Online classes Photograph:( Zee News Network )
After 30 excruciating seconds of sitting still, children start revealing their true colours. They want to wave, make faces, swing the chair, smile, yawn, do everything right now.
Monday sneaks up with painful regularity. Chaos disguised as excitement knocks a book off the side table. The son was trying to “borrow” a pen. I’m given to believe that my only surviving pen is the distance between him and Shakespearean glory. And so it is consumed in the spirit of motherly sacrifice. Online classes resume today, why am I still asleep? Parce que.
Thankfully my role is largely of compulsory observation, not to be undermined one bit, since it takes a special quality to observe a mess at close quarters with equanimity. The children trust Alexa with the morning alarm and the help with their breakfast. I must play the audience, the indefatigable spammer of critique and the reluctant provider of stationery.
The commotion reaches a crescendo by 9 am. The receipt of a class code is a seismic event on WhatsApp. Parents who have spent the weekend in punishing anticipation flood the timeline with the same message. They’ve been able to log in. Hallelujah! The children, who until then, were getting ready as if going for the Olympic games, suddenly turn into the very pictures of disinterest.
One pushes his luck with a new extortion plan.
“Why don’t I have a new school bag?"
“Because you don’t need one right now.”
I’m reminded of the bags sitting in my cupboard and how need has little to do with it. The flip side of encouraging free thinking and expression is that it’s practised and perfected on parents.
The next task is conquering the mute button. Children are the very opposite of fish. They come programmed with a default unmute setting. After 30 excruciating seconds of sitting still, they start revealing their true colours. They want to wave, make faces, swing the chair, smile, yawn, do everything right now.
“Good morning children, please put yourselves on mute,” the teacher intonates. This is to be the most repeated phrase for the next few hours. Mute yourselves. The sentiment by the end of it will be more like - suit yourselves.
They begin with place value and face value. What more scintillating subject could one think of for a Monday morning! The first class is a most distressing reacquaintance with Mathematics, the serial crusher of spirit. The teacher gets a boy’s name wrong. Other boys snigger. I look daggers at mine and drown back into my phone.
Tiny popping sounds emerge. Amid a serious discussion on healthy eating, the son is popping the bubble wrap still clinging to a leg of his chair. By some acrobatic miracle, I tear it out from under the table, evading his swinging legs.
“Is river a proper noun or a common noun?”
A pair of wide open eyes, framed by raised eyebrows, is trained on me over the laptop screen. If a hopeful question mark had a face, this would be it. I’m not helping you, I whisper. The smile crumbles, and the eyes exude betrayal. The teacher has moved to the next child, leaving behind a trail of sulk that only a Kinder Joy will erase.
“May I go to the toilet ma’am,” chimes a classmate.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)