Over the past couple of days, a video of a student shouting at his teacher went viral. Yesterday, it was reported the student has apologised and “shown remorse.”
This reminded me of my secondary school days, when I was in one of the rowdiest classes. There was a classmate who joined a gang (the infamous 369 in the 90s), another shoplifted and some played truant. In other words, my mates aren’t the easiest bunch to handle. However, there was this one teacher who could keep a tight rein on us- our Maths teacher Mr Ang.
Mr Ang is a quirky guy with a lot of unorthodox ways to punish us if we didn’t behave. (Parents would probably complain about him if he had used his methods now.) When we were late for remedial classes, we had to jump through the window to get into the classroom. When we forgot our file, we had to stand on the table or sometimes, sit under the table. We took them in stride and even exchanged notes with his other classes to see what other punishments had been meted out.
We obeyed his instructions not because we were afraid of his weird penalties. It’s because we truly respected him. Despite being childish, rash and rebellious teenagers, we knew he was trying to help us and had good intentions. Every morning before the flag-raising ceremony, we would submit our homework and we would get them back later that day. If there were a test today, we would get the papers marked the very next day. He was always punctual for classes and would get into arguments with other teachers if they didn’t end theirs on time and ate into his lesson. In the four years I was taught by him, he never took a single sick leave. While he would give us a lot of homework, we knew that he worked twice as hard for every assignment we did. We trusted him, respected him and did his bidding. Most of us got an A1 or A2 for our Maths.
Back to the student’s case, my point is- Mr Ang had used his care and dedication to get us over from the “dark side.” While it will be a long-term project, the teacher in this situation would need to gain the child’s trust and respect. That would mean not judging him, having to care for him from the bottom of his heart, not giving up on him and spending a lot of time to mentor him. Shaming him online is definitely not a solution. Children and teenagers are very smart. Despite being young, they can easily tell if you are sincere. And I believe that’s the way to reach this child, even if it takes an extensive time.
I feel very strongly about this because I recently started teaching too and that is the basis of our teaching model. Beneath all the creative teaching methods we boast about such as journalism tools or games, Wallace and I agree the primary rule is that we need to genuinely care for our students. That is the only way the school would succeed and the students would excel. I want to be Mr Ang. (minus the odd punishments.)
Till this date, my classmates and I still keep in touch with Mr Ang and ask him along for any class reunions we have. (where he would relate to us every single thing we did as a dumb teenager.) I think this is the true success story of a teacher.
((Disclaimer: I do not know the teacher in question personally so I don’t know how he approaches his students. I am sure he’s a very caring teacher. My point is that long-term dedication and concern for the student is the only way to help the student.))
Wei recently started classes with his buddy Wallace. Wei would teach English using journalist tools to ignite the students’ passion in the language while Wallace would teach Maths and Science with games. You can find out more about them on their Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/studyroomjr