Saturday, December 22, 2007

Defending the indefensible??

A lot has been said about the use of cell phones in colleges and how far a teacher is supposed to go with her role as a disciplinarian etc. Who gets to decide these things? A teacher? Then students are bound to cry foul. Students? Then teachers would say that the students were too immature to decide. Parents perhaps? But then the late adolescence is a rebellious one and parent/children communication is at its nadir. Someone has to bear the brunt. 'Bell the cat' as one would say. So let me be the bad person who stifles the freedom of the student community. The old woman who ought to ought to opt for early retirement. Remember that I have already surrendered by calling myself a 'Living Fossil' here.

Kurrodu says-

"It is also important that teachers maintain a good rapport with the students. The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough.

The lack of a healthy relationship between a parent and the kid gives room to these bad influences. A teacher is of great help to such kids."

Very true. I am sorry to say that I seem to be defending the indefensible and there are sadly several teachers who for reasons of their own vent their frustration on innocent children and do irreparable damage to their soaring spirits. The reasons are many but none strong enough to justify their attitude. But a sensitive management can do wonders and no teacher would want to lose his/her job. The government should also have a system in place that monitors aspects such as student/teacher ratio, the number of periods allotted etc. and affiliation of private schools and colleges ought to be withdrawn if teachers are found to be over exploited. If in spite of being given the best facility a teacher is found to be temperamentally unsuited, his/her probation period may be extended and in ultimate cases services may be terminated.

The kid says:- "Even in this case, you made some sweeping assumptions on why the student was charging the cell phone. Which could be true or false, but they were assumptions nevertheless.

There is a zero tolerance, unjust and automatic assumption of guilt, and arbitrary prosecution of students by the teachers."

I agree that these were assumptions but they were not entirely baseless. And our fears are not unfounded. Parents in India continue to worry about their married children who have kids of their own. I know that I do. There are teachers who consider their students similarly and automatically feel responsible for their safety. Let us pamper you while we can. Why grudge us the pleasure? I am sure students can differentiate between genuine concern and a power monger’s display of might.

Vishesh says-

“the funny thing is the purpose of imposing discipline is so that we pass it on...but the fact is there are people who hold other virtues, Well my question is does our society have the capacity for holding so many different views?”

I think he means other views. I feel our society is a fairly tolerant one and one person’s definition of discipline may be different to another’s. Within limits no one minds. But broadly speaking I feel that a student’s mind is very impressionable and needs to be given direction. This can be done by involving them in creative and productive activities and more importantly appreciating their efforts when their pursuits yield the desired results and by giving them a second or third chance if they falter or fail. A judgmental attitude will not help. We have to accept that they are dealing with much more competition and need to prepare themselves accordingly. If a student senses good intentions and has faith in you he/she will not mind an occasional dressing down and these are the very people who will see to it that others follow rules. I have shared my experience here and I have seen it when we take students out on study tours.

If we say “you can go out on your own but return by 8 in the evening”, chances are that they will return before the stipulated time to live up to the faith you place on them. But they have to be convinced that you mean well.

Preethi says-

“i mean society as in parents, teachers the whole rigamole) can’t teach responsibility and caution at what 18-19? will they ever learn?? I doubt it unless they are burnt?? After all college going students are adults!!”

Quite right. College students are almost adults at the undergrad level. They must be allowed to learn from their mistakes. But burns can be of varying degrees. A singe or a mild scald is okay. But what if chances are that it may result in a third degree burn that may take years to heal and cause a permanent scar? Would it not be wiser to impose rules or issue stern warnings than to allow them to walk into danger zones and trust them to retreat at the appropriate time? I am sure this argument is going to evoke strong responses from my young readers but I’d still risk it.

Finally NSK says-

“This is convincing, but don't we have too much of distractions in today’s environment that boundaries are easily broken?”

This was exactly the purpose of my writing this post and the previous one. Too many distractions is all the more reason why youth energy needs to be given proper outlet and direction. The girl mentioned in the post is a smart and intelligent girl who could be an asset to her family and society provided her energy is channelized. She is not a Science student but even without have interacted much with her I could make out that we were dealing with a very smart girl. Could we afford to let her think that it was okay to be manipulative or that being smart and devious were the same?

There have been times when I have scolded students for being late. Pooja was one such girl who walked in when the practical class was almost over. When reprimanded she was very rude in her response.

“You come by car ma’am. How would you understand what it means to wait for hours to board a bus?”

She was almost in tears.

“You have to leave home sufficiently early. This excuse will not hold” I said.

She sat sulking for half an hour. Realizing her mistake she came again to ask if I’d explain the practical to her and I did as if nothing had transpired. From that day I could sense a positive change in her attitude towards me. It was the same with another girl Jyoti and there have been more cases when a mild rebuke has actually strengthened the bond between me and my students. As I’ve said before they have to be convinced that one means well. And dealing with bright children has never been easy.

A merry X'mas and a Happy New year to all of you.


