most. And it starts tomorrow.’
Avanthika stood up and walked a little. Came back and said, “Look Ray! Just try to understand. Your vitals will be pulled out.”
Maaran — “Avi! Do you promise that this strike is just an authorization tool?”
Avanthika shook her head and I saw Maaran as he shrugged.
Maaran said, ‘On behalf of everyone, count us in.’
Day-1 of Summer Classes
Michael asked, “Mr. Rahamat! We heard about the teachers union strike.”
Me — ‘Look here folks! I voted yes but Ms. Avanthika has promised that saying Yes is the only way to show support and avoid going to strike until our demands are met before it starts. I mean sometimes.’
Walter — “Yeah, then it’ll be like when your favorite shawarma joint closed their only branch for renovation and the pandemic started.”
Went to wipe the blackboard and said, “Look! No one is going on strike.”
Avanthika knocked on the door, “Ray! Just got off the phone with the Board. The union is going on strike. Pack your bags.”
I looked at my students and they expected me to speak something.
~to be continued