How do you feel when you are pointed out as a bad tempered, bad mouthed, miser or insensitive person? Or any other such negative trait.
I had never given this a thought till I ran into Prakrit (name changed), a grade 4 student. Today I will share the story of his turnaround from being the most restless child of the class to one of the most creative and disciplined student.
My Appointment as Class teacher
Three years into my teaching career at school, and I was given classteachership of grade 4.
I am a computer science teacher, so my interaction with students in a formal classroom setup is very less; I interact with them in labs, where protocols are very different.
I was thrilled at the new responsibility and eager to take up the challenge. I must confess I read up quite a bit on handling a class, child psychology, how to win heart of a child, and related stuff!!
First Day of the Session
First day of the session and I walked into a class of 43 boisterous children. The moment I entered, there was a hushed silence before they greeted me – at the top of their voice. I chided them gently and then introduced myself.
The students already knew me, of course, but I had decided to make thing a bit official to get going. Then followed a round of introduction by each student, one by one.
It being the first day of the session, there was lots of paperwork to be done, and so I had to be with the class till the end of the day.
I instructed the class to be silent, take out any book and study quietly. Meanwhile I started calling each student roll number wise to complete their personal records.
10-15 minutes into my work, I noticed from the corner of my eyes that one of the students, Prakrit, was happily playing with an assortment of pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. Other students told me the game was called “cutter-fighter”. I told him to do something constructive and got back to my work, assuming he would take my advice. However, he continued playing.
After 2-3 more verbal reminders, I had to get up, go to his seat, confiscate the things he was playing with and make him take out a book to read.
This was precursor to how things were going to be with Prakrit. Within a couple of days I discovered, with not so helpful feedback from subject teachers, that he was the most restless child of the class. He found it impossible to sit still – either he was playing with his hands, shaking his legs or simply wiggling his body. His restlessness distracted the whole class and the teacher.
Understanding Past Behavior
I decided to retrace his progress and talked to his previous class teacher. She shared the difficult time she had had managing Prakrit the whole year. She enlightened me on the various ways he would devise to disturb the class as the session progressed.
Academically he was an average student. When I asked about what he was good at, the teacher had no idea!! I decided to find for myself.
In my school, every class has 3 boards to display class information and put up drawings/paintings as per the monthly theme. The monthly theme is common for the whole school, and marks are given on how beautifully and aptly a class has implemented it.
For the second month’s theme, I allocated what each child had to bring, including Prakrit. I was astonished to find that he submitted a very beautiful scene of sun rising over lush green plains.
Frankly, I had doubts he had done it himself. Doing that scene must have required lots of patience and concentration, which I felt he was incapable of. But I kept my thoughts to myself and patted his back.
Around 10 days’ later, the class needed to replace the class timetable as some changes had been done. I asked the class for volunteers to do the work during school time. Lots of hands went up. Prakrit’s was obviously not among them as he was busy playing “cutter-fighter”.
I asked Prakrit to draw up the time table and decorate it for display. Many students were unhappy with my choice as they felt he would not do the work properly.
How wrong they were proved just a couple of hours later!! Prakrit pinned up the new time table before the last bell, and it had everyone gasping with admiration.
He had drawn small icons for each subject. For example, a globe for Social Science, comic characters for Conversation classes, stethoscope for Science class, and so on.
My heart swelled with so much pride that I could not manage much beyond a smile and pat on his head.
When the time came to appoint new class monitors, I appointed him.
I also started assigning him a daily task first thing in the morning. If one day it was checking everyone’s almanac, another day it would be collecting library books.
By now the whole class, including Prakrit himself, had got a wind of what I was up to. They waited with baited breath every morning to see what new task I will assign him for the day.
My Moment of Success
I had started enjoying because my efforts were bearing fruit. But I felt the true impact when one day a teacher walked into the staff room and asked me at the top of his voice, “What have you done with this boy?”
I understood but with my colleagues looking on, I feigned ignorance! I wanted my two minutes of glory, I guess!!
The teacher had gone to my class after a long time for an arrangement period, and was shocked to see Prakrit sitting calmly in his seat and doing his work. And the whole class was much more disciplined and less boisterous. That was a revelation to me as well.
I made a mental note to appreciate the class when I met them the next day.
Confidence is the Key to Success
So what had I done? And what had my small gestures changed?
Just one thing – given the boy assurance to believe in himself. That he was capable of good things. Of winning teachers’ appreciation. Of winning classmates’ confidence.
Whether we are in roles of teachers, parents, elders, or plain on-lookers, we tend to give labels to others around us.
If someone gets tagged with a negative label, it is very difficult to come out of it, especially for a child. Once I managed to remove that negativity, everything else was on autopilot.
Over to You
I have repeated my experiment with restless children in my other classes, with slight variations, time and again. And I have attained varied degrees of success every time.
Have you ever met someone who was an underperformer simply because no one expected him to achieve anything?
Have you ever brought any positive change in a child’s life? How?
Please share the story in comments below; I would love to know.