Vishesh said...

i did mean virtues....others feel what they know is right....yes your point is right about our society holding...but it is the presence of so many views that causes people to get is not that the people can't see whats right for them...but well it is just better marketing by the other side..

if as you say teachers are understanding then we students will not care how strict or stern they are...for eg,my last year science teacher was a friendly person...but when it came down to marks,corrections she was never partial but always fair....that gave us all a lot of confidence...and also she was very understanding and acknowledged our problems etc....

The Kid said...

Every rule that you make is an instrument of power, that can be abused. You are a very responsible teacher, but I have already shown you that there are teachers who for their own personal reasons take advantage of these rules and abuse the students.

Here is a solution I propose:
The problem here is that, there is no voice for the student. There needs to be checks and balances for everyone. While teachers check the students, students should also be able to check the teachers, or in other words, give feedback. Every accredited college has this system to ensure everything in place.

For example, you should have also asked the students, what they thought about the cell phone use ban. You could have arranged for a student-parent meeting where every student and parents (together) get one vote each. For all you know, they might all vote for the ban. But the point here is that: the management did not ask. The students need a voice.

They are not kids, but victims of abuse. Empower the students. The students will also know how a democratic system works. They will also learn that this democratic system is not perfect. You can try out different things to improve , rather than get stuck with old system which seems to aid abuse.

Vishesh said...

@kid well i as far as i am aware,i have been given a lot of freedom by my school....but yes i have heard of schools where kids are over exploited ...but the thing the only way to stop that is by putting sense into people! i mean the a kid,whatever we say is not going to be fact when you are a kid,you can be good at only certain aren't allowed to good at certain other things...and well i tell you people feel kids aren't matured and what past have they had is there people ever realise that kids learn faster from there mistakes? and as for kids having no past and all....ask those kids without a future or have come out of such a situation they will tell you....the thing laws or voting will not help...for still the society's view is not broader....but at the same moment i am tempted to say,kids are easily influenced and when you are influenced you don't have discretion and so with teachers too so some one who isn't biased should take the initiative,my solution for the cell phone problem is this,simple create a box or a place where kids can deposit there mobs during school hours and they can collect them afterwards....One thing is certain we are moving in time,we need to change the way we see everything..There are so many more serious problems which you have my school,we are allowed to take our mobiles when we have to go out for representing the school...And during one of the cults a judge told us to switch of our mobiles and went into a lecture! as if we all don't have the discretion to switch them off!!It is the soceity's view on the whole which has to change...

Balaji said...

A very happy Xmas and New Year greeting to you gmom.

hillgrandmom said...

As someone from Hip grandma's generation, one thing I realise is that people of our gen don't have anything from our lives to relate to in the cell phone issue--there just was nothing like that then. That said, I do feel that students should not have cell phones with them in class. Of course a student with a sense of responsibility will realise that for himself/herself. But the the thing is that many young people are still in the process of acquiring that S of R and sometimes a little help in jogging that S of R into strength is needed. So some kind of rule is necessary. Beside @kid, rules are not really about using power. All rules are really about living co-operatively with our neighbours.

The Kid said...

@hillgmom: I already agreed to the fact that cellphone usage inside the class should be banned because it directly disturbs teaching. It also distracts other students. The teacher has the right to object.

The question here is: should cell phone usage be banned on campus (outside classrooms). Hiphopgmom's college bans all cell phone usage inside the campus except for emergencies. I question if this outside-class-ban is really needed.

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
the kid is right when he says that stdents need to be involved in decision making processes but they too need to understand that abiding by rules does not portray them as weak and submissive.Student feedback will work in institutes that encourage a certain amount of exposure to students and teachers are able to handle criticism.I am sure that this will be introduced in colleges in India soon.We tried it in our department once when students were asked to give their feed back without giving their roll numbers and we were happy to see that many students came out with their problems.unfortunately we did not continue.may be we should on whatever small scale to begin with.There has been a lot of discussion and I am thankful for your inputs.

As the kid says "You can try out different things to improve , rather than get stuck with old system which seems to aid abuse."

I am not in a decision making body but I understand the need to change as per the requirement of society.will do whatever is possible at my level as long as it benefits students in the long run.

Do I have your permission to wind up the discussions for the time being? Enjoy the well deserved break and do take care.

kurrodu said...

This was one healthy discussion. I am happy that you started it.
Wish you and your family a merry christmas and a wonderful year ahead.

The Kid said...

Happy holidays !

Artnavy said...

a very happy 2008 to u

catching up on all your posts now

Ravi Ramaswamy said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I am presently reading some of your old posts. I love the teaching profession, and hopefully I can get to do that when I finish training. Here's wishing you and your family a very happy new year.

Tys on Ice said...

wishing u a very happy new year...

nice debate u hve started here...i wish i had cell fones whn i was studying...i can just picture the kind of trouble i wud hve created :)...if my grandma was alive, she wud hve said that god didnt give horses horns and millipede eyes for a reason..