WHEN THINK­ING IS FOLLY

How are stu­dents go­ing to learn to act in a ma­ture man­ner?

New Straits Times - - Viewpoint -

ONE of my stu­dents walked into class one evening, look­ing rather up­set. Later, when I prod­ded her for the rea­son be­hind her frown in place of her usual cheer­ful smile, she told me what had hap­pened ear­lier that day in school.

Ap­par­ently, she was up­set with one of her teach­ers who had rep­ri­manded her for “talk­ing back”. She was sup­posed to keep quiet and not ut­ter a word in class.

Ac­cord­ing to her, the teacher had been teach­ing a cer­tain topic that day. My stu­dent, cu­ri­ous that she was, asked her teacher some­thing re­lated to the topic that was be­ing taught.

In the most un­ex­pected turn of events, the teacher al­legedly yelled at my stu­dent for be­ing dis­re­spect­ful.

I soon found out that this par­tic­u­lar teacher ex­pected all her stu­dents to never ques­tion her, be­cause ap­par­ently, ques­tion­ing her was akin to “talk­ing back” as a stu­dent would be deemed rude if he/she would dare do so.

As I was lis­ten­ing to the poor girl who, in my opin­ion, did noth­ing wrong, I was taken back to more than a decade ago when I was her age and re­ceived a good scold­ing for try­ing to “act smart” with a teacher back in school.

I had had a fairly solid grasp of the lan­guage ever since I was in school. It was prob­a­bly due to my keen in­ter­est in writ­ing, which had helped me im­prove my English syn­tax and vo­cab­u­lary.

Need­less to say, English used to be my favourite sub­ject in school from the very be­gin­ning. I got along quite well with my English teacher and I never once crossed her. But one fine day, she wasn’t feel­ing well and couldn’t make it to class that week, and was re­placed by an­other teacher for the en­tire du­ra­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, the tem­po­rary teacher ab­so­lutely de­tested me be­cause I had stepped on her toes on the very first day of her re­place­ment work.

I can­not for the life of me re­mem­ber what it was about, but she had made a very ob­vi­ous mis­take with some­thing in her les­son that day. Try­ing to be as least dis­re­spect­ful as I pos­si­bly could, I slowly raised my hand and cor­rected her mis­take.

I must ad­mit that I was hop­ing she would have said: “Oh my! I didn’t re­alise!” and quickly cor­rect her mis­take on the black­board. In­stead, her face turned into a ter­ri­fy­ing shade of red and she screeched at the top of her lungs.

She ac­cused me of be­ing a “smarty pants” and told me (yes, in front of the en­tire class) that I should learn how to hold my tongue be­cause she’s the teacher, and hence, will al­ways be in the right, and that I’m the stu­dent and I should never, ever, open my mouth to dis­agree with any­thing the teach­ers say.

I hon­estly thought that this method of teach­ing and learn­ing had ended dur­ing my era in school, but I am quite dis­turbed to learn that noth­ing has changed.

The in­ci­dent with my stu­dent was only one that I’ve cho­sen to high­light to you.

Many of my stu­dents have com­plained to me that their teach­ers in school force them to never ques­tion or “talk back” to their teach­ers.

As an ed­u­ca­tor my­self, I am in com­plete dis­favour of this method.

Look at the irony of the sit­u­a­tion here: we ex­pect our col­lege/univer­sity stu­dents to be able to think crit­i­cally and ques­tion any­thing that is out of the or­di­nary in the name of ed­u­ca­tion, and achiev­ing ma­tu­rity in thought.

Yet, in school, we si­lence them with ac­cu­sa­tions of dis­re­spect and a lack of good man­ners.

How are stu­dents go­ing to learn to think out of the box if we do not give them a chance to de­velop their minds?

How are stu­dents go­ing to learn to act in a ma­ture man­ner if we do not give them the chance to build their in­ter­per­sonal skills?

It’s our duty as ed­u­ca­tors to shape the minds of the young to be full-fledged adults in fu­ture. It be­gins with a two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion in class, and not an au­thor­i­tar­ian-like ap­proach to teach­ing.

The writer, a lec­turer at Sun­way Col­lege, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scot­tish/Ja­panese/In­dian lin­eage. She be­lieves in a tomorrow where there is no ex­is­tence of racism and ha­tred

It’s our duty as ed­u­ca­tors to shape the minds of the young to be full-fledged adults in fu­ture. It be­gins with a two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion in class, and not an au­thor­i­tar­ian-like ap­proach to teach­ing.

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