Rishi was my student seven years ago. I was with him only for a year and towards the end of that year, I realized that our coming, being and working together had a purpose. When Rish finisehed his class X exams and was about to leave the school, he gave me a letter. In it he had said:
You filled my hands with knowledge but today I have come to you empty handed to take your blessings.
You taught me to value everything in life including my own self.
You are the only one who accepted me when everyone rejected me in school.
You are not only my teacher who taught me but also my friend who cared for me like a brother and left me inspired forever.
Rishi was a student who nobody thought would make anything of himself. Neither the teachers nor his classmates. For a young adolescent boy, could anything have been worse? Imagine the effect this had on his constitution. Rishi’s frustration at the world turned into aggression, not so much at other people but at himself. Even at the slightest hint of a teacher scolding and Rishi would hurt himself.
I had to find a way to get him to respect himself as a person first.
How I approached this task
First, I decided to spend about 30-40 minutes with him daily so that I could gain his friendship and trust. During our meetings, I was very careful not to make any judgmental remarks and remain unbiased, despite my colleagues’ opinions of him. I was never rude or harsh no matter what transpired during our time together. Whenever I did not have the time to meet him, especially during exams, I used to give him letters with what I intended to say that day. My days with Rish helped me understand that we must not judge a person by their outward behaviour, we must also observe their covert behaviour. Rishi’s aggressive behaviour was so impressed on everybody’s minds that nobody saw him for what he really was. A sensitive, creative young boy who wanted to be understood, recognized and appreciated. I thought instead of shouting and disciplining Rishi to improve his behaviour why not concentrate on his less visible personality and steer him on to the right path? Rishi was actually a peace-loving boy. His aggression was only the result of the prevailing peer pressure.
After I came to know that Rishi was good at music both vocal and instrumental, I suggested that he integrate his musical intelligence with his aim of becoming a computer professional.
Modification of behaviour is a very slow process and it requires constant monitoring and follow up. Rishi had finished his class X exams and he and I could no longer have our daily 40 minutes together. But I am happy to say that by then Rishi had understood the importance of achieving identity through constructive means. I was hopeful that there wouldn’t be any more destructive behaviour from him. I have since been in touch with Rishi and his family to know how he was doing with his studies and in life in general.
Rish finished his B.Tech in Electronics and is now working with a multinational company. He has also continued to pursue his interest in music and now gives concerts across the country.
The author is a teacher of mathematics and can be reached at email@example.com.