"PROBLEMS ARE ONLY OPPORTUNITIES IN WORK CLOTHES"
Pic.: Madan Manik
Today, I had scheduled our second Prilims for the twelfth-standard students. As I was correcting the papers of first Prilims, I had stopped midway… yes, a lot disappointed and annoyed. “How could, almost all of them, be so callous… even at this stage?” I had reacted in my mind, “There are hardly any days left.”
So, this morning, before they started writing their second Prilims, I spent some 15 minutes and made my observations… I picked some very common mistakes they had committed in their first paper and helped them so that the same mistake would not be repeated today… As I was talking to them, a parent appeared outside my class with her daughter. We were already overshot 15 minutes, by then. The parent seemed extremely upset… She removed the entire bundle of answer-sheets of her daughter’s college Prilims. “Sir, she has failed in almost all subjects,” the mother broke down, “How much time is now left?”
I froze for a moment! I had asked the same question in anguish while correcting my students’ papers, and literally thrown my hands up in sadness… And, now, when this parent came to see me with some hope, I was suddenly faced with the dilemma: Should I tell her about my own frustrations, and add to her burden? Or, should I find a way out? I did not take more time to come out of my dilemma… I said to the heart-broken lady, “Ma’am, she is not alone like this… In fact, almost all of them are in the same boat. I am sure, they will learn from their experience.” Then, I assured her, “In fact, I will talk to them about it, today.”
The late American industrialist, Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, who is considered to be the father of modern shipbuilding, had once said, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.”
I remember Mr. Kaiser’s famous words whenever I am faced with any problems – whether big or small. Today, I had a routine problem in hand. Teaching is my daily job… and, my anguish has come from my job… I had a problem in hand: How to help my students, at this juncture, make a turn around? Similarly, the distressed parents, too, had a problem in hand: How to help their young-ones make a come around?
The moment I saw, today, the problem in hand - my students’ poor performance and their lack of seriousness – I decided to see it as an ‘opportunity in work clothes’… and, make the most of it. It was there before me, I knew, for my own growth and my students’ as well. I spent a great deal of time trying to sensitize them to their reality… “For me, your marks are not important,” I told them as gently and convincingly as possible, “For me, YOU are important.”
By then, I had calmed down… My disappointment and frustration had left me… “If I lose hope, how will I instill it in my students?” I found myself asking me, “If I give up on them, how will they ever learn not to give up on themselves?”
If we cannot handle our small problems, how will we ever be able to handle our big ones? If we reflect on all our daily problems – no matter how frustrated they make us many times – we will realize how right Mr. Kaiser’s words are…
“Our problems are only our opportunities in their work clothes!”