In my fifth post E for Examination Expectations, I wrote about a certain school following a ridiculous assessment methodology. That post had details about the final steps of the evaluation process while the first step of a Group Discussion involving the parents and decision-making authorities of the school follows here.
In his tenure of being a medical student and then working as a Doctor in various cities, Sr. T had never even heard of the concept of Group Discussion or GD, as we prefer to call it. As a B-school student, I had been part of this terrifying process twice in my life. The first time that I was a part of a GD group was to get through ta B-school and the second time happened as part of the campus recruitment selection process by a certain organization. This school was the only one who spoke of a GD and our curiosity to see how crazy things could get landed us in the school on the date of interaction.
On the scheduled day of the interview, there were a bunch of parents with their respective kids sitting in a posh air-conditioned conference room waiting for their turn. Post verification of the documents, a group of five parents and their kids were asked to walk inside a meeting room that had the Head of the institution and a child counselor already waiting for us.
The Head welcomed the kids with a toffee each wherein she expected every child to say ‘Thank You’ after taking the toffee (later she claimed to be checking the social skills of the child). After the initial formality of introducing ourselves, she threw the forum open for discussing the old and new parenting practices. Sr. T had a wide grin on his face as he looked at me. All through my student life, I had been the kind who raised her hand first in response to a teachers question. Also, I happen to be quite an opinionated person. He knew that I was raving to go at this topic. Little did I know that the group composed of someone who was more enthusiastic than me.
I have always been my Daddy’s girl. So much so that all through my school life, the moment the bell rang at 6:30 pm, I would run downstairs to welcome Baba back. In the three minutes that took us to climb back to the first floor, I would finish narrating my day at school. Ma found a special mention in case I had received any scolding from her. At times she would get so annoyed by it that she would refer me as his ‘chamchi’. I lost Ma seven years back but till date, my father is my biggest support system.
Sr. T grew up in a joint family amidst his paternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts. He was shielded from any form of scolding by his grandparents. He shares the warmest relation with my mother-in-law. With my father-in-law, he shares a relationship full of respect including a comfortable distance in their involvement in each others’ daily life.
After Tuneer was born, the general perception was that he would eventually turn out to be Mamma’s boy. Shattering another stereotypical thought, Tuneer turned out to be a complete Daddy’s boy (not a very pleasant thing to admit, I must say!). Sr. T had picked up his four days old son for the first time when the newborn continued hiccuping for a straight twenty minutes. That day had sealed a life-long bond for the father-son duo.
Sr. T’s posting outside the city enables him to stay in Kolkata a day to two at the maximum. Every week, when he returns from his outstation posting, the two meet in a way akin to long-lost friends for a decade or more. In the entire duration of his stay, the boy refuses to let his father out of his sight even for a minute. Not that the father has any problem in such an arrangement.
I usually don’t write posts in advance for it kills the thrill of writing. Today when I was brainstorming about the topic for my post, I came across a sheet of paper that got me giggling like a kid. It mentioned Assessment format on the top. The first line began as ‘The expectation from this examination is to assess..’ and it went on for about a full page. Can you guess what examination we are talking about here?
Well, a new age school in the city that resembles a corporate house more than an educational institution had handed over this leaflet as part of the nursery admission brochure. The school still doesn’t have any board results to its credit but definitely has huge claims related to facilities and technological advancements. I am all for the holistic development of a child. There’s definitely much more to a child’s’ development than academics only and any school that encourages extra-curricular activities and sports has my support. However, when the same school has ridiculous standards of selection criteria, the hypocrisy gets too prominent.
This particular school had two levels in the selection process – the first part involved a group discussion of parents and the later part was about interviewing the child. The leaflet spoke about the parameters on which a child was to be judged. It spoke about his knowledge of English alphabets, numbers, a couple of rhymes, his social skills, his ability to answer basic questions (glad that they didn’t mention oratory skills already) and his writing. Yes, you read it right! A three-year-old was going to be assessed on his ability to draw lines or a circle and write alphabets by joining the dots.
At the cost of sounding like a nerd, I must confess that I have always loved academics. After completing my second post-graduation, I started working as a Branch Head with ICICI Bank in Mysore. In 2015, when Tuneer was born, I was working as a Senior Manager / Branch Head with HDFC Bank in Bangalore. I took a sabbatical in 2016 only to return as a writer in 2017. For me, writing had become a profession for me, not just a passion anymore. This was the time when I had also started toying with the idea of my third post graduation in creative writing (certified nerd now!).
It took very little time for this bubble to burst. In our country, creative fields are great as hobbies but never as career choices. One of the primary reasons for such an attitude is also because of the lack of support and financial prospects in this profession. A Banker can gain accolades as a writer but if one decides to become a ‘writer only’, it is often met with caustic or sarcastic comments.
I realized how much Bollywood had affected my thinking when I went around proclaiming that I was going to change this perception by proving how writers could make it big. But man or rather woman proposes, God disposes. I had a few life-changing experiences that got me thinking if it was time for me to update the CV and start applying for ‘real’ jobs.
Long before Sr. T and I were married, I had made up my mind about retaining my maiden surname for life. Education and work experience in different cultures supported my opinions by giving me a voice. Also, I must confess that I loved my full name. Sr. T was more interested in building a life together than my thoughts related to surname change. A situation of conflict never arose.
