Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Losing Focus

There was a time like a hundred years ago when I looked up to my father as a role model. As a boy, I can still remember wanting to become exactly like him some day. But over the years, as I was growing up, I realised that he wasn't such a great role model after all. He had way too many weaknesses and he made way too many mistakes in his life; and he kept repeating those mistakes too.

I had the habit of lamenting about my father to my uncle. My uncle said something very profound to me. He said if I'm convinced that I'm smarter than my father, then I should be the one to understand him; not the other way round. I should be the one to find ways on how to make him see where I'm coming from. That was about 30 years ago, but I've never forgotten my uncle's advice up to now.

The recent case of the student who was beaten by her teacher as a punishment for calling him names, reminded me once again of my uncle's advice. I myself am a parent to a teenager, and for seventeen years I've never once beaten her as a means of teaching her manners or how to become a good person. She's not a perfect child, but thankfully she's never been in any serious trouble in school. Perhaps I'm just a lucky parent, but I have at least proven, albeit from just one child, that beating is not entirely necessary to discipline or teach a child manners. In fact I'm a firm believer that beating may even be harmful in giving rise to the habit of her doing the same to her children and other people.

Having been a teacher for about three-and-a-half years of my life, I think the role of a teacher is far greater than just to impart knowledge to the kids. He is also a role model, and suppose to inspire his students to aspire for greater things in life. Those are the things, therefore, where his focus should lie. However, dealing with many students can be quite challenging. It means many different family backgrounds, religious and moral upbringing, how they interact with their peers and teachers. Needless to say, there is bound to be some bad apples.

When the going gets tough the teacher, above all else, should remain true to his role and be very careful not to lose focus. If he considers that he is smarter, that he is the educator, the role model, the person that inspires his students, then he should behave like one, and not easily lose focus and fall victim to anger, thus reacting by beating the student on grounds of provocation. 

A strong man is one that keeps a cool head under very stressful situation and able to act in a calmly manner—a quality that I have no doubt that many of his students would admire. Respect is not an automatic entitlement; it is earned. If one wishes to be respected, then he should behave respectably. An ordinary man may lose his cool, and then driven by anger to act violently against others. But when one wears the hat of a teacher, the standard of expectation is much higher than that of an ordinary man.

The standard of expectation can vary between different professions. A judge is expected not to indulge in any criminal act. A doctor is expected to have the passion to save lives. A clergyman is expected to be religious. A teacher in the course of his duty is expected not to be provoked into violent behavior when he is angry.

But what about the student that called him names? Well, she obviously needed to be taught manners. She deserved some guidance. A young mind is not always thinking at the same wavelength as that of an adult's. That's why the teacher needs to be creative in his approach. Perhaps discuss the problem with her parents, or suggest counselling sessions. Just because beatings by teachers was an accepted punishment by most parents in the past, that doesn't mean that it was the right, or best, solution for problematic kids.

I'm seeing reactions on facebook, some of which have suggested that if the teacher is not allowed to beat his student, then he should just focus on imparting knowledge and neglect teaching the student to become a better person. I must beg to differ. A teacher is a teacher, and his job is not limited to just imparting knowledge. I would expect him to develop the mind and instill good qualities in his students to make them better people. I find that to demand the right to beat his students as a condition for him to carry out his full responsibilities is too big a price to pay. 

May I repeat, respect is not an automatic entitlement; respect is earned. If one wishes to be respected, then he must behave respectably. The teacher, in the course of imparting knowledge and wisdom, should be the one to find ways to help his students, not just resorting to violent means.

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