My mother is a teacher. She takes nursery classes. Today was the first time in five long months when I saw her truly happy – the parents of her students surprised her with a heartwarming video in which all her students wished her a ‘Happy Teachers’ Day’ in their cute squeaky voices while holding home-made paper cards in their tiny hands.
But every day is not like this – over the past few months, I’ve seen my mother break down more time than I can count.
A woman who is the superhero of our house today stands helpless at the hands of technology as she can’t quite figure out how to share a screen. A teacher who has dedicated more than two decades of her life to teaching children without having got a single complaint, today stands shaken and broken at the hands of an unorganised department and a heartless, inconsiderate senior; a senior who has no qualms about calling a four-year-old child “dark-skinned”, “ugly”, “fat”, “dumb headed” in normal parlance.
I remember when the lockdown started, she was helping her senior with classes as during the senior teacher’s entire tenure of being the ‘teacher in-charge’, she hadn’t taken enough classes herself.
Everything was fine until my mother’s senior started merging her class with other sections without informing anyone before, extracting co-curricular teachers from other sections in order to reduce her teaching hours, conducting meetings at literally any hour (even at 11 pm), having conversations related to work in the middle of the night and publicly insulting those who didn’t respond immediately (because you can’t even take a break from your work 1 am), amidst a million other things.
However, two weeks ago, the senior teacher fell slightly ill and stopped responding (even to the principal’s calls) or showing up at work (for two weeks straight). With Teachers’ Day approaching and preparations requiring some attention, she was nowhere to be found.
Teachers were expected to do their bit as well as their senior’s work all by themselves.
My mother was supposed to prepare a video compiling the photographs of teachers from every department for Teachers’ Day Celebrations – a responsibility which fell on our entire family.
Along with managing work, classes and my own mental health, I had to take care of my mother as well, as she had a severe migraine attack for which she is forced to keep swallowing pill after pill in a bid to relieve the pain. This has been happening for almost two weeks now.
I have seen my mother break down so many times during this past week. Why? Because she is scared that she might be insulted in front of her colleagues if she doesn’t complete the task before the deadline. And the time of submission isn’t even fixed, so technically her senior can ask her to submit her work literally anytime and if she doesn’t, she wouldn’t miss a single opportunity of degrading her in front of everyone despite all her years of hard work and dedication.
So, my father and I spent two whole nights making that video, my father sleeping at 7 am and waking up at 9 am as he had to rush for work. And when the entire video was prepared and sent for approval, the senior teacher didn’t respond until yesterday when she asked my mother to change almost all the pictures in the video. Frustrated, my father and I started complaining about it when I saw my mother’s eyes swelling up with tears of helplessness.
Thus, my father, who had a sinus infection, spent another night with the video, just to make sure that my mother sleeps in peace as she was already suffering from a terrible headache. Today, when she finally sent in the video, her senior did not even acknowledge her effort with a single message, let alone appreciate the video. None of this was surprising either for my mother, she has become used to such behaviour at her workplace.
This kind of bullying has taken a toll not just on my mother, but my whole family. Irritability levels have been skyrocketing at home – and all because of a bully in the workplace. And I know ours is hardly the only house dealing with such issues.
So to all the teachers out there, struggling with the challenges 2020 has brought with it, I just want to wish you Happy Teacher’s Day with the hope that things will get better, bit by bit.
Prachi Batra is an intern at Livewire. She loves watching sunsets, sipping light coffee and writing.