Let Your Child Breathe: A Teacher’s Fervent Plea

In the quest to enable children to have a 'bright future', are we instead turning them into machines geared to follow a set of instructions?

In the quest to enable children to have a ‘bright future’, are we instead turning them into machines geared to follow a set of instructions?

I am not a mechanical engineer, and yet, I am creating another set of machines. I am a teacher!

I start my day with the favourite tagline I learnt through some training sessions and online videos,”I want you to do XYZ”. Oh well! Who am I to want from someone to do something however commonsensical that may sound to me? How would I react if I hear anybody – anybody at all – teachers, parents, friends – telling me continuously right from the start of the day to its end, “I want you to do this, do that, look up here, look down there, stand up, sit down, go pee, start writing, close your eyes, open them up and blah-blah?” Does that sound weird to anyone else out there as well? I wonder!

The other morning I heard my neighbour helping her toddler (a child younger than 3) recite a poem, given by the little one’s Kindergarten teachers, about loving your parents, friends, family etc. Well, isn’t that a choice a child should make on his or her own when s/he grows up? Who am I to tell him/her that love me because I am your somebody? On top of everything, preparing a three year old to pass a test, to please his teachers or your friends and relatives (apparently), is so far the most nonsensical thing that I have ever witnessed, I thought!

However, on thinking harder, I realized that age is just a number, and I probably am doing the same or worse in my classroom already. Some of my students, even though they have crossed the first daring decade of their lives, are still kids at heart. They are not ready to digest the complicated history lessons, depicting hierarchies of the Mughals who I believe did no good to our country, but ruled for centuries and exploited everything to its core! I want them to write an answer to the question, “Where are deciduous temperate evergreen forests found on earth?” Really? The fact is that the complex political boundaries of the world map, the imaginary lines on the globe, and the difference between the tropical or temperate makes no difference in their life, not today, nor will it ever! But I want them to do that, and I want them to do that well: the correct spellings, punctuations, grammar, diagrams, along with anything else at all they know about the subject matter.

I want my students to win the (senseless) race – of marks, prestige, grades, and so on. I encourage them to raise hands – judging their ability to think (read, answer), based on their willingness to share, by raising hands… really? “Oh well, so I know the answer, or I am probably thinking something inside my head, but I don’t want to share it with you, in a large classroom of 70-80 students” seems a completely justified attitude from a girl of 11, who has been told by her parents not to raise her voice loudly as it might hurt her chances of getting married to the right guy! (Nevertheless, that issue is so prodigious that we may require another long post or probably a book to capture its worth). I judge the students’ achievements by their opening up and blabbering in a system like that?

I make assessments, and I administer them, and I upload them. And I do all this to prove my own ability of being a wonderful, world-class teacher. Who on earth would want to project himself/ herself a fool, a loser? I know that the moment I say this, the integrity of all teachers is on stake. Well, however rude it may sound, the system is designed in a way that it contains a pointer reference error. In a sarkaari (government) school, a teacher showing results of her students’ performance that indirectly shows the result of her own performance as a teacher, is a serious example of the conflict of interest inherent in the system. It creates a database of literacy rates, based on which policies are designed that are hardly able to address the education-inequity gap that exists in the world (which by the way is too wide to be put on paper).

Sadly, this is not just the story of low-income or below-poverty-lines classes. The so-called educated, white collar, business-class crowd, too busy in its hectic work lives, struggling to meet the work-life balance itself, is too impervious to anything about its kids’ problems, let alone the country’s problems. The child is suffocating, in the pressure of grades, teachers’ complaints, parents’ expectations, peers’ performance and bullying, and so much more – just so you know.

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The desperate, helpless, enslaved mothers of my students, hold my hand every time they meet me, in anticipation of their daughters doing well for themselves and me playing some role in that journey, expecting me to promise a good future and proclaim, “She is doing great in her studies.” I rush into my classrooom, as I am already 5 minutes late and that would kill my lesson-plan, expecting students to stand up and wish me ‘morning’ in one voice, open up their notebooks and follow my daily chants – How to become a slave of somebody’s thoughts…How to kill your creativity and hate your childhood…and so on…and oh, I just recall that I promised their mothers (only a while ago) to give their daughters a future – as they dearly call it!

Yours Sincerely,

Desperately caught-up in the system, a teacher

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About the Author

Swati Agarwal

I am an odd bird!

15 Posts | 94,929 Views

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