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Teachers, learn to be expression(less)!

S. Indira Narayan is an educationist with more than 35 years of rich experience in the teaching field. She has held multiple portfolios. She has been associates with St. Ann’s High School, ICSE, ISC, Secunderabad, for over three decades, teaching English language and English literature for classes 10, 11 and 12. The Last portfolio she held was as Academic Coordinator, St Ann's High School, at Kompally Hyderabad, under the same Management. Indira Narayan has conducted numerous workshops for school teachers and continues to do so. She is also interested in writing and writes regularly on her blog -


Teaching is a profession in which you can easily say, ‘never a dull moment.’ Yes, there is never a dull moment in the life of a teacher who is committed to her profession. Each teacher has their own set of do’s and don’ts for their students. Sometimes, these boomerang!

In the early years of my journey as a teacher (in a school), my experience when I distributed answer scripts after an examination was quite disturbing. I would take a lot of pain to see that my corrections were fair and equal, to make sure that there was no wavering in allotting marks.

Areas of errors would be marked, underlined or highlighted for the student to understand where they went wrong. The marks awarded would be written in the margin against the question. Once in a while, a half mark or one mark may be marked at the end of the answer. I would take care that all marks given were added properly.

But, when I distributed the answer sheets in the class, it would suddenly start buzzing. You would think that the students were going through their answers and checking where they may have made mistakes. We are wrong most of the time!

After the papers were distributed, students would come rushing towards my table flaying their answer scripts saying, “ma’am totalling error! You made a mistake in totalling my marks.” The fact that I made such an error despite checking the totals at least twice, did irk me. More than that, it being pointed out by students, probably angered me. When my students in the other class also did the same, I was upset. A teacher should not be caught like this, I told myself. But on the flip side, I consoled myself saying - I am only human!

Many a times in my quieter moments, I began pondering over this, trying to find a solution for it. And I did! Here is my solution for the problem: I distribute the answer scripts telling students to listen to what I had to say, before they looked into their work. I told them to check their answers and check their totals too. Then, I told them to write the errors in the total, if any, on the top left corner of the answer sheet in a pencil, assuring them that I would check and do the needful. I instructed them to not rush to my table shouting, ‘totalling error!’, as I would deduct marks for doing so (of course, I never followed this)!

Most students understood this and avoided calling out. Even so, there would be a girl or two who would stand up and point ‘my error,’ so to say. Never a dull moment! By and by, students of all the classes I taught fell in line. They were soon convinced that I did check the papers again and make the corrections where applicable. If ever, very rarely, there were student who came up and said that they were awarded an extra mark. If they did that, I would tell them, ‘It’s yours, for being honest.’

One day, after I gave out the exam answer papers with my usual instructions, one girl suddenly stood up and said rather loudly (or was it boldly), “Ma’am, totalling mistake!” I might add here that this girl had received some admonitions from me because of some misbehaviour a few days earlier. She was a highly independent and a high-spirited girl. I reminded her, “I am sure you know what I said I would do, don’t you?”

“Yes ma’am, but there is an error…,” said she with a tongue-in-cheek expression. She paused, looking directly into my face and quietly added studying me, “…you gave me an extra mark”. The entire class became silent, waiting for my reaction. Though caught unaware and quite lost for a moment, I quickly regained my composure and told her, “Fine, take the mark!”

Ruminating on the case mentioned above, it seemed a conscious attempt to irritate me. The silence that ensued after she declared that an extra mark was awarded, was almost palpable. The class looked askance as to how I would react. Such a situation is a test for a teacher’s presence of mind, her ability to grasp the sensitivity of the prevailing mood and her ability not to lose her cool, remain calm and respond.

So, my teachers, be alert; never be caught confused or rattled in a situation like this. BE PREPARED and remember, your students are smarter than you think they are!

Learn to be expression-less.


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