Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The After School Special

As a child, I never did like school. To me it always resembled some sort of juvenile prison, where we as unhappy inmates were hoarded around like cattle. We would be stuffed together in a classroom where a visibly bored "teacher", who was probably a dissatisfied house wife would ask us to recite the alphabet.
It does not take a person with a degree in psychology to tell that the so called teacher is bored out of her wits and visibly resents your very presence. Its something a small child can figure out all by itself. High school wasn't all that bad, I did meet some wonderfully genuine teachers who helped me develop my talents. But for the majority of the time it was the same convoy of disgruntled educators.
Education makes a big difference in ones life. The ability to grasp certain things in the key moments of your life make a huge difference in the sort of person you become tomorrow. Failing to do so causes numerous hurdles in the life ahead.
I do not believe in the fact that someone is just born stupid. Unless you have some sort of congenital problem like dyslexia or autism. Even then, dyslexic and autistic children aren't exactly stupid, given the opportunity, they can outshine even the well to do kids.
But that's how most children are labelled in some schools on account of under performance. Stupid, cannot learn, dull, etcetera.
Any person worth his salt ought to realise that the fault lies with the teacher and not the student. Its the teachers failure for being unable to get the student interested in the subject.
Then again teachers are not the only culprit. Parents aren't far behind as far as ruining the child's interest in education is concerned. Of late, they have begun to opt for the easiest option for correcting the child's bad performance in class. What's better than class? More class. Namely tuitions.
Of late, you have children studying in classes as low as the second grade, huffing and puffing carrying bulk loads of books on their bicycle going for remedial lessons after school. So much for the joy of childhood.
Its not a prejudiced or pessimistic outlook that I wish to portray, but on the contrary, something quite real and something experienced by a great deal of children.
Teaching and learning can be a wonderful experience if you ask me. There's nothing more wonderful in life than to learn and understand new concepts and material.

But the way they are introduced is of paramount importance.
For instance, in my own experience, we had this professor who taught us infectious diseases back in the fifth year. His method of teaching involved mutual interaction by treating us as equals. He gave us insightful details, and added relevant trivia to the subject in discussion so that we may never forget the topic. We liked studying for him, and even sought to impress him by trying to answer his questions. There was never any force, insults, boredom or aggression in his demeanour whatsoever. And as a consequence I loved the subject primarily on account of the professor.

On the other hand we have also encountered certain professors who can utterly ruin the subject, leaving you abhorring it for good.
Of course fortunately I am old enough to study on my own. So the after effects of being bombarded by mindless drivel are of little consequence.

But children on the other hand are not.
They have little choices to make when a particular teacher can make learning a literal hell for them. Besides they are too immature and scared to think otherwise. And as a consequence most of them end up suffering purely on account of the teacher's indifference and the parent's negligence.
What angers me more is when parents do not stand up to defend their children when they are subject to obvious harassment. My parents raked up all hell at a teacher back in junior school when they learned that she had been threatening us kids with chilly powder in the eyes as punishment for not doing the homework. The teacher was suspended and the principal offered a formal apology.
But not all kids end up that fortunate.
I was aghast when I read the news about a child in high school, who slipped into a coma after being hit on her head for not doing the homework. Obviously as gracious our judicial system is, all the teacher got was a suspension and nothing more.
In spite of all the "accidents" that have either maimed or severely affected children for the past many years, no one has taken the step to ban corporal punishment in Indian schools.
If this is the sort of trend that is going to continue, you might as well have your child home schooled rather than ruin his/her childhood by a sadistic teacher with the I.Q of a Neanderthal.
Even parents ought to realise and pay attention to their child when they begin to hate school. They ought to realise that obviously something somewhere is wrong. If one cannot stand up and defend one's child from the oddballs that hurt him/her, then one might as well not be a parent.
If parents cannot understand their children when they were young, they can forget about their children trying to understand them when they are old!
It really bothers me to see the sort of nonsense kids have to put up with in the name of education. Not all schools and teachers are bad. But there are certain institutions and teachers out there who can wreck the very basis of a decent education.
The purpose of education is to enlighten and empower a child.
Not to enslave and frighten it to submission under unnecessary parental and academic pressure.
For its the younger generation that will in later years shape the future.

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rads said...

This was like watching Taare Zamen Par again. I just loved your post as much as I loved watching the movie. I wish my Dad could read this too. I can recall all my favorite subjects back at school and college all owing to the teachers who have taught well but some left a bad taste and so did the teachers. Why can't teachers and educational institutes understand this. Its not like they don't have kids who are tortured once in a while. Anyways I'll not force my kids the way my parents did.
LOL@ probably a dissatisfied house wife

Shadowthorne said...

