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Crack in the Wall

“Today we shall all make sure we finish our work independently and on time, unlike yesterday. This will help us make time for the games at the end of the day. Are you all ready?” “Yeeessss!”As I transitioned into my lesson I felt proud of myself and the class. They genuinely listened and engaged. But then again, as always, there were a few who were drifting away. I have always had this issue. We start off well, like it was the best day ever then one starts abusing the other, then there is nudging, pushing and then before you realize what’s happening, you can see the entire class indulging in fights or other related activities. Some who manage to stay away from all the violence, become busy in cleaning their bags, endlessly sharpening their pencils etc. Where do I even begin to solve this?

I had figured out long back that these students lacked the skill to differentiate between right and wrong. They idolized violent dons, emulated local thugs and shrugged aside any authority imposed. I set out creating simple structures they could follow. To raise complaints, to work with each other, to respect or at least tolerate each other etc. All of it worked to an extent. I tried to show them how a world outside functions in complete harmony. They understood, accepted and vowed to change. Was it actually practised?
Just yesterday one of the students who aspires to be a don (very consciously) assaulted another with a metal chain because he had made faces at him in the morning. This happened right in the middle of a lesson. I immediately sent him out deciding that I would need a long time to talk to him and also that he needs time to cool down. Little did I know that he was never angry, he was calm and composed. From the time he was mocked, till the moment he sought revenge and even after being caught red handed. After sitting outside for a while, he went to another class to pick up a fight. Then he very smartly hid the chain in his friend’s bag. While this was happening outside, I was being taken for a ride inside the classroom. Every single child was busy mocking someone or the other. Some were busy completing home works for other subjects and all I could do was stand and watch, nothing worked!
Having given up, I moved out to deal with the aspiring don. I could see a sense of achievement in his cold eyes. I had to break his mindset first. Make him vulnerable and then change his track. I threatened him with suspension. He cried, but didn’t budge from his stand of being right. I asked him to leave if he believed school was waste of time and he left. I stood there eyes wide open! What nine year old walks away from school like that? What must be running in his mind? What has he been learning? Even before I could gather my thoughts, the answer was in front of me. His parents arrived, furious.
Paraphrasing the father, “How dare you send the child out? Don’t we pay fees? You have been discriminating against him. Just because he hit someone you will send him? Call that other student. I will ask him what he did. It is his fault. I will shut this school down. Don’t dare mess with me!” (Throw in any curse word you know after every two words and you’ll arrive at the original statements made.) Now I didn’t care about dealing with the parent. I was more worried about his son witnessing this. Firstly, he should not be exposed to this much hatred and abusive language. Secondly, if I’m seen giving in to his father then he will immediately see me as someone he can always override which will cost me dearly in class later. I asked him to go back to class as his father blabbered on about how there was some personal angle to this entire issue.
I tried calming him down but he just wouldn’t budge. Finally, I gave up and fell silent. This was no man I could reason with. He is a hardened conservative who will only want to impose. I went back to class. The kid had a new weapon now. He understood that whatever he does, his father will ensure it is taken care of. He slapped a girl whose bag happened to touch his shoulder and all I could do was “Minus 500 for team 7″. The issue spread like wildfire in the class. Today, everybody knew they could go all out and get away with it. And this does not happen in any other teacher’s class. Why? Because they are ruthless, physically. There is always that magic cane in their hand which will turn any which way it chooses. Home works are completed on time, classroom is always engaged in a healthy way, there is not one incident of a tussle between two students, the perfect class!
After almost six months of constant drilling of values and civilized behaviour, I could see 3-4 falling in line but this one incident has set me back by 3-4 years now. What should a child choose? Something he sees happening or something that he reads in a book or listens to a teacher saying? Who should the child emulate? Someone he sees day in and day out or someone who is just a part of his book or 3 hours in school? How is he learning more? Fear that he experiences or stars and prizes that he might get?
I have always held my principles highly. I have always believed in persevering. I have always strived to do the right thing. But, what if I was wrong? What if there is no hope here? How much value can I actually add considering the fact that they all go back to the same old broken violent lives of theirs? My vision and plans are being broken right in front of my eyes and there is nothing I can do about it. Investing parents, students, teachers, Kohlberg’s model, Bloom’s model and all the other “tried and tested” methods have failed and I have begun to see a crack in my beliefs. If I don’t find a solution immediately, this crack in the wall can never be fixed!

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