We all have been in a class where we have paid no attention to the teacher, not listened to one word that was said to us and giggled about it after the class. We asked Swapna Haldar, who has taught long years in a school, if that ever happened to her. She then told us about this little interesting incident where she used Mark Twain’s books to get the student’s attention. 

Twenty years back, school teaching was a bit different from now, it was more bookish. Quite naturally there were uninterested students and a lot of absenteeism in the class. It was the fourth or fifth year of my teaching when I was asked by the principal to teach eighth grade. As I was teaching higher classes, I was a bit surprised. It was a big class with fifty two students, mainly boys and a few girls. 

On the very first day I noticed that almost half the classroom was empty. It was a private school with high tuition fees. Second day it was not half but almost, third day it was the same. The students who were present seemed more interested in other things rather than learning from the book, leave aside the home assignments. I went to the principal, before I uttered anything, she said she knew I would be able to bring the boys back to the classroom. I was speechless. She wished me good luck as I came out of the office. I thought and thought about my course of action when suddenly an idea from Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer came to my mind. The two stories had been introduced in the curriculum the same year.

Next day in the classroom as I started reading, I saw the interest spark in their eyes (I was known for my story telling). I read two pages from the book and left the rest for later. Next day I could see the number of kids in the class had increased. I again read one page and announced that the students would also be given a chance to read aloud from the book. By the end of the week the class was almost full. Next week I asked them to submit their home assignments but most kids did not. I decided to use Mark Twain’s magic again and told them that only if the whole class did their homework, they would get to read aloud from the book.  

It became easier to bring back the students in the class. By the end of the term, the classroom was filled with many enthusiastic students and only a handful of disinterested ones. Long live Mark Twain’s books!