Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman –
Love October, Monster BoooJo!
My favorite holiday is Halloween. My favorite month is October. I fell in love with both when I went to teach at St. Hedwig’s, Chicago. My first teaching job in the U.S. Tough assignment teaching a split 7th and 8th grade. Individual class sizes were not large enough to warrant two classrooms, two teachers. School, as it does in the US, began the week before Labor Day. Suddenly I came face to face with many challenges. The eight graders made it known loud and clear that as it was their last year in grade school they were looking for a fun filled year and wanted their teacher solely to cater to their various demands. The seventh graders were more amiable perhaps because they knew that moving onto eighth grade was still held in balance and I would be writing their recommendations for high school. But they didn’t at all appreciate the sassiness of the eighth graders and promised to do everything within their means to upset them. I was walking a fine line all the time, trying never to be perceived as sitting on the fence. I really welcomed the Labor Day break and spent it recouping and revitalizing with my wife and three years old daughter. Eating, sleeping, playing a lot. And praying!
Not my first time in US schools though. A year before I had interned as an assistant principal. Then, for a short time I did a stint as the part time computer lab teacher at a private school. Yet, coming from India teaching at St. Hedwig was a culture shock. No, not the children. Fortunately they are the same all over the world. Ready to work hard for the teacher who genuinely takes a personal interest in them and respects them individually. Over the three years I taught at St. Hedwig’s I formed lasting relationships with my students many of whom are my Facebook friends to this day. Students here are candid and forthcoming and open to conversations on any topic. Coming from India I held somethings as taboo but my students here opened my eyes and ears to new horizons and new possibilities.
After the short Labor Day break I returned to school with renewed enthusiasm and determination to be the best teacher to both groups in my homeroom. During the time I spent at home I was reading my daughters’ copy of the October issue of the Highlights Magazine. I had noticed that many of my students subscribed to the magazine too. They were fascinated by its highly graphics driven content, art and science projects they could complete successfully on their own, and rich splattering of poems and stories that were special to the month. The October issue was creating quite a stir. It was focused on the upcoming Halloween Holiday. Suddenly students were reaching across the two-grade barrier and making plans for the school’s own Haunted House. I had never experienced anything close to a Halloween Holiday but I realised it was my opportunity to learn everything I could about it soon and become the teacher both groups of students wanted. We were going to have the best Haunted House ever. And we did.
Since that eventful October, Halloween has remained my favorite holiday. Every year I buy a new costume to wear on Halloween and wait to welcome the children in my neighborhood who come trick or treating to my home. When my children were of trick or treat age I accompanied them on their forage through the neighborhood helping them haul their treasure of candy. One year their older cousins from India were visiting during the Halloween Holiday. Their first time. India is very warm in October. Here in Chicago most October 31s are cold and wet. Very cold for visitors from India. The cold and rain did not keep them away as they marched around the neighborhood with my daughters. They were awed with all the candy they collected and rolled with laughter recounting the tricks neighbors pulled on them. They were older boys of 12 and 14
Its October again. I began the month with a strained back, a chronic arthritis of the sacroiliac joint. As soon as it began to ease off, I pulled out the old scarecrow from the garage, my pumpkin lights, other odds and ends we have accumulated over the years, and went about the task of decorating the Halloween patch in my yard. My love for Halloween spills in to my BuJo. I decorate the top of every page with a Halloween theme and draw monsters all over my BuJo entries. I love it, my kids love it and my wife loves it. She says she can still recognize the little boy in me. What a compliment!