Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.
This week, I am pleased to introduce Balroop Singh, poet, writer, blogger and teacher. On her blog and in her poetry, Balroop speaks deep truths about life, relationships and emotions. Wherever you are, whatever your stage in life, I’m sure you’ll be able to connect with Balroop’s wisdom.
When responding to other interviews in this series, Balroop commented, “I have some interesting memories of school, very different from the ones shared here”. How could I not invite her to join in too? I’m sure that, as you read her interview, you will see not only the differences but the similarities, between Balroop’s school days and those of others.
Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Balroop to tell you a little of herself:
Balroop Singh, a former teacher and an educationalist always had a passion for writing. She would jot down her reflections on a piece of paper and forget about them till each drawer of her home started overflowing with poetic reminders, popping out at will!
She is a poet, a creative non-fiction writer, a relaxed blogger and a doting grandma. She writes about people, emotions and relationships. Her poetry highlights the fact that happiness is not a destination but a chasm to bury agony, anguish, grief, distress and move on! No sea of solitude is so deep that it can drown us. Sometimes aspirations are trampled upon, the boulders of exploitation and discrimination may block your path but those who tread on undeterred are always successful.
When turbulences hit, when shadows of life darken, when they come like unseen robbers, with muffled exterior, when they threaten to shatter your dreams, it is better to break free rather than get sucked by the vortex of emotions.
Balroop Singh has always lived through her heart. She is a great nature lover; she loves to watch birds flying home. The sunsets allure her with their varied hues that they lend to the sky. She can spend endless hours listening to the rustling leaves and the sound of waterfalls. The moonlight streaming through her garden, the flowers, the meadows, the butterflies cast a spell on her. She lives in San Ramon, California.
Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?
I attended various schools in India, all of them in my hometown Ludhiana, (Punjab, a state in Northern India.)
Did you attend a government, private or independent school?
In India, private schools are called public schools, which are managed by an organization or an independent authority. I attended both. I was sent to a Government School after 8th grade. It was traumatic for me because the atmosphere and standard was much lower than the Public School I had attended till then but I adjusted quite well and made some loving friends.
What is the highest level of education you achieved?
I got a Master’s degree in English from Punjab University. Later on I also got a Bachelor’s degree in Education and became the topper of Punjab University.
What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?
The first job that I picked up was that of a lecturer in a college. I was proud of myself that I got the first job I had applied for! At that time earning some money for my family was the main inspiration but I was married off soon and I quit this job just after one year to join my husband in New Delhi. After 6 six years of hiatus, I joined a public school and became a high school teacher.
What is your earliest memory of school?
I must be in Kindergarten or class – 1, the teacher told us to learn a story and narrate it. I was beaten for not learning or failing to recite. The memory is hazy but I remember the cane falling on my legs even today.
What memories do you have of learning to read?
This one is from the school I liked the best. Language teachers were so kind that I developed a love for reading all the three languages we were taught.
What memories do you have of learning to write?
Good handwriting was nurtured and emphasized upon. Initial lessons were given on slate, which was like a small blackboard. We had to write on a wooden slate, which was washed and plastered everyday with a special material. We used a wooden pen and the ink, which could only be used for a wooden slate. This was done at home everyday.
What do you remember about math classes?
I didn’t like Math class and got punished, probably for talking and disturbing others. Learning multiplication tables was the initial dislike that grew into larger proportions.
What was your favourite subject?
English. I admired my English teachers and always got the highest marks in this subject, which further boosted my interest. They praised my handwriting and my papers were shown to other students to exemplify neatness.
What did you like best about school?
In middle school, I learnt self-discipline, which was taught by the Headmistress in a novice manner. She didn’t believe in corporal punishment. She had her own ways of convincing the students that hard work is a matter of habit.
She had a number of black conical caps, which were placed in one corner of her room. All those students who didn’t do their homework were brought to her room. She didn’t need to say a word! All of them knew they had to wear those caps, one by one and go single file, out of her room. Nobody accompanied these students, they knew that they had to go into each class, hang their head, stand for a minute and go out. Nobody dared to laugh at them! Nobody wished to repeat this act. Every student learnt a lesson after wearing that conical black cap! The magical cap!
You may call this a harsh punishment but it carved a deep impact on the students. At least at me! I could never think of neglecting my homework.
What did you like least about school?
I didn’t like PE (Physical Education) classes, as no real training was given about sports. I never played any random games, as I was scared of falling and getting hurt!
How do you think schools have changed since your school days?
There is a sea change! Schools nurture social and emotional development, respect the students and teach them with the latest techniques. Corporal punishment has been abolished. Creativity, cultural awareness, freedom of expression and sports training is encouraged at all stages of schooling. Public schools compete with each other to produce best academic results. Some schools encourage competitive spirit by placing the top scorers in an ability section.
How do you think schools could be improved?
First, recruitment of qualified teachers who feel inspired to take the responsibility of teaching the next generation is essential. Second, they have to be paid at par with others to attract intellect and talent to this profession. Number of students in a class needs to be reduced and value-based education with flexible curriculum could be helpful for those students who want to pursue higher studies.
Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Balroop. It’s been wonderful to have you here. Although there may be differences in your school days, there are familiar threads that seem to run through them too.
Find out more about Balroop Singh on
her blog: Emotional Shadows
her Goodreads author page: Balroop Singh
her Amazon author page: Balroop Singh
Connect with her on social media
Facebook: Emotional Shadows
Pinterest: Balroop Singh
Purchase your own copy of books by Balroop Singh
If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:
Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.