A Word in the Ear A story about noticing the unnoticed in Student Behaviour
An article in Hindustan Times dated July 5th 2017, "School teachers spare the rod but shame the child", jolted me like anything.
The survey said, around 50% teachers in private and government school confessed to shaming students to discipline children?
Why while playing the role of teachers and educators we forget that how as children we felt when a positive or negative remark was passed to us by our teachers?
Positive remarks did wonders and negative lead to withdrawal. We need to clearly understand that we are human engineers. A good doctor, a good engineer, a good lawyer, a good politician and the list is endless, are all our products.
We, the teacher communities have a great responsibility to shoulder. One word in the ear of a child can transform the life of the child. Lend your ear to your students and see the magical power you discover within you. We possess the power to change lives of thousands. I recall a wonderful experience I had around 15 years back when I was teaching class X students. During those days class X was Board system and us teachers would slog to get great results. Bringing all the students to distinction level was the target and a challenge too.
While most of my colleagues would talk about tests, extra classes and what not, I would initially work to build up a rapport with my students. I was the class in-charge of class X and would spend most of the time connecting with my students.
I would reach classroom before students so that I could greet each of them and also catch their mood in the morning itself. It's always easier to deal with students if you actually know with what mood they are coming to school.
It is easy to label a child saying, he/ she is not doing well but do we try to find out the reason for low performance? There could be so many reasons. A child might feel that the teacher doesn’t love me, the subject is boring, a problem at home, fear of failure and much more. If a disease is diagnosed the correct medicine can be prescribed. Similarly, if the reason for low performance is diagnosed an effective measure can be adopted.
Not only in the morning, I would prefer being in my class during break time too so that I could observe the behavior of my students. The way they interact with other students, the way they move around and so many other things. I am reminded of a boy named 'Sourav', he was a quiet and timid boy who preferred sitting at the last bench. His performance was below average and I never found him smiling or even enjoying with other students in the class. He would walk with his head held low and never looked up while walking. Even if I tried to strike a conversation with him he would never look up. He was fair, tall, good looking but had low esteem. I tried meeting parents during PTM and every time his mother would come and keep complaining about Sourav that he disobeys, never helps at home nor studies and all kind of things. I tried to talk to Sourav several times to find out the reason but could never get anything from him.
Three months had passed and I had largely strike a perfect connect with all my students. They would share different episodes during the break and other times of the day. At times we shared lunch and during lunch, I would get to know so many things about my students. Sometimes I would overhear the discussion of students. Amidst all this, what was disturbing me was Sourav's behavior. No improvement in academics but more than that was he not mixing up with others.
Fourth month of the session was about to come to an end and all my efforts to bring him out of his shell seemed futile. It was the last day of July and as usual, I was up in the class before the students were there. I looked towards the door and Sourav entered with a new haircut. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to praise him and immediately I exclaimed. "Wow! Sourav looking smart with this haircut." To my surprise, Sourav looked up into my eyes for the first time and his eyes shone. He uttered, "Thank you ma'am", in a low voice and went right to his seat. That day I found a different Sourav, his head held little higher than the rest of the days. And that day proved to be red letter day because after that I found a better Sourav every day. The way he walked the way he entered the class every morning showed a vast change in him. Slowly coming near me and during the break, he would sit on a bench near my table and started little conversations with me. While eating he would come to me with some difficult topics and I would explain him. Then I found a drastic change in his class performance. He began to raise a hand in the class to answer questions and as a regular practice, I would applaud his answer. I usually applaud all children for their answer in the class even if they are not so correct. This gives confidence to my students as they do not hesitate to speak because my message to my students is that 'it is okay to make mistakes' is very clear. Perhaps that was the reason why my students showed the best result in my subject (Social Science).
I love to talk to my student's whenever and wherever I met them. I ask them about their future plans, study schedule, hobbies and lot of things about their interest.
After seeing a positive change in Sourav I would look for an opportunity to talk to him to find out more about him.
