Being a teacher gives me a unique opportunity to interact with children and young adults every day. I see them growing, getting smarter, cheekier and more confident as the years roll by. The Class 6 students I teach are just at the cusp of becoming adolescents and are giggly at even the mention of the phrase ‘sexual reproduction’. The fact that this is with respect to flowers is not even relevant.
The reproductive system is taught as a part of the syllabus from Class 6 onwards; though the difficulty level and complexity increases each year.
The class often gets distracted while I explain plant tissues. They look at their watches as I talk about the gas exchange taking place inside the innumerable alveoli of the lungs. But come the reproductive system, they jump like jacks from their cognitive boxes. They seem to be in a state of readiness that is comparable to that of an astronaut waiting for lift-off. The class looks like a sea of eyeballs, focused on me with delicious anticipation.
The reproductive system class goes on perfectly, as if in another dimension. No needless interruptions, shuffling or passing chits below desks. Even the kid with a patience of a flea sits like a Zen monk. I wait for this spell the entire year. It’s just so reaffirming, and my self-esteem also registers a measurable boost.
They hear me pronounce socially embarrassing words with clinical ease. As we move towards the final part of the chapter on the third or fourth day, the class becomes more composed. Having gotten over the initial delirium, they are now armed with questions.
The first few questions are bowled by the coolest dudes. The terms ‘ovulation cycle’ and ‘secondary sexual characters’ gets thrown around. Some funny one-liners get cracked. There are others who want to ask me questions in private. With some initial hesitation and some prompting, many myths acquired from the electronic media in a Chinese whisper mode die a natural death.
Year after year, the questions on sexuality are getting bolder and bolder. It’s the sign of times. The children I deal with are smarter than their predecessors. They want to know about AIDS, test tube babies, surrogate motherhood, homosexuality and even its evolutionary significance. It’s a challenge for a teacher to present the information objectively, in the right context and nourish their sense of curiosity.
The kids today are a new species altogether and our best chance for a better and happier society.
Richa Joshi Pant has been a teacher for 20+ years. She is presently in Welham Girls’ School in Dehradun. She loves the involvement and interaction with young adults that come with her job. She gets to see how cultural changes happen in each generation. She uses theatre as a modality to teach adolescents Biology.
Featured image (editing): Ujjaini Dutta