Erm at last an entry I can relate to because I am a teacher...

I can call myself lucky because as long as I can remember, all of my teachers were really dedicated, including those so called dissatisfied house wives (because they DID leave their problems at home) :)

Teaching is not an easy job, like most people think. Just wonder why parents let teachers do their job (instilling good values etc); because they cannot cope with it, and they will have someone else to blame if all else fail. Do not judge teachers harshly.

I am considered one of the brutal teachers in school. I do not enjoy inflicting pain (ok ok sometimes) but a lot of students can only be taught by fear. If teachers only ask students to do their homework for the sake of love and respect, believe me, not even a quarter of them will finish anything. Love germinates leniency, and we in school cannot have leniency all the way because it DOES corrupt.

So if your teacher looks tired, because he / she really is. Imagine trying to make understand 30 odd minds in a class. Isn't it easier for those 30 students just tune to only one mind; their teacher's?

I love my job, teaching. Yet everyday I am angry witnessing lazy and impolite students. And yes, I do use strong language in class not because I want to, just berating them, reminding them that life is not a huge playground.

They will regret those days of playing when they get older.

And I had witnessed so many of my students fall after finishing school... (if they can only turn back time).

Kadambari said...

That's a good post. It was shocking to hear about the little girl from the MCD school. It all gets worse when parents fail to understand their child's school phobia and instead send them running around for more classes. High time they let the child go and infused a more creative and healthy learning.

A child should not be at the receiving end of the wrath of a disgruntled house wife. At the same time, thrusting all their unfulfilled desires onto their kids is no way for parents to bring them up.

Anonymous said...

It was really terrible for that Delhi girl. The judiciary did not take much action because the girl was not from a high class society but was from a poor family. Poor girl, she had to stand out in so much heat!
Even I find it very odd that children go for tuitions at a very young age. In my neighborhood, a girl studying in LKG goes for tuitions. Her mother is a house wife but because the girl does not study at home, she is sent for extra classes!
But, in my opinions, in higher classes like 5th or 6th, when child does not score marks. It is not because of the teacher, it might be his fault for being disinterested in the classes because other classmates of his might be getting good marks. Such children are called ignorant.
What is most horrible thing is that parents have expectations from very small kids to get good marks and this makes kids to go under pressure. What a waste of childhood! I am so lucky that my parents were never like that!

Vyazz said...

@rads, yeah...I loved Tare zameen par!!...quite surprising that bollywood came up with something intelligent for a change!!..Basically I felt it necessary to relate to my own personal experiences with teachers!!!

Vyazz said...

@Shadowthrone: I was totally expecting your comment. I cannot argue with the fact that teachers may have a hard time out there. But like I said, I just wish they were a tad more responsible in the way they handle kids. They ought to know that they can influence a child into hating or loving a subject. I agree with the need to discipline kids. But in most circumstances it can get really harsh, when kids are subjected to physical abuse which is very rampant in India.
I guess the key is always to act in moderation. Not letting both leniency nor excessive disciplining go haywire.

Vyazz said...

@Kadambari: Totally agree with you. I seriously wish parents were more attune to the problems their children face when it comes to their education.

@ramya: Usually excessive pressurization does more harm than good for children. I am totally against the tuition scene in India. Its all right for senior school, but not for toddlers.

Sandhya Ramachandran said...

A very intense post! I just have one thing to say- A teacher should help a student discover and respect oneself, to make the kid realize what an immensely gifted and unique being every one is and instill confidence in being who they are.
It is very sad to see that teachers today do not realize what an immense responsibility it is to mould young enthusiastic minds. Which is why someday soon, I'm getting into teaching, at least in a small way! It is one of the most noblest of professions and something that will lend a great meaning to my life! :)

sammythewizzy said...

@Shadowthorne, Its true that teaching is a difficult job and requires loads of patience (one of the reasons why i might never be a teacher - no patience).. But I don't think "Love germinates leniency" .. In my school and colleges, we always respected and responded more to teachers who were caring and were not on our heads for every small mistake..

I'd say that far from corrupting, Love generates respect.. (Atleast in all these years of my studying under some wonderful teachers and professors, it has been true).. No offense intended..

Anonymous said...

Such a lovely post. You touched every aspect of a child's school life!

I really agree with some of the comments above, that love and understanding should be every teacher's trait.

We cherish & carry the memory of every kind teacher who was a friend to their students. Just like we remember every strict teacher with distaste no matter how well placed their intentions might have been.

It is the teacher's call how they want to be remembered! What say Shadowthorne!?!

Vyazz said...

