It was a hectic day for everyone. Students were trying their best to pay attention to what was happening in the class. At the same time, some of them couldn’t help but flip through the pages a textbook for another class. Their test was scheduled in the afternoon on the same day.
As usual, the teacher wanted students to participate in group discussions and contribute to the overall teaching-learning process. However, one particular student was not really excited about doing this. For her, the test in the afternoon was more important than being engaged in a cooperative learning activity (she probably didn’t prepare for the test earlier). The student behaved as if she wanted to communicate the following to the teacher and others in the class:
“Don’t trouble me. All of you should be happy that I am not absent from the class; at least I am not as bad as those who skip classes to prepare for another test!”
Somehow, this got through to the teacher. She noticed that the student intentionally avoided work and remained uncooperative, depriving others (in the group) of vital learning opportunities. Her countenance indicated annoyance. She continued revising for her test in spite of becoming increasingly aware that the teacher was noticing her moves (by this time, others who didn’t prepare for the test decided that they will have to face the consequence of procrastination, and quit ‘serving two masters’).
The teacher tried to convey her displeasure for what was happening through non-verbal facial expressions and gestures, and reinforced it with verbal messages (very sparingly). However, the student pretended not to understand these messages and carried on with her own agenda. Tension arose; it was felt by both students and the teacher. The situation could have exploded at any moment. Being familiar with the ways of affective teaching, the teacher raised a white flag and rested her case. The student walked out of the class that day feeling like a winner. Others in the class felt sympathetic toward the teacher. They felt that the ‘stubborn’ student was impolite to treat the teacher the way she did. The teacher however, remained calm and did not display any hatred (or anger) toward the student.
Later that week, the same student paid a surprise visit to the teacher in the office. The teacher greeted the student with a smile and asked if she could be of any assistance. After a short silence, the student opened up and told the teacher that she was very sorry for the way she behaved in the class. She added that she didn’t mean to act rudely. Toward the end of their meeting, the teacher also came to know that the student was having her monthly menstrual cycle and couldn’t help but get easily irritated.
For the teacher, the reasons didn’t really matter. Before any of this could happen, she had already decided that she would remain ‘a caring teacher’ no matter what, even in the most hopeless and helpless situations. She was prepared for many such emergencies. She has firmly decided that she will handle every crisis (in the classroom) by applying the principles of affective teaching.
Caring teachers may lose battles. The battles lost in the classroom serve as opportunities to foster students’ psychological well-being. When two egos clash, one has to become subservient to the other (in all crises, only one ego wins). Usually, the injury caused to a weaker ego is not easily cured. Thus, a caring teacher (who presumably possesses a stronger ego) ‘chooses’ to let his/her ego be ‘punched’ in order to allow the weaker ego of a student remain in-tact and eventually become stronger. When teachers contend to prove that they possess stronger ego (which is unnecessary), they engage in ‘ego-slashing’ that consequently pulls students’ self-esteem to a significant low! When this happens, a teacher wins the battles, but loses the war.
A caring teacher is focused on winning the war! What do I mean by this? In the example of the situation presented above, the student went back to the teacher because she realized that the teacher was not her enemy. Although she made a mistake, she could still approach the teacher and vent her feelings. If the teacher focused on winning the battle (the situation) she would have lost the student, forever! Teachers who ‘fight’ with their students may win battles in the classroom. However, these teachers will eventually LOSE all their students! When a teacher loses his/her students, he/she has lost the war.
A caring teacher always wins the war. Initially students might despise a caring teacher (this is not unusual because students become confused when a teacher suddenly cares for them – sadly, students are not used to being cared for at school). But with time, caring teachers harvest the greatest reward for their sacrifice and effort – winning the trust of every student!
Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com