There is a difference between those who teach because it’s a job and those who view teaching as a calling. I’d like to think that those who heed the calling are not hated by all their students. Neither are they the ones who take out their problems on the young children in their care; nor do they make a habit of telling students that they’re stupid. I was sorely disappointed when one of my nephew’s teachers told her class that they were not only stupid but the dumbest she’s ever had. These kids are part of the prestigious International Baccalaureate program which is notoriously difficult to get into far the less complete. Unsurprising to find that she tells her class this every year but to what end? For seven years in primary school it was all about passing Common Entrance for our first choice. With that achieved, we got to secondary school only to be told that we’re not as smart as we think we are. In fact, we were scraped from the proverbial barrel’s bottom. We dug and scraped our way through to O ’Levels and found some measure of success. Then in A ‘Levels we’re told that we are a waste of space – again. Personally, I didn’t give a hoot at that point and actually gave up on a subject right in front of the teacher. She couldn’t care less and probably believed that some university was spared the indignity of my attendance. Not all teachers are bad but those are the ones who make schooldays unhappy days.
I had the unfortunate experience of being told by a former teacher that she purposefully graded me on the lower spectrum for five out of the seven years she taught me. She claimed that it was reverse psychology but I think it was the devil using a long-time puppet to give me a bad day. Mission accomplished, as I can vividly recall the sick feeling in my stomach that day. I thought I needed a CAT scan or something to explain my lack of academic success. Then along comes this alleged educator proudly explaining why I couldn’t win a prize for Speech Day to save my life. Ah well, you live, learn and try to break the cycle. I’ve had two unchanging rules during my brief stints as a teacher; also with staff, friends and stressed-out nephews. The first rule is that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. It’s better to ask for guidance when at your wit’s end, than to get left behind and miss an important learning opportunity. The second rule is no problem is so big that there isn’t some kind of solution, even if it’s not one you like. People panic when things go wrong; and oftentimes the simple resolution is staring us in the face but we’re too freaked out to recognise it. It’s unproductive for the class or project. Actually the only thing it produces is acid reflux and nobody likes acid reflux.
Regardless of age, we become vulnerable in a classroom. We submit our wills to a stranger who directs, corrects and sometimes scolds us. They tear down our preconceptions, test our skills, push us to the limit and broaden our horizons. Sometimes we leave that classroom empowered and improved; but sometimes we crawl away a shell of our former selves. I wonder how many high school students opt to drop out because their self-confidence was broken by an uncaring teacher. In a society, where kids go hungry and have too many responsibilities, how unfair it is for them to be called stupid by their own teachers, who could then explain it away as reverse psychology? That is if they are even pushed to explain themselves. We have to look out for our kids and help preserve the backbone bad teachers like to trample. The children are the future but what gives these gits the right to break them down? We do, when children don’t get the support at home that they so desperately need.