Because of our postings in Mysore followed by Bangalore, this never really became an issue. Residents of these cities often had initials as a surname. And people were generally the non-interfering type. So it hardly mattered to them whether I was Sonia C or Sonia B as long as they knew my name was Sonia and I was heading the branch of a Private sector Bank.
At times, individuals develop such tender love and affection towards their partner that they start swaying away from the original decisions. In my case, I took fancy to adding Banerjee to my full name after a year of getting married. Facebook let me do it without any hassles but when I wanted to get this changed in my bank account, I had to provide documents as proof. In about a couple of weeks time, reality had dawned on me in a harsh way. The paperwork involved in getting Banerjee added to my Pan card, passport, bank accounts, and other documents involved time, effort and non-transparent rules. Eventually, my practical brain gave a sane voice to my love-struck heart.
I must also mention a certain colleague who had kindly pointed out that the number of characters in Sonia Chatterjee Banerjee exceeded the number of boxes against the name section in almost all application forms. That sealed the end of any remote possibility of a name change.
We spoke about unsolicited advice yesterday. After the first school admission notice came out in September this year, suddenly my state of mind seemed to be in a state of permanent chaos. Amidst several other concerns related to the preparation for interviews, one factor that suddenly became a priority item on our agenda was to work on his ‘fluency’ in English.
In a typical middle-class Bengali household residing in Bengal, the usual mode of communication is in Bengali or Bangla, as we prefer to call it. Tuneer had started speaking quite earlier than usual and by the time he had turned three, his ability to communicate in clear sentences often led us in highly embarrassing situations for he often disclosed things that were only meant to be kept private. He spoke so much that often it would remind me of my late mother’s statement about how I was such a talkative child both at home and school. With Sr. T staying away from the city five-six days a week, my father and in-laws try to work out a schedule that ensures at least one of them being available in Kolkata at any given point.
Even if my convent education poked me to make an attempt to teach this boy a couple of important sentences in English, his Bengali-medium educated Doctor father kept laughing it off. With a retired Maths Professor as his maternal grandfather and a paternal grandfather whose knowledge on technology and current affairs always turns out to be superior to us, I was fighting a lost battle. If I ever even tried to teach him the answer to a simple question like “What is your name?” as “My name is Tuneer Banerjee.”, it would be met with protests about how I was creating unnecessary pressure on the child. Their preferred answer was always his full name only since no child was expected to answer in sentences. Though I had the sympathy of the paternal grandmother, the maternal grandmother had no way of communicating her opinion from her heavenly abode.
Welcome to my first post in the A2Z challenge 2019. As promised, I am going to take you through an account of our eventful journey for our toddler’s school admissions. Trying to fix a timeline to such a roller-coaster ride is difficult but I have tried to restrict it from Sept 2018 until March 2019 to keep the emotions relevant and undiluted.
After giving birth to my son Tuneer aka Jr. T in Sept 2015, our initial worries revolved around the challenges of breastfeeding to his vaccination schedules, his health and his reluctance to sleep the whole night. After turning a year old, our focus area shifted to his development charts, balanced nutrition, and preventing him from eating every inedible item around. Another year later, we had become a little wary of his capability of locking us out, embarrassing us in social circles by saying things that were not meant to be told to outside the house and his willingness to continue talking gibberish for hours. At this stage, we had started thinking of putting him in a preschool once he turned 2.5 yrs old. Considering distance, safety, and hygiene as the primary factors, we enrolled him in one of the finest Montessori houses, a decision that helped my soft and shy son become more social.
Last year I entered into this crazy A2Z challenge hosted by Blogchatter without having any idea about the madness that was going to define my life April onwards. I also had no clue that my blogging journey was finally going to get a direction through this campaign. This year I voluntarily decided to go through the grind again to get myself back to regular blogging after a critical phase of health issues. If there’s anything that’s common between April 2018 & 2019, it is that last year my 2.5 yr old started his preschool on 3rd April and this year the boy who’s now 3.5 yrs is slated to begin his nursery classes in the third week of April.
Other than my sickness, the other thing that kept me occupied throughout the end of 2018 until now was my toddler’s school admissions. While selecting the theme for A2Z challenge this year, it was my husband’s idea to talk about the eye-opening experiences that defined our journey before making it to a coveted school in the city.
At the onset, let me clarify that the posts are going to be based on our experiences related to school admissions in Kolkata though the intent is never to demean any particular institution or the education system. Also, technically this is not an informative series but more of a relatable experience if one has been through the process anywhere in the country.
While I aim to keep my posts coated with humor, on some days they might make one think deeper. Probably by speaking about such thought-provoking issues, we might together come up with some ‘game-changing’ ideas. I hope you have a fun-filled ride full of laughter and joy as you read some rib-tickling and some eye-popping experiences associated with school admissions.
P. S. – Even if you aren’t a parent, you can still enjoy the humor quotient of these daily stories.
Here’s introducing the main characters of this school hunt saga –
The boy – Junior T Banerjee (aka Spiderman/Superman/Batman and also Hanuman)
His tormented parents –
Father – Senior T Banerjee -A hapless doctor posted in some strange town of Bengal. Mostly distracted, attained a level of acceptance towards the wife’s whimsical nature and son’s ability to cling on to him
Mother – A confused writer erstwhile Banker. Also holds two irrelevant postgraduate degrees and refuses to change the surname from Chatterjee to Banerjee. Shares a Tom and Jerry kind of relationship with the boy.
Location – Kolkata
Don’t forget to hop on as we begin this fun ride journey on April 1st and continue till April 30th through twenty six posts on everyday (except Sundays).