If I Knew Then What I Know Now
By Vasundhara Srivathsava
English Teacher, New Jersey, USA
Foreword by Venkat
There are times when we unlearn to relearn what we learnt and there are times we experience what we missed to absorb in the past. Becoming a teacher gives a perfect way to enter this time machine and completely ‘re-experience’ ourselves in an older, wiser self on the same stage. Vasundhara brings this out so cogently, laced in subtle humor, fitting the unseen ‘jigsaw’ puzzle pieces of what appear like ‘unrelated’ subjects in school academics as school students.
Enjoy this wonderful perspective – an integrated outlook – and connectedness of language, science and art in one blended ‘alloy’ called learning experience!
Vasundhara Srivathsava is an English teacher residing in New Jersey, USA. After several years as an IT professional in the corporate world, she decided to return to her two passions – teaching and language arts. She currently tutors students online and in-person for SAT, advanced and honors English, college application essays and language arts. Aside from teaching, she is interested in dance, music, travel and food. She dreams of one day returning to academics again to pursue research. But until then, she is making the most of life with her family and students.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Dear young readers,
Many moons ago, when I was still in high school, I knew everything. And if I did not know something, it was obviously because I did not want to know about it. I was always busy with my multitude of extracurricular activities, hobbies and interests. I had to invest my time and resources judiciously in things I cared about. I knew that I could be whoever or whatever I chose to be in life. I was confident, tenacious and spunky. Clearly, the world was mine to conquer.
Like most students in high school, I had my favorite subjects of course – the ones that weren’t boring. English was one of them because it came effortlessly to me. However, I couldn’t be bothered with all the other dreary, insipid stuff that we had to learn just because some grown-ups forced us to. I thought I liked biology until I was called out for daydreaming in class. Humiliated, I decided that biology was a waste of my time. Who cared if the amoeba reproduced or excreted anyway? I certainly didn’t. No more biology for me, I vehemently concluded. Well, the world was just going to have to be one neuro-surgeon short now, wouldn’t it? There was always architecture, I told myself. I was certain that I was going to be a fabulous architect. I dreamed up innovative new building designs in my head all the time. And then, unfortunately, we got a new math teacher whom I didn’t quite like. So naturally, I felt obligated to dislike trigonometry, the subject he taught. Unlike the castles and buildings of my imagination, real world architecture required a firm grasp of mathematics. Turned out, with my new found distaste for trigonometry and consequently calculus, engineering and architecture were not really feasible career choices for me. Not one to be worried, I marched on optimistically. I would surely find that perfect niche in life, where I would not have to learn or do anything I disdained. I chose to pursue liberal arts with a focus on journalism and communication.
Finally, at the age of twenty three and half, I found myself all grown up with a brand new life in America. With my masters degree in communication, I was ready to make my mark on the world. Except, that my only options for employment were in the software and IT sector. And I didn’t even know how to turn on the computer. No seriously! The only computers I had seen in college were big servers with dumb terminals. And back then, PCs were still a novelty. When my husband brought home our first PC, I could not spot the power button because it was flush with the unit. I was looking for a big red switch. So it was back to college once again to learn computer science and programming. And remember my resolution of avoiding mathematics forever? Yeah! Now I had to study every branch of mathematics that I had diligently managed to avoid thus far. I eventually, albeit grudgingly, became a programmer and was actually quite successful too. Life went on and about fifteen years later, I had another epiphany. I realized that teaching was my true calling. And in order to get trained as a teacher, I once again headed back to school. And remember my hubris when I had decided to shun biology forever? Apparently, to earn a teaching license for elementary school, I required college level courses in science, mathematics and US history. And yes, I found myself studying biology, chemistry, history and mathematics all over again. Except, this time, I was surprised to find myself thoroughly enjoying it.
Today I am a teacher who loves and lives to teach. And if I could travel back in time to my high school days, what would I tell my younger self? Maybe, that there is no such thing as a ‘favorite subject’ when you are in school; that everything is interconnected; that the reason you are good at solving sums but not word problems is because your language skills need work; that physics, biology and chemistry become considerably easier when you learn the Latin roots of English words; that you can’t claim to like science or math but dislike reading and writing because you depend on the strength of language to think critically. Most importantly, I would tell my younger self that there is no escape. Every subject taught in school is essential even if you don’t think you are ever going to need it in life. In the real world science, math, social studies, languages and arts are intricately and inseparably woven together. A good foundation in all of them simply makes you much better at whatever you do.
Older and wiser
By Vasundhara Srivathsava