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We are all capable of making mistakes – My classroom experience!

I have been getting a lot of mails where teachers have asked me to share my experience as a teacher. I felt like writing and talking about a profession which I love and which is my passion and while writing this article the thought which was coming to my mind was of all the unknown teachers across the country who go to work everyday, hardly noticed, rarely appreciated, dedicating their lives to the children who are our future. I would be starting now a series of my experiences in the classroom which many teachers would be able to relate to very easily as theses are the situations we face everyday and you will be able to identify atleast one student in your classroom with the particular character I pick up.

I’m again relating real classroom incidents which occurred during my teaching times where I would always try and discover a solution to them through my instinct and intuition without demeaning the child’s self esteem.

Well, let me tell you teaching is a profession of passion and if you can make a difference to even one child in a class… your mission is accomplished.

When I joined this profession, I had had only experience with the corporate world of airlines and I still recall the first day in 1994 when I walked into a noisy classroom with children looking upto me with a warm smile and that expectant look of… ‘please be a good teacher’… I could never share with them and probably even today if they were to read this would be shocked to know that that first day in Grade V, I was nervous… I was scared.

As a teacher the most important thing is to enjoy each moment and be true to yourself and your student. You are not supposed to know everything just because you are a teacher but remember this is a profession where we learn everyday something. I got into teaching purely by accident. I’m still not sure whether I’ve scarred anyone for life, but I knew from the first half hour in that classroom that I most assuredly did not hate this teaching thing. Even when the kids were squirrelly little terrors, I was energized and pretty much full to the brim with joy. First, I love kids. Head over heels, over the moon, I love them. I love to hear them say they “can’t” write and then show them that they really can, even though it never gets easy…

The thing about Rohit is that he would never admit to having done anything wrong. Whenever anyone accused him of anything, he would emphatically deny it.

Accusations and complaints against Rohit happened regularly. Complaints became more and more frequent and here I was, an adult struggling in my mind that how I should make him own up for all the wrongs he would do daily.

‘Rohit spat on me’ Julia tugged at my shirt to tell me . ‘See, Maam, He again spat when you were looking at the other side’… I called Rohit and questioned him,’ Did, you spit?’ . Pat came the reply,’ No. I didn’t, they are all making it up’… I never like to issue a consequence unless a child admits to the crime. If I punish someone without a confession, he or she will hate me as that will go on to prove to him that I did not believe him… which will harden his feelings when he grows up as an adult and he would never learn the value of speaking the truth and most importantly the fact that we are all capable of making mistakes. We need to imbibe in them that we all are capable of making mistakes but we must learn from it and have the courage to admit it. This is an essential value which must be inculcated in a child at an early age.

I had to find a solution to this problem because by evading it not only I’m letting Rohit go but also the other children will never look up to me for support or a person who can solve their problems.

I went into the classroom and asked all children to sit in a circle… Circle time is an essential part of my classroom teaching as that helps in setting the environment of learning and gives each child an opportunity to speak .My main motive was to make Rohit admit his mistake but it had to be done discreetly without hurting him as we as teachers must remember it’s the behavior not the child who is wrong. I started with ‘Let’s talk about one wrong thing which we feel we have done today… Ill be the first one to say as I did something terribly wrong, I had a fight with my Husband today and screamed at him’. ‘Oh, Oh’… all children spoke in unison and at the same time giggling as children can rarely believe any adult admitting to his or her mistakes and that’s the biggest lesson one can give them while trying to teach that ‘We are all capable of making mistakes‘. One by one each of them started to admit whatever mistake or wrong they had done and then came Rohit’s turn, he looked here and there and he knew he had been caught smartly because if he denies all children will come out with a lot of accusations .He lowered his eyes and spoke almost in a whisper, ‘I spat at Julia’. The children were all engrossed in thinking about their own mistakes and waiting for their turn that half of them did not even notice what he said. But here I was feeling extremely content and happy that my mission was accomplished without hurting his self esteem or screaming at him and at the same time making all children realize that we all are capable of making mistakes. ‘The next task is to how will we all rectify what wrong we have done’, I told the children and I spoke first that, ‘I would go and apologize to my husband for screaming at him’. All the children nodded and one by one each of them agreed that they would go and apologize to whosoever they had wronged and here Rohit just got up went to his desk and started to draw something on a piece of paper. I didn’t yell at him for breaking the circle time rules but let him be and when we finished our session Rohit came forward and had made two cards one for Julia and another one for me with a big ‘Sorry’ written on it. I could not control my tears at that moment. Today Rohit is doing his Master’s in Electronics from USA and I’m sure he will always remember this day.

The challenge as a teacher is that you have to represent both grace and justice at the same time. The offender needs to be inspired, uplifted, and strengthened in confidence. If he is shamed in front of the class, the opposite effect is often achieved. On the other hand, the class needs to see that justice has been done, that a crime will not go unpunished.

Teachers don’ realize the tremendous power they have… they can enable the children to become what we see in them.

Shalini Nambiar
Director
Excelsior American School