Thursday, May 12, 2011

Under Siege

We seem to be a society under siege. We construct walls do defend imaginary threats to our bangsa and agama. We whine, complain, threatened.....

Yesterday started with a downpour, a welcomed one cos it has been extremely hot these couple of weeks. As usual when it rains in the morning, the absentee rate at school goes up. And there is a big increase in the number of latecomers as well. Truth be told many of us teachers actually feel happy when the problem students don't come to school because of the rain. There is more peace.

I had a class during the first period. And since it had been raining, there were stragglers. Once upon a time, my teachers used to make sure that we greeted them properly before we entered the class. These days, such manners are lacking where I am. Anyway, this morning I had a couple of late comers. And this is how it went...

Boy sauntered in. I stopped him and asked him what he should have done. He stared at me blankly. I rephrased. He said nothing. Then I asked him what he would do if he visits a friend at the friend's house. He replied he would knock on the door. I asked him what he should follow it up with.... he said nothing. Then he said rather righteously and accusingly that he was late because of the rain. This time, I retorted that I didn't ask for the reason why he was late. I said it seemed obvious that he was late like many that day due to the rain. And i had no issue with that. I told him one need not be a genius to see there will be some students who would be caught by the rain. I wanted him to tell me what he should do whenever he visits his friend after he knocks on the door and is acknowledged. Finally a grudging answer, "bagi salam". I told him that I require common courtesies in class. In the process I thought I felt his resolve (don't know for whatever reason) melt away. Lesson went on as usual after two more almost similar encounters....

I notice that defensive responses is the norm these days. Students behave like they are under siege whenever we try to hold them accountable to their behaviour. Thry seem to feel that we're out to find fault with them. They feel that each time a teacher reprimands them, they're being wronged, or that people are out to make life difficult for them because they relish seeing them made squirmy. While part of the fault lies with the students, maybe due to upbringing, teenage rebelliousness and other reasons, I guess in a way we are responsible too for conditioning them to feel like that. Way too many teachers ramble and rattle, not forgetting nag and yell at students for the slightest bit of mistakes. We create big hoo and hah over little things. I sometimes see teachers trying to exercise too much control over the students' lives. And I think that only serves to antagonize many of them.

Life has generally improved a great deal for this generation but manners have not. Once I used to teach in a rural school where students might have had rather colourful exposures due to the proximity to the border towns. But those students were generally well mannered and polite with teachers.. These days, I find many students obnoxious bordering uncouth. Perhaps it's our fault too for not drawing clear lines with them. Hazy lines cause behavior to become hazy too sometimes.

Under siege... That's how I view my students yesterday. They behaved as though they we under persecution....

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