Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hasty Climbers

They say Power Corrupts. I took it to mean that Power leads to corrupt practices like favoritism and bribery and/or misuse of power for selfish practices. But a recent incidence made me realize that apart from the dangers mentioned, power is also intoxicating and like any other addiction Power too blurs the senses and impairs one’s capacity to think logically. Very often one is goaded into over reacting and taking things too far sometimes almost to a point of no return. There have been quite a few incidences like the one I plan to take up. But the same circumstances might have been dealt with in a different manner some 10 years back. Not so now with the kind of exposure children get these days. One has to be extra careful while dealing with adolescents whether parents or teachers. Let me come to the unfortunate incidence that bothers me.

A teenager who is to appear for his 10th board exams was intelligent but over confident. He regularly led any form of protest in school justified or otherwise to the extent of being noticed and singled out by the Head mistress. He was naturally goaded by his peers who supported and prompted his actions. The Head Mistress also bided her time to put him in his place. When the admit cards for the Matriculation exams arrived she refused to give it to him saying that his attendance was a few days short of the required 75% and he could therefore not appear for the exam. She perhaps expected him to apologize and plead to be given his admit card. The next logical step according to her could have been the arrival of his parents to plead his case. I am sure that she would have given him the admit card after a warning. The boy did nothing of the sort. He dared her to stop him from answering the examination and claimed that he would make her deliver the admit card at his residence. It became a prestige issue for the HM who could not bring herself to give in at this stage. The boy approached the District Commissioner and briefed him about the HM’s stand, requested him to do the needful and went home. The DC directed the school to issue the required document saying that since the boy’s form had been verified and forwarded to the Board by the school and his examination fee had also been accepted, he could not be barred from appearing for the examination. The head Mistress had to finally go to his house to give the admit card because the boy refused to come to school to take it. The student community was naturally elated.

My heart goes out to the Head Mistress who should have weighed the pros and cons before deciding to withhold the admit card. As it happens everywhere she might have been advised by a ‘yes ma’am’ group or she might not have foreseen such a reaction from the student. Those in a position of power need to remain cool and assess the repercussions of their action, taking care not to let their power and position get into their heads. However more than what the Head Mistress had to face, I fear the impact the incidence is bound to have on the student community and the boy in question. The boy is not yet 18 years of age and he has already tasted power. What will his future be? Will the learning process be compromised? He could well be an asset to our society but will he let people guide and direct him? There are many more like him. How do we save their future? What should be the role of parents in seeing to it that their wards do not start soaring high even before their wings have acquired the required strength? There is a popular saying - ‘hasty climbers soon to fall’. I often see parents being over protective about their children and cannot accept criticism of their wards from their own parents. There is a danger of skewed mental growth due such an attitude and that is dangerous not only for society but to the children in question who will not strive for improvement.


Archana Bahuguna said...

I am more concerned about that child than the HM. I think what the HM did was the right thing and if both the student and his family went all that way, they dont know its only going to bring them down some time or the other. Surprising and foolish. Once we go down that ego way there is no return at all. Nice piece.

Artnavy said...

intoxicated with power- those are right labels

i do feel rather bad for the HM- she did what was right after all.

Itchingtowrite said...

i blame the parents! i am sure the school wud have complained abt the childs behavious earlier. they shud have delat with him in the right manner

Mahadevan said...

The Headmistress had two options.

1) She should have told the parents,before the sending the form that she would not send the form, unless they (parents) meet her and explain their ward's conduct.

2) The Commissioner had directed her not to withhold the admit card. She should have told the boy ( in writing) to collect it as had been done by other boys and girls and failure to collect would have been the boy's lapse. Delivering at the boy's residence was certainly not the verdict.

Unfortunately, when she was 'asked to bend', the HM 'crawled' - I am using the phrase of Justice Shah, of the Shah Commission fame.

starry said...

I too feel bad for the HM.I blame the cannot always give in to your children.The boy should have been asked to apologize and then given admittance to the exam.I think the commissioner should have stayed out of this.He was not helping the boy in any way just enabling him to get what he wants .

Anonymous said...

Hi HHG, Are cases like this one becoming a norm than an exception? Maybe you might be able to summarise better given your contacts in the teaching profession.

passerby55 said...

Hello Preeta,

I observe every class has at least one over confident student. There could be various factors that lead to such behaviour in children. Afterall no one is born to be rude and disobedient.

I somewhere see that the Head mistress was wrong in her approach to teach the child.

It looked like she too behaved like the Student who is @ 15 or 16 years of age. A better skill ful way to tackle such behaviour could help him be a better individual.

We need lots of patience and lots of selfless love to deal with such. Blame game will not help the child.

Preeta, this is a good refined post. Makes one realise what it takes to be at peace with oneself.

Sunita said...

