THE MOST-EFFECTIVE EXCHANGE-PROGRAMME
Pic.: Varsha Chitnis Junnarkar
As a young school and college boy, I dreaded whenever my parents were called to school for my poor performance or behavior in school… I, also, dreaded any kind of punishment at school – being called by the Principal or Vice-Principal, being thrown out of the class, being asked to write fifty or hundred times the answer. I, almost, wet my school shorts when, occasionally, an angry teacher caned me (Teachers got away with caning in those days!)… I, also, dreaded – and resented, as all young kids did – being compared to anyone in my class. How I wanted my teachers to correct me was: by teachers talking to me directly, by appealing to my conscience… my heart…
Even as a young boy, I believed, that if my heart did not change… and if it did not change by choice, my behavior would never change… no matter whether I was caned, made to stand on my head or even sent to Andaman islands (Those days, they sent the hardened criminals there!)…
Thus, when I became a teacher, I had this choice to make every day when my own students performed badly in studies and their behavior… Would I call their parents to complain about their young-ones? Would I send them to the office of Principal or Vice-Principal? Would I throw them out of the class? Would I ask them to write the answer hundred times? Would I assault them with a cane or my offensive words? Or, would I try to change them with the same method I wished my own teachers had used?
I chose to do what I wanted my teachers to do to me… I was very convinced, that if I was not able to appeal to my students’ hearts - with a language they would feel, understand and change through – I was a good-for-nothing teacher… So, even if it meant frustration and pain, even if it seemed hopeless and very, very hard – I would only try to use my words – passionate, sincere and well-meant – to change the performance and behavior of my students… I would never ever call the parents to complain, I would never punish… Caning was for a cannibal, not for me… I preferred to cane my young students with words… with the language they would either understand or they would understand nothing in life…
Well, that has been my conviction… and, I have not given it up, yet. Nor have I given up on my students…
I did not want my own teachers to give up on me!
Today was one such frustrating morning… I found my twelfth-standard students so casual, so callous… that, their performance and behavior both brought the cannibal out of me. I was angry and, I knew, for the right reason… I knew that, however frustrating and futile it seemed, I would only use the method which I wished my teachers had done… use a language my students would either understand or they would understand nothing in life…
I had given a simple test in a chapter which I had, almost, completed… Only one boy had pleased me with a performance expected of them… This boy had never joined a coaching class ever in his life… I was the only teacher he had ever come to learn from apart from his college teachers… He lived in a local slum… Parents were not literate… College was local… Yet, the boy was committed and focused… He had never taken his life casually… And, I knew why it was so… He had the right reasons – to walk out of his slums, to give his parents a better living before they died and, above all, to walk with his head high with the pride… of being a self-made man!
There was this young-man. I knew him very well as I had taught his parents, too. Parents had worked extremely hard to provide the best of education and lifestyle to this young-man and his little brother. They both (parents) respected me so much that they would, constantly, tell me this: “Sir, we give our boy to your hand… Please mould him the way you wish.”
This boy was sweet and respectful. But, his casual attitude towards studies and life would, always, worry me… Umpteen number of times I had tried to point it out to him… I had used gentle and harsh words alike to help him change… But, being born with a silver spoon in his mouth had taken away the underdog-fighting-spirit which was needed for change… Unlike the boy from the slum, this boy had no reason to slog hard for… He lived in a massive four-bed-room-mansion (just for four of them!)… They had another two-bed-room house just lying vacant in the same complex… had a lovely car to ferry them…
So, this morning, in the midst of my frustration and pain, I said to my students this: “You guys go to great schools and harp about the ‘exchange programmes’… Yes, someone from the US or Europe comes to your place to live with you for some months… understand your culture, lifestyle, habits, values etc… and, in exchange, you go all the way to their home in the US or Europe to live with them and understand their culture, lifestyle, habits and values.” Then, I looked at the boy, who came from the well-off family, and said, “Honey, I suggest this exchange programme: why can’t you go to this boy’s house (the one who had hard times) to live there for fifteen days and let him live in yours for so many days? That could be the most effective exchange programme ever carried out by any school. Are you willing?”
Did I compare two of my students?
I hated, and still hate, comparison, sir.
Would my students understand this language?
Well, if they wouldn’t, then, they would understand nothing in life… And, take, it from me:
as a teacher, I would be good for nothing!