One day I just happened to go to the classroom to get something and found Sourav sitting alone and studying. On enquiring, I came to know that the rest of the class had gone out for games period and he wanted to revise for a test to be held next day. I told Sourav that he too should go and play and can revise at home during the evening.
The sentence that came out of his mouth in a forceful way was quite shocking, "No, I can never study at home." And after that, he was silent as he realized that he spoke in a quite high pitch and was embarrassed. I went near to him and sat down. His eyes were lowered again. "Why beta what happened?" I uttered He kept quiet and when I asked for the second time he started crying. I allowed him to cry without interrupting and then just kept my hand over his hand he looked up and said, "Ma'am you don't know, I can never study at home."
I was upset to see him crying but I still mustered the courage to ask him again. What came as an answer was very painful, "My parents", he sobbed bitterly. "They quarrel and hit each other and most of the time my father leaves the home after that and doesn’t back at night. Then my mother shouts at me and my younger brother blaming us for different things. She says she wants to leave the home but because of us she is not able to do so I am fed up of all this now". He covered his face with his hands and cried & cried.
Like a flashback, everything ran in front of me why this child was always quite why mother spoke that way during PTM’s. There was a reason and a very scary one.
I offered him a glass of water and asked him to go and wash his face.
For a week I did not discuss anything with him though every day he would look into my eyes and pass a smile. It seemed like he was comfortable that he shared things with me. I could see that 'lending my ears' to him gave him the courage to look up. My urge to see him perform well in academics made me sit with him again after a week.
It was difficult to start the conversation and I started with, "so Sourav all fine with you", and the answer was "Yes ma'am". We spoke at length about his performance his parents his career and lot more. I asked a very sensitive question to which he answered very maturely. "What do you think who is at fault your Dad or your mom?", and the prompt answer was "Dad". "Ok", I said. "I am sure you want to bring a change in your mom’s life", "Yes for sure" he answered.
And then I set up to work with him. I made it very clear to him that he has to first establish himself and then he can support his mom and younger brother. For this, he must perform well in board exams as that will set his base for future. He agreed. Every day he would stay back in school for 1 hour after school to revise his lessons. Whenever he had problems in my subject I would help him and other subjects he would share the problem with me and I would pass it to the other subject teacher. My colleagues were supportive and helped me to with this child. Every day there was an improvement in his performance I found his confidence level rising with every test and his interest in academics also grew. There was a sense of achievement for both of us.
Days passed by with the same routine and it was time for the exams. Students stopped coming to school but Saurav came every day. Even on the day of the exam he would come to school touch my feet and go to exam centre after that.
Exams were over and I got busy with my next batch. End of May and time for result declaration came. It was awaited both by teachers as well as students. The result was a pleasant surprise all students showed brilliant results and to my greatest surprise, Sourav was at 80%. He came to school and there were tears in his eyes. He thanked me again and again and said, "Ma'am it’s because of you, you have changed my life." I patted him as I had a heavy throat too. I was delighted to see him but if I uttered a word tears would have rolled out of my eyes. On the way back home I kept thinking "A WORD IN THE EAR" is the only effort we need to make to bring a change.
About the author:
Ms. Rajdeep Kaur Aulakh
M.A. in History and Psychology, B.Ed. Ms. Rajdeep has an experience of 23 years in education.
She started her career as a primary teacher and then moved on to be a TGT Teacher then PGT, next Senior coordinator, Vice Principal and now she is a Principal. She has taught in various schools in Delhi and moved to Ludhiana in 2010. Since then she has been working with Darshan Academy Senior Secondary School, Ludhiana.
Teaching is her passion and she loves children. Being the Principal, most of the time she gets stuck up with administration work but she finds time to go to the classes and connect with her students as much as possible.
She feels that she learns most when she is with her students. They are wonderful teachers and everytime she goes to teach, she comes back with enriching experiences. Children are storehouses of enthusiasm, energy, passion and joy. She believes teaching is the most beautiful profession in the world and those who are into it are the blessed ones.