Respect my Child?

“Stand up and read what is on the board” I pointed to a student. He kept his eyes on his notes acting as if I had not said anything. The boy beside him chuckled. I asked them both to stand up. “What’s your name?” They were determined not to respond. I looked at the other students who were trying hard to muffle their laughter. Today had been a good class day but it seemed these students were going to change all that. “What is your name?” I asked again. They towered above me in height I wondered how old they might have been. One responded. He said something in his language which I didn’t understand and the class roared into laughter. The other just bowed his heads and chuckled. I asked the class his name and they responded. I sent the two students out determined not to let my embarrassment show. I have been used to being loved by students I certainly didn’t expect this experience. I was furious. They needed to be disciplined seriously and I was determined to show them who was the boss.

This happened a few years back. I was in college and had decided to use one of my holidays to organise a community service project and mission effort in a very rural community at the time. During our stay there I had an invitation to assist in teaching a government secondary school that had not been having computer science classes because they didn’t have a staff for the task. Teaching is my passion and I was glad to volunteer to fill the role.

I was assigned to teach the 3 Junior secondary classes in the school. A fellow teacher who acted as the vice principal walkedd me through the classes to introduce me to the students. The first class looked more like the regular sets of students I expected though I noticed they found it hard to speak English and language would be a barrier. I felt I was up to the task. Walking into the next two classes I was taken aback. Judging by their looks and stature I felt they could well pass as university students. Some looked older than me and probably were. I swallowed back my reservations. First week as a teacher I focused on JSS1 and JSS2. Classes went well and they were really eager to learn. My first class with the more senior students, I found myself in a movie. Two students wouldn’t respond to my questions and wouldn’t speak English.

In my fury I considered what I was going to do to teach them respect. An older teacher had promised to deal with any student who intimidated me. I had seen the fear most students had for him. I had seen him flog the kids with a cane and I cringed at the thought of using that method to subdue them.

He certainly reminded me of one of my high school teachers whom I feared. I prayed about what to do. I wanted them taken care of so they don’t influence other kids to think they can get away with rebellion. What if I taught them a lesson myself? No I don’t mean just flog them. I meant teach them respect by showing them a form of it while disciplining them. I called them to the staff room when the other teachers were away for lunch break. One of the students ran home when he got the call. The other came with his heads bowed. He braced himself for punishment.  I talked with him and noticed he had more difficulties with English than I thought. I expressed concern about his academics and asked a few questions about his background. It went more like a counselling session. He became sober really sober to point of tears. I think it was an answer to the prayer I made earlier. I didn’t just want to punish him I wanted to teach him lessons. I still punished him by giving him an academic work to do which he did. The other student heard the story and came around to apologise. You can guess they were among my most enthusiastic students before I left.

I learnt a lesson. Respect breeds respect. But a form of discipline that makes no effort to address the offenders’ personal issues just encourages fear.

So as parents, guardians, teachers respect your Children and they will reciprocate!

Written by Adebusoye Damilola

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