Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Importance of Being Reasonable!

Yesterday's article in the New Paper caught my attention, "School bars students from mall - but is ban working?"

I do not have to continue reading, but I can bet my beloved pets that the ban is not working, and will NEVER work! What an outdated way of instilling discipline! I feel sorry for the teachers who had to patrol the shopping mall and neighbouring areas after school. Teachers are already so stressed; why give them an additional chore? Am I glad I left after teaching a total of 10 years in River Valley High and ACS (Independent).

Students today do not like to be treated like kids. They want to feel that the school, teachers and parents can trust them. Instead of using force, why not appeal to the students' sense of right and wrong. I often shared with my students personal stories and stories of other successful people. Instead of reading boring comprehension articles, teachers can sometimes extract or rewrite a summary of the life of Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Sun Yat Sen, MM Lee Kuan Yew, Nick Vujicic, Lena Maria, Beethoven, etc. I always told my students that I often worried for them; for their safety and success and there was only that much that I could do. But if I teach them to think carefully and help to enhance their maturity, then I would worry less, for I knew they would want to do the best for themsleves. Their motivation to do well would come from their innermost desire; not by any force or coercion!

As a student I had no problem for I would be only too eager to cycle home! Our humble attap house was the best refuge for someone like me, who loved reading books on the easy chair and doing her homework on the verandah. I just enjoyed being home with my beloved papa who would arrive shortly after me as he was a school teacher. However, not every student has the privilege of a wonderful home to return to. Nowadays due to a change of lifestyle, most parents work, and many children have become latchkey kids. Some of them to not have the good fortune of eating hot delicious lunch at home, but have to take lunch in food court or fast food outlets like McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I am sad to read that a grocer, Mr. Heng, who lived in the vicinity of the school had relayed feedback to Coral School on improving student discipline, but had stopped because the school did not seem to think much of his suggestions!

Mr. Heng had witnessed a teacher returning with a packet of food, presumably for himself, and when he saw some students eating instant noodles at the void deck just outside his shop, he asked the students to throw away their food and go! Had the teacher no compassion? In his hands was a packet of delicious food while the students were standing and eating instant noodles! If I were him, I would have given my packed food to the students to share, for what nourishment could anyone get from instant noodles? By asking students to throw away food, was the teacher not encouraging wastage? Even if we have the money, none of us has the right to waste any morsel of food, while the world is still full of deprived people who would even drink cow's urine for want of water and soil for want of food!

I dislike people who are so high up in their ivory tower that they are earthly irrelevant and are unreceptive to feedback and ideas from others! Even though Mr. Heng could be less educated than the principal and teachers from Coral School, he has more wisdom when he said, "They just don't seem to understand that students are rebellious at this age. You can't use force and expect them to listen to you." "If the teachers don't respect the students, why should the students respect the teachers?"

My papa who had never studied psychology had understood people very well. He knew what would make his students tick. Never once had he to use force; his reasoning would make me break down in tears and motivate me to be the model student that he could be proud of.

Instead of forcing my students to like my subjects, English and Literature, I had to "sell" my subjects by making them interesting and relevant. "Language for life", and not just for the "O" levels. "Language for mental health", for as a man thinks, so is he. Hence, I encouraged them to write freely in their journals; to express their anger instead of bottling it up; to express their desire for the kind of life and future they would like to have, etc. I never once had to punish the kids, for they would do their work happily and willingly, because they knew the importance of having a good command of English, not only in school but in the Universities and working life.

I thank God for papa, for he was my role model where teaching is concerned. What would papa say to the Principal of Coral School? He would probably suggest "Use reasoning with compassion, not coercion and punishment."

Gan Chau

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