I remember as a 9th standard student, one of my class mate, a very intelligent & hardworking girl, was slapped in front of the class. I dont remember the reason exactly but remember we all agreed it was very insulting. We discussed after school on our way home and thought we should let the principal know the next day. When I discussed this with mom, she was totally against the idea of complaining to the principal. Her argument was derived from the belief that your teacher is your God. He as a teacher, who has taught you, taught your siblings, knows your family, we trust, knows very well of what he is doing and even if at a weak moment he did slap you, he is human after all, you accept it. Its not like he does it everyday to every second child in the class. When the girl in question and many of the other classmates came back with the same view from home and so it was rested & never discussed again.
I think because of that guilt feeling probably, the teacher took extra care of that student and she did very well for herself and so are all of us.
I can very well imagine the same thing happening today & taking a completely different turn be it the parents or the students. But then he world today isnt the same safe world we lived in 15-20 years back.

Hip Grandma said...

archana:Something should be done immediately to save the situation.

artnavy:intoxication in any form is wrong and shud be avoided.

ITW:I know of incidences when these teenagers are at loggerheads with their parents who speak on behalf of students and give arguments that cannot be countered.may be I'll write a post on that too.Parents are at a loss not knowing how to react.

Mahadevan:I too feel that the boy's behavior should have been brought to his parent's notice much earlier.Witholding the admit card after the board had sent it was not a wise thing to do.

lalitha:The commissioner oversees Board Exams including receiving and dispatch of qn.papers.He could not have stayed out.But as Mahadevan has rightly pointed out the HM should have insisted that the boy comes to school to collect it.She was afraid that the boy may go to the DC again.

thetalkativeman:Unfortunately such incidents are becoming rather common.I wonder what went wrong.

passerby:You are right.The teacher should have showm more maturity.There is every chance of the child becoming puffed up and overconfident.

sunita:What applied to students some 20 yrs.back does not hold true these days.I do agree that the HM did not handle the situation well.It was unfortunate that the incidence took an ugly turn.

srijithunni said...

Very True.. Humility is a virtues which we have to struggle to build. The boy might have in a way taught the HM a lesson, but he made it very difficult for himself to learn humility..!

BTW, HIp Grandma, I just managed to complete your tag.

With Best Regards,

Cee Kay said...

I agree with Mahadevan. The headmistress should have reported the behavior to the parents and called them in for a conference much earlier - when the disruptive behavior started. Seems to me like she was on a power trip as was the kid. Had she dealt with this matter as an administrator, recorded the history of bad behavior, given the parents ample opportunities to correct the situation and given and recorded warnings to the kid, rules would probably have been on her side. Holding the admit card back as a form of punishment was not such a smart odea for a few reasons.

1. The punishment did not relate to the "crime" at all. And the misbehavior should have been dealt with swiftly and firmly and not allowed to linger for so long. "Nip it in the bud" is what i recommend for any kind of behavior problems.

2. Holding the admit card back was unethical in my opinion as that would have seriously impacted the kid's future had the principal gotten away with it.

I am not saying that the student was not to blame for his actions. But this is what the administrative staff is there for, in a school. To deal with discipline disrupters. I don't know if the parents were ever informed or involved regarding this so I can't blame them - yet. One thing is for sure - parents these days tend to overlook their kids' mistakes and balme the school/staff. This gives the kids unnecessary and even harmful confidence booster making them think they "won" because they were smarter than the authorities. This attitude of parents only harms the kids in the long run because they never learn to follow the rules or grow up believing that they are above those rules.

Has to be me said...

OMG! What an attitude! I quite pity the HM & like u say dunno how this guy is gonna shape up in future.

The Kid said...

It has been scientifically shown that power corrupts even the sane and strong minded, in the very famous "stanford prison experiment."

In India, where absolute subordination is expected of school students, cruel things could happen ... and it comes very close to the above mentioned experiment.

hillgrandmom said...

HHGrandmom, it's true that this kind of thing seems to be becoming the norm. What I see increasingly is that teaching is now treated as part of a service industry and parents treat the teacher as one providing a service and so should provide only what the market wants and not what's best for the child necessarily. Today's parents seem to forget that your child's teacher is your ally.
In a recent incident at a school I occasionally teach at, a little girl in the K.G came with a damp skirt and the teacher commented on it. The next day an irate mother rang up and shouted at the teacher telling here that her job was 'only to teach' and not worry about other things in her students' lives!!!!

Usha said...

I suppose the old methods of disciplining are not efficient anymore with this information enabled generation. They know exactly what their rights are even though they do not care about their duties.
The teacher should have been more intelligent to deal with a precosious child like this and used the procedure to her advantage like mahadevan points out.
I feel sorry for her though!

Anonymous said...

Hi just saw your blog, very interesting post, guess, it's the attitude that needs a make over.These are lessons to be learned.

