Its a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The sun is still shining brightly and the sky is almost blue with soft layers of fluffy clouds adorning the horizon. The green palm trees outside my house are stirring coyly at the greeting of the soft breezes from the sea five kilo meters away from here.
Image from zazzle.com
Today, I can’t seem to stop thinking about these three words ; imposition, proposition and compassion.
The word imposition is rarely used today. It sounds like an odd word. This could be because we are living in a more liberal world where the act of imposing something on someone else is seen as an abnormal behavior in this modern society.
However, the practice of imposition hasn’t been totally eliminated from the context of our society as it is still being perpetrated either deliberately of subconsciously for various different reasons by various different people.
Dictionary.com defines imposition as the laying on of something as a burden or obligation,something imposed, as a burden or duty, an unusual or extraordinarily burdensome requirement or task and the act of imposing by or as if by authority.
Proposition on the hand means the act of offering or suggesting something to be considered, accepted, adopted, or done.
Meanwhile compassion basically means a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
These three imposing characters are my ‘special guests’ in this blog today because they made up the cornerstones of my life as a teacher and I often reflect on them.
As teachers, we are often looked upon as agent of knowledge, distributor of knowledge and facilitator of learning. We are good at being all these.
However, the generation of students we are dealing with now are just like the generation of students we once were except they are more exposed to so many things in their lives.
Their world view is different. The values they were brought up in has also evolved from the previously consistent and standard traditional values most of us were once raised in.
As such, the students acceptance of us as teachers might differ radically from the way teachers were once accepted and obeyed decades ago.
The problem is, as teachers , most of us still tend to practice the traditional teacher-centered approaches in school. We dish out our lesson suing talk, chalk and board technique. We dish out handouts and notes to the students. We intervene in their personal conflicts just so lessons won’t be interrupted and we can get on with our job.
This is understandable as it is the easiest way to deliver the syllabus. Changing teaching approaches takes time especially in the context of some schools in South East Asia. We have to deal with shortages of fund, IT tools, time constraints, and prohibitions on some teaching approaches deemed deviating from the standard national syllabus.
Lately however, some initiatives were started to reform the education system. Even so, students still have hard times to cope because the whole process is imposing unnecessary, unpleasant, undesired, boring, exhaustive and demotivating conditions on our students.
They knew the era they are living in. They knew what to expect from the teachers. They expect fresh new approaches to teaching. Instead of being asked to write a 5 pages argumentative essay about ”who should be responsible for the well-being of senior citizens” they expect to be given samples of court cases involving elder neglect and to carry out mooting session during their English lesson.
The bright students feel so frustrated during lessons due to the teacher’s insensitivity to their varying levels and needs. They feel rage, anger and disappointment-feelings that they have to deal with without anyone to talk to them and making them feel they are ‘being bad”.
The imposition of slow changing teaching approaches caused by various constraints frustrates our young students, making them to withdraw and recoil to the state of apathy towards the education system and everything that is taught in it.
Proposition. Some students nowadays are really bright and talented. They come from good background, raised with strict moral and religious standards. Yet, when they come to school things start to change. They start to feel unhappy about a lot of things. They take parts in so many activities yet at the end of the day they feel exhausted and drained and they complain.
It is easy to play the devil advocate, side with the students and join force in lambasting the whole education system. After all, we knew its not perfect and that there are just so many things that need to be worked on.
However, did we know that when students came to us to complain , 9 out of 10 times it is not because they are sure about the flaws of the system but because they are just unsure about how to cope with the whole things. We do not need to side with them and attack the very system that is there to nurture and protect them.
Proposing tips, advices and techniques that could help them cope with their workloads better might be the best idea.
Playing the devil advocate, playing on their side against the school, fellow colleagues and the system is definitely not a good proposition. It will come back and complicate our professionalism.
Whenever some students come to talk to me about other teachers or about the system in general I’d say ” so you think you can’t cope? so how are you going to sort this out? so you think that teacher is being uncaring? could it be that he wants you to develop your independence? so you don’t like the system and you feel its relevant? maybe we just have to make it relevant to us before it choose to make us irrelevant to it? When they talk about my colleagues, I’d say I sympathize with you but I can’t say anything against my colleague. I will listen to your problem that’s it”…
Proposition is good , its a neutral ground for teachers, its just a proposition a prospective point of action. Its a nudge not a shove or a pull.
Compassion – I remember during my first year in the training college I was asked to write an essay about the most important qualities that a teacher should have. I remembered writing about compassion.
Compassion is such a beautiful word – I believe it is derived from the words comfort, patiently, and passionately ( as in with all dedication, faith and commitment).
A teacher has to be a man or woman of compassion or else she or he will have many ‘enemies’ in the school.
A teacher can’t fake compassion. You can’t pretend to be compassionate just so you will get better students’ appraisal for the term.
Students- they can see through us. They look into our souls. They can tell whether we are compassionate or not.
Some teachers can be very strict yet at the same time are very compassionate.
Some teachers shield their compassionate side due to the fear of being seen as a weakling by the students.
Some teachers are good at channeling their compassion by coming up with programs that could help the students in their academics or in other areas of their lives.
Whatever it is though-we can’t be heartless when dealing with students. You see [ this is my weakest part as a teacher]-everyday we will enter classrooms, to teach our respective subjects or sometimes to replace our colleagues. We will come across many students, from various different races, background, look, appearance, styles and colors.
Some students will gain our liking instantly while some will need some times to warm up to us. In dealing with disparity and differences in background, appearance and capabilities we need to have a compassionate heart.
I have soft spot for students who are really weak in their studies and also for those who come from very poor background. Sometimes I have to stop myself halfway from being overly concerned about them. But I can’t help myself from caring so much about my students. My superior once labeled me as the champion of the students’ plight.
I apply these three concepts to my parenting skills as well. As much as I can, I avoid imposing undue burden on my children and family members, I propose instead of impose ideas and most importantly I show compassion for them.
I spend a lot of times with students in school and it is undeniably hard for me to spend equal amount of times with my own children at home.
However, I make it a point to live the same values in both my professional and personal lives.