My first three weeks as English teacher, Literature teacher to a Secondary Four (graduating!) class and Form teacher has been nothing short of eventful. I have spoken to countless of parents, met a parent with the school counselor, ridden in an ambulance with my child who hyperventilated in school, saw my kid cry in the school toilet, had a student scold F a few times in class, had a parent hang up on me, received chinese new year cookies from my kids’ mother, had a school cleaning staff complain about my form class students about disrespectful, signed on a legal document as a third-party witness…
Here are some things that have impacted me most at the end of Week 3.
How can we teach our kids respect?
My colleague and I discussed this over our late-late lunch yesterday: how can we teach our kids respect? The word “respect” seems to already have been overused such that some students even cringe when a teacher mentions it as a value. How can we restore the desirability of this word that means so much? When I heard what the cleaning staff told me about my unappreciative kids, my heart just sank sank sank to the ocean floor. It sank beneath the ocean floor when I tried to talk some apologetic sense to them, and they remained adamant and complacent of their moral righteousness. Our kids no longer function on the principle that you should be respectful to others who are more senior than you in age, or that you should be full of gratitude and respect when speaking to others who are paying you a service.
It is a very self-centred, me-my-I attitude that we all seem to be under siege of. If the teacher is boring or the subject is boring, I will not want to study for it. If I do not like my group, I will just sit in a corner, sulk and not want to work them – who can make me? If someone is rude to me, why should I be polite to him/her?
Their logic of give-and-take is not flawed and makes much sense. But just imagine what would happen if everyone thought the same way: that they would not treat someone else nicely unless they are first treated well. The world will stop running and everyone will be poor pathetic misers! Suddenly after this week there is this new-found urgency to teach them proper manners that stems not from principles or logic, but from a heart of love and compassion. Is that too impossible?
Third-Party Witness to some online slander
It is a long story, but boy this incident makes me feel that there is so much that needs to be done to educate our kids on being gracious and learning to respect and appreciate others. I was not involved, but hearing their exchange made me wince in my seat because it was painful. He was obviously personally affected, and I think everyone in the room could feel the sting of the matter that transpired. Suffice it to say some students posted inappropriate and nasty remarks related to the school online, and while it may have started out as a joke, the online reminiscing of old times easily took off as a platform to exchange slanderous and misleading remarks.
It was just awfully painful for me to hear how ignorant and oblivious they still were of the lesson to be learnt. This was a part of their education our school failed to provide for them.
My kid who could not look at herself in the mirror
In school, I have never seen her speak to someone and look at them comfortably in the eye. When I accompanied her to the female washroom to make sure she tied up her hair neatly, I noticed that she would not look at herself in the mirror. I thank God at least she was willing, this year, to speak with the school counselor. We will need a lot of love and patience to help her overcome her difficulty, but I pray that we teachers may be nurturing and the classmates accepting and gracious, to help her integrate back into a normal school life. I trust that it is not impossible; God is in control and He heals and empowers.
This has led me to see that there is so much more that goes on behind every child. Sometimes we forget that, because all we see is how they behave in class. When that does not meet our expectations, we find fault in either the student or in ourselves, or both. Being form teacher to a class of students have allowed me to gain greater access to their lives as an individual person, and understand and appreciate them for who they really are. I really hope God grants me more wisdom and grace to guide them as a teacher, mentor and friend.
This issue of learning how to be gracious and compassionate will continue to stay in our minds for some time, I reckon. I know, just like how many teachers concur, that it works to lead by example. But while living out an example is necessary as part of the education we want to share with our kids, it is not the only way to achieve that lesson? Is there not a more proactive, explicit way to infuse such lessons of the heart to them?