Hip Grandma said...

ITW:I was out of station.Will take up your tag soon.

srijith:humility pays in the long run but these days it is looked down upon as a sign of weakness.

GTN:You've analysed well.Parents have to be careful to inculcate the right attitude in their children.But there are times when parents are themselves unable to explain their child's behaviour.

has to be me:The HM mishandled the situation and there is no doubt about it.Her intention may not have been wrong but it backfired on her.My concern is about such children who may one day prove to be a bane instead of a blessing to their parents and society,I hope that I am proved wrong and that i am over reacting.It may only be the difficult adoloscent phase that will pass off.

the kid:Power does corrupt.My agony is that young minds that can be fine tuned to do wonderful things are thus wasted.What can be done to save the situation I wonder.

hillgmom:The unfortunate part is that the demand of the market is not healthy for the society.When kids are in the primary classes obsessed parents keep finding fault with teachers for every mark denied to their child and every half mark awarded to his class mate.this builds up to the extent of the child growing up with little regard for the school and his teacher.As an adoloscent he/she is equally disrespectful of his parents but by then it is too late,

usha:Teaching is not the same anymore with parents and teachers equally at a loss as to how the best in these bright students could be brought out.a fie balance has to be struck and it is not easy.

lera:Welcome here and thanx,Authority is meant to be exercised with caution and prudence.Unfortunately this was not the case in this incidence.

Anonymous said...

I was just passing by and I saw this post. I would like to share a related story. When I was teaching in Medical college, I had this student (popular, good at all extra curricular activities) who did not attend many of his internship postings including a 15 day posting under me. With a couple of weeks left for his year to end, he got the news that he had got admission for a post graduate course and he had to submit his internship completion certificate immediately. I refused to certify as he had not come for his posting with me. He came again with a senior faculty member (a colleague) to intervene for him and begged and pleaded that it was a question of his future and that his parents thought that he had finished his internship. After several such rounds, I yielded on his promise that he would come back after his registration and finish his posting with me. He did not come on the day he had said he would. But his friend came to tell me that he had been delayed by a day and would be with us the next day. I knew then that the reform had begun. As promised, he came back the next day and worked for two weeks with me (after i had given him his certificate!) He also showed that he valued this by updating me on his progress frequently after he went for his post-graduation and today he is a leading practitioner of his speciality in a city. Having worked with many young adults as a teacher, I think all of them have the potential to be upright young people and may just need to be validated..most of the time, when they have 'attitude' problems,it is some other emotional stuff they are going through..boy friend, girl friend, school failure,conflict at home, etc, etc..

my thoughts on this :-) would like to hear what you have to say on this!

Usha S.

Hip Grandma said...

Usha s.:you have an interesting account there,and I can see that you have handled an annoying situation rather well.You have channelized the boy's energy in a positive direction.Keep up the good work.We need more teachers like you.There is a story in Hindu mythology where a mother was asked to choose between a100 foolish children and one intelligent one who would live only upto the age of 16.This reflects how difficult it is to raise an inteeligent child.In this age of Information Technology we all have immense responsibility to direct a whole bunch of super intelligent kids.I only hope that we rise to the situation.

"Having worked with many young adults as a teacher, I think all of them have the potential to be upright young people and may just need to be validated..most of the time, when they have 'attitude' problems,it is some other emotional stuff they are going through..boy friend, girl friend, school failure,conflict at home, etc, etc.."--very well analysed.The problems that bother these children have never been faced by the older generation.They need more understanding and affection.

Seenu said...

I do not think that the HM did greatly err.
The student's audacity would have stemmed from his being the son of a politician or a top bureaucrat.The blog doesnot mention about it.
I am concerned the way the incident ended with the HM going to the house to deliver the admit card. She could have consulted this matter with other likeminded teachers and either called up the parents to settle the issue or if it they didnot, then could have sent any one of the teachers/staff of the office to deliver it.

Was delivery by post not an alternative?
It is sad that the HM was made to bow her head.
The DM should be briefed about the matter.

Hip Grandma said...

seenu:welcome here.I too felt that the HM neednot have gone to the boy's house to give him the admit card but does it not show lack of confidence on her part and an inability to defend her decision to hold back the admit card?She should have weighed the pros and cons before doing it.This may be a passing phase in the boy's life and should have been handled better.The DC only directed the school to give the boy his admit card.The HM's post is like walking tightrope and requires a lot of maturity.Being a teacher myself and dealing with teenagers each day of my working life I perceive a sea change in the present generation when compared to their mothers and aunts who were also our students some 22 years back.And this when I deal with middle income groups mostly from vernacular medium.

Hip Grandma said...

seenu:BTW the boy could not have been the son of influential parents as far as I know.My source of information wanted to point out the attitude of adoloscents from normal households and gave me this example.