The transition from teaching a set of kids already out of their teens in a university environment into teaching those just entering it in a high school, is not small, as I’ve realized. One set is mature (or maturing) while the other set is a horde of immature ones with an unrealistic appraisal of their own invincibility. Being all boys adds an interesting dynamic or a strong peer influence, less moderating influence of a female peer, and testosterone. At fourteen, I was probably just as terrible, and impressionable.
The memories are gone now, of the tiny youth that I was as a fourteen year old, but little bits of it remains in the marks that my teachers put on my flesh with the cane. The biggest offence then, of course, was disturbing the class. Overall, it stood almost on par with not getting the class notebooks up to date, or missing a crucial class period. There was one period when late-coming carried an equally grave consequence. A military administrator of the state came to the school, rounded up all the late-coming students, and made them do push-ups on the lawn, supervised by military men holding guns and live ammunition.
And so, back in the position as a teacher – no longer the willowy kid at the back of the class trying to get through the day in the best (and most fun) ways possible without getting into trouble – reality beckons: to treat these little ones as I would have loved to be treated, with respect and firmness, or with an attitude commensurate to the behaviour exhibited by individual student. This helps, to think of them as one would younger nephews at home to whom one has a limited responsibility of care. Like the principal of the school opined earlier in the week, the parents are the first and most important teachers.
Three weeks have now gone past, along with a series of classroom exercises, conversations, comprehension passages, question and answers about their new English teacher, sentence and essay types, and few confrontations with individually stubborn students to whom a new teacher is someone to test to the limit of his patience. I would ask, I said to myself some nights ago, if there are particularly helpful ways of dealing with students of this particular age.