@Sandhya: There were certain really genuine teachers in life whom I came across who helped me in overall self development. And some who were just pure evil. I guess you need a great deal of patience and underatanding to be a great teacher. Have u seen the movie freedom writers?..If not watch it...its a great movie....will inspire u when u go about becoming a teacher!!!

Vyazz said...

@Sammy: with all due respect to shadowthrone, we cannot deny that teachings hard. Nevertheless I don't know about foreign countries but in India, teachers can be really savage towards the children. You need discipline, true! But the thing is, at least in India, the education system is really going to the dogs!.....What can I say??....to each of his own!!!

Vyazz said...

@Choco: Thnx.....I guess each individual perspective matters.....irrespective of the intentions!!!

brocasarea said...

first things first-nice post:)

here[india] education system depends too much on memory and marks!..most of them judge u by ur marks which is really sad...i have good grades and need not feel bad but wht abt other less unfortunate children[people]??...even now my aunt asks my marks and compares it..it really irks me!!

brocasarea said...

and if ur living in india u better be good in studies..!!..lol

SSQuo said...

Its a mindset, some teachers can only resort to a hitting or beating or a yelling because they dont know any better. It's history repeating itself and then exposure to new methods of teaching.

My mom was a teacher and she was considered to be a stern but a loving teacher. I mean students LOVED her, noone could take for a ride, she was Very respected, but she was also the woman that students went to with their problems (beyond school stuff too). She was considered a cool mom to have :) She never hit a child and always tried to deal with things behaviorally. There were times she needed to scream at a child, but never more than that. Till date I get notes from students that are in awe of her, oh AND her beautiful nails when she placed them against the board! I know, weird right but students remember these things :)

I feel like a walking talking ad for my mom, so I might as well end by saying - I LOVE my mama..lol!

Seriously though back to the post, some teachers are narrow minded and focused on the lesson, rather than the overall growth. I think as Shadow mentioned, some students need discipline, and the kids these days definitely need it when there are SO many distractions.

I think the chilly powder incident is bizarre, but it stems from the old thinking of fear = submissiveness = learning. No other options are allowed. e.g. Taare Zameen Par. Either you do it right, or you are lazy/dumb. without the thought about 'true love for a subject' or inherent inclination. But its probably understandable coz for many true love for a subject is not a consideration,correct?

Sorry if my comment is a bit all over the place!

Vyazz said...

@SSQuo: Ur mom sounds like a wonderful teacher to have...no wonder you are proud of her. Its too bad that not all teachers are rational in their approach. Frankly in the past I have met some genuinely good teachers. And agreed some students can get on your nerves. Nevertheless what I am against is the use of uncalled for corporal punishment amounting to abuse especially in Indian schools. It almost ends up scarring the child's mind for good. All in all it would be great if the teachers realised the sort of responsibility they have when it comes to handling young minds.

Vyazz said...

@Brocarea: What u said is absolutely true. Indian education is too much marks oriented. Its one of the reasons that children are bogged down by uncalled for aggressive competition. I suppose like western schools its about time we adopted the grade system instead.

SSQuo said...

Gosh, do you remember the whole 10th grade percentage thing?? it was SUCH a big deal, and it was almost a given, for e.g. if you did really well you pick Science, one rung lower then Commerce, and otherwise Arts.

It is bizarre a total disregard for talent or passion. I happened to break this coz I did well, but still took Commerce!

I also knew a friend who did well but took Arts and I look upto her for doing it!

Vyazz said...

@SSQuo: Yup...I remember it far too well. The thing about being judged by ur percentage. I took science anyways...though my mom wanted me to take arts. Its true...like u said..there is a total disregard for passion and talent. Just wish they would revamp the whole education system in India. Coz the way it currently is...It genuinely sucks!!

Aquarius said...

Its a pity to see kids carrying heavy school bags and trudging reluctantly to school. Here in UK the education system is very different. The kids just carry their lunch to school and one homework copy. The study is reserached based rather than mugging. This helps a child understand how to approach problems in life. They are taught at a very early age to find their own way.

Vyazz said...

@Aquarius: I really envy the kids in UK, I suppose the same sort of education system exists in the US as well. Ur right about the mindless mugging system here in India. Education here is highly theoretical rather than practical. Its a real pity actually. But neither the parents nor the faculty so far have shown any interest in changing it.

Shadowthorne said...

Wow! My name was shouted twice!! I am honored, ha ha ha.

My advice to you guys... be A TEACHER FIRST before you think every teachers should embrace so-much-love-can-generate-respect thing.

And then you will be reminded of the saying; we all have good intentions, but the method is in the way.

Thanks for the heated argument. :)

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