Tuesday, June 12, 2007

taxi driver

This is old, from among my first impressions of India...

The driver buys rupees
With safety and speed
A skilled man for hire

With a family to feed

With a hand on the horn
And a foot on the brake,
He calculates well

The next move he will make.

Three inches to spare

Is two inches too many,
And his petrol is precious

So the shortcuts are plenty.

His fares share a faith
In their silent old guide,
And a rickety grace

Seems to govern the ride.

With awe in their eyes
And sweat on their brows,
He narrowly misses
The fat sacred cows
   And the thin mangy dogs,
   And the slow walking men,
   And the multitude starving
   On their mats in the fen.

He deftly turns left
And with might makes his rights
On a greasy black course
Marked by faint amber lights.

Through today's stagnant smells
And tonight's unseen sights
His cab rattles and veers
Through the hot Delhi nights.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

going down

Well, today is 'Going Down Day'. School is finished and the majority of the students will be herded onto buses and driven down the long and winding road to Dehra Dun, where they will be herded onto the Shatabdi Express train to Delhi. The bus ride is about an hour long, and last time at least 4 kids on my bus threw up. From Delhi, the kids will disperse to locations all around the world. Some of them I will never get to see again, and others I will never have to see again. Just over half of my students will be in my classes again next year. Some of them even had other options! There, that takes care of my 2007 exclamation point quota. Factorials don't count.

The results of the evaluation forms that I made for the kids to fill out were pretty straightforward. Mr Burchell is boring. Mr Burchell should give us more free time. Mr Burchell is very good at explaining things. Tough crowd. One form had the following bit of encouragement:

[question:] What should be changed about the class? [answer:] the teacher

[question:] What should not be changed about the class? [answer:] the students

It was a generally anonymous survey, except that the people with hateful little ungrammatical pink pens are already known to me. If there had been a name on that one, I would have done everything in my power to see that the student was granted their desire to go back to Precalculus next year, which is indeed being taught by a different teacher.

Yesterday I walked to the bazaar for groceries and overtook a few of my graduating seniors embarking on a bittersweet farewell trek to the filthy maze of greasy pavement and familiar strangers and colorful Indian vivacity that is the Mussoorie bazaar. One of the students asked me if they were allowed to call me Nate, now that they were graduating. I don't really know. I could only wonder if I would ever call any of my teachers or professors "Ken" or "Peter" or "Roxanne" or "Graham". It seemed so strange to imagine it. I guess I have colleagues who are much older and more distinguished than myself, and first-name familiarity has never felt awkward... But then, I have never been very gifted in the area of social etiquette.

I have been a math teacher for one whole school year now.