A couple were swimming. The man seemed adept at it and the woman seemed to be a new learner. Nothing new one would say, except for the difference in attitudes. The man did a few laps and as he rested he turned and saw the woman holding on to a float and splashing her legs. He shook his head and went on to do more laps. When he came back, she went over to him and asked about her hand movements for free style. She demonstrated what she had observed. He looked at her technique and in the next minute he caught her hand and twisted it and yelled, ‘What are you doing? Auditioning for a Donald duck cartoon? Why are your hands floppy?’ He then shook and swatted her hand. She looked contrite and tried again. But even from my position I could see she was muffing up.
This time he swore under his breath and yelled at her to stop and get out of the pool. But she ignored that and asked him if she had her leg movements right. Feeling exasperated, he told her how to do it verbally, without actually doing and showing and got out.
I looked around for something I could throw on his head! Why couldn’t he teach her without yelling, resorting to punishment or being overbearing? His technique of pointing out errors was obviously not working, so why then did he have to yell so much? If it had been me instead of that woman, what would have remained with me was the fact that I was being yelled at for wanting to learn. Personally throughout it all I thought the man was rude, pompous and impatient and if it was up to me I’d have dunked his head under the water.
I realise this is what most teachers did. Pointing out flaws, being scornful, making the students the object of their personal anger, calling them names, mocking their errors openly, rupturing their fragile self-esteem, demoralising them, planting this thought in their heads that they are losers, not realising that all this will stay with them for a long, long time. It is only by lifting up a student that we, the teachers create a better world. Just because we are specialists in a field does not mean we ought to strutting around with horns. As teachers we have a duty to build, infuse and create. The only things we ought to destroy are the students’ doubts and sense of diffidence, not their confidence. We need to remember we were students once too and we couldn’t have made it without the patience and benevolence of some good teacher somewhere. Our students are in a different era, hence customisation is the key.
Teachers, here is an earnest appeal. Please look at it all like you have the tough task of urging a new butterfly out of its pupa. You could either break its fragile wings or watch the flying colours with pride. How you do it, rests with you.