“Sherly aunty, when I grow up, I want to be like you!” my 3 year old nephew told me as I washed my hands when I reached home.
He was so excited to see me, and wanted me to carry him, but what does the first rule say? Must wash hands! The little one followed me and watched closely as I washed my hands for 5 minutes. He said, “Sherly aunty, why are you washing your hands?” I was very cartoony when I explained the reason we wash our hands and why it is very important to do so. He listened to everything I said with patience and paid keen attention to how I washed my hands. That’s when he said he wants to be like me when he grows up. As silly as it can seem, the child paid attention to what I did and said.
For a moment my imagination just swapped to me standing on a tall building wearing a cape, with the superman theme song playing in the background. Trust me, if I can feel that way to a child who is 3 years old responding to how important it is to wash hands then I feel responsible for imparting the other most important things in life.
I suspect there isn’t a single day most of us escaped ‘being bullied’ as a child or even as we grew up. While bullying is an issue that is often discussed in larger forums across the country, being bullied by school teachers is something that we don’t stop to consider at that time, and perhaps understand it only in retrospect.
Among the other most significant people in our lives are our teachers. Children and teenagers spend half their lives growing up to be who they are taught to be. I am pretty sure that some of you can relate with me on this, “You are not going to make it in life if you fail this test!” “Are you so stupid that you cannot understand this simple formula?” “Do you have bricks in your head in the place of brains?” I have grown up listening to my classmates being accused of being useless and less than others based on their colour, size, uniform and the place they came from. That’s not fair!
Teachers get to spend more time with students than most parents do. Let’s talk about influence? When the impact goes wrong, we end up having horrible memories and as a child, in most cases, you end up reaping what was sown into you. Telling a teenager that you are not good enough, often and repeatedly, is verbal abuse. Making them stand outside the class does not really build them; yelling at a student in front of their classmates at an age so tender is mortifying and discouraging, and making them sit next to the ‘class topper’ doesn’t make sense. Asking difficult questions to check their smartness level is not fair! Isn’t this a kind of bullying? Isn’t this injustice? Does this not amount to abuse?
So, the teacher builds a character assumption based on a student’s performance, and this assumption spreads like wild fire. Teachers in the staff room talk about it, together they make a ‘plan’ to keep the student out of everything. Hearing disparaging statements, losing friends, being stared at every time the student stands out on the corridor, it makes the teenager feel so vulnerable and a failure to his or her parents, friends and family. Isn’t this bullying? How can the student do better when her/his efforts are being ignored?
As a teenager we would have wanted to have someone to look up to, a teacher who would have believed in us, who could have told us that we are not failures but spoken encouraging words, conducted activities that build characters, affirmed and reiterated to us that extracurricular activities are as important as academics. It is okay to allow the teenagers to discover themselves, but a little sowing of encouragement and belief in them would take them a long way!
Here’s my request to all the teachers out there – as stressful as your job can be, remember there’s way too much sensitivity that you get to handle, with care. Students need to be heard and understood rather than judged and dispirited. It is not fair to use the influential power to discourage and cripple someone.
There are so many new schools that are encouraging experiential activities along with academics, understanding children as they grow and sowing the right seeds helps them to appreciate themselves better. As the saying goes, “Children are the future of tomorrow!” you and I are responsible in everyway to see that it is true!
By Shallon Sherly
Sherly is an amateur writer, she loves creative writing, traveling and doing a lot of craft work. Her passion is to spend a lot of time with children and teenagers understanding life from their point of view. She believes that every child is talented and deserves to be treated the same, what we sow is what we reap.