A wake up call!

Monica Kochar

She called out to me from across the road. She looked familiar. Was she I…? “Hi ma’am. Remember me? I am I… . I was never good at Math. I am doing PhD in Economics in the US now.” PhD… oops! Wow! is what I felt. In a subject I could never study. I had written her off when she was in school! She could not handle Math at all. I tried every trick under the sun to get her to learn the subject. But she never would learn and I dismissed her. Why did I never try to find out what her strengths were? I looked at her open mouthed. So suave, sophisticated and respectful. Has she forgotten how I scolded her for never scoring in Math? For never being one of those ‘savvy’ ones.

A realisation dawned on me as I stared at her in admiration:
We look at a child using the subject we teach as a framework.

A child for us is usually ‘good in my subject’ or ‘bad in my subject’. We fail to see that this is only one facet of the multi personality that the person is. We write off children because they have not mastered what we teach. Assumptions, leading to our rejections, are a part of our vanity and arrogance. Do we notice the other facets of the child? Do we realise that we reject children?

This thought comes back to me every time I meet former students who were good in my subject and are now highly successful in the fields that they have chosen, be it academic or simply having a beautiful relationship. Each time the paradigm of seeing students only through my own subject is shaken from its roots. Shaken and stirred!

It helps me now when I find my mind forming quick opinions on children who can’t do Math. I remember my former students and their profiles and tell my judgmental mind to be silent! Over the years I have changed my preferences to ‘efforts towards learning’ as against ‘getting results’ and it has paid dividends. I am relaxed and so are the children.

If they feel low, I remind them of their abilities in other areas. And if they are insincere, I push them to change their attitude. ‘What is your best?’ that is what I push them for. And I notice! I notice that x is great in language and y is great in cricket. I notice the excellent ability of z to handle difficult situations and admire him for it. I notice their efforts to grasp a subject they find hard to process mentally and salute their efforts. I look for activities to make classes fun. We laugh together at fallen grades and celebrate the successes!

I… gently brought home this fact to myself. By not holding me in judgment over my judgment of her, she changed my outlook. I am eternally grateful to her wherever she is, whatever economic revolutions she is involved in.

The author is a Maths teacher at Pathways World School, Gurgaon. She can be reached at [email protected].

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