A matter of choice
I felt jittery. What is she gonna decide? What if she chooses to go for the event over attending my class?
Though it may look very trivial, this was a classic situational dilemma. You want to be at one place while you also want to be at another place at the same time. What do you do? A student of mine was faced with a similar situation where she wanted to come for the class (she has a good attendance record) but then she had this opportunity to go for an event as well.
She got through the selection process. She would be introducing a couple of speakers at the venue. I was asked to inform her that she will be dropped out if she can’t come for both days of the event for logistical reasons. For a moment I felt content. Cool, so she will not be missing the class. I really felt it’s an important class and all must attend. But then the teacher in me told me - This is a wonderful “teachable moment”! Who decides what is ‘more important’ for someone? This was a situation where my student could actually bring her decision making skills in use.
I called her and informed her about her selection. I explained to her the condition for attending the event and also explained her both scenarios, with what she has to lose and gain. She asked me, “Bhaiya, what should I do? I want to come for the class. But I also want to go for the event.” I told her, “You will have to decide for yourself.”
She got a little irritated, “What bhaiya! Someone is saying go for the event and someone is saying go for the class. I don’t know what to do!!”
“Look dear… this is one chance for you to bring in action the learning from our class. We always emphasize on the value of choice and decision making. I have explained you both scenarios. Now it is up to you to decide what you want to do. And your decision should not be affected by what I have to say or feel and what your other teachers (people involved in the event) have to. All that should matter to you is – what YOU want to do. Take your time. Think over it. Call me back once you have made up your mind.”
With not-so-confident voice, she said, “Ok bhaiya.”
In an hour’s time, I got a call from her. In a very sheepish voice, she asked me, “Bhaiya, is it important to come for the class? Can I miss this time?”
“Important or not is something that you should decide.”
She took a moment before she replied. “Bhaiya, I would like to go for the event.”
“Sure. So you will be going for both days…” and I gave her further instructions on what would be the next steps. When I got done with the call, I had to inform the event people. What do I inform them – my student chose to not attend my class and go for the event? But then another thought crossed my mind – More than what did she chose, it’s important for me as a teacher that she did chose. Whether she comes to my class for this one day or not, but she is a young girl now who can take her decisions without being hassled by the pressures of “precious teachers’ suggestions”.
It’s really interesting how the person in us has to deal with the teacher in us, in every moment of our lives. I have to constantly remind myself that I am a good teacher not when my students become what I want them to become, rather when they become what they want to become.
Sometimes they may not select the best things; so what’s the heck? Even I do. Recently a friend notified me of being so unsure of some of my own decisions. I think it’s important for our children to go wrong at times and own it up. That’s part of learning. As teachers (or parents) we, at times, become too cautious of things and start taking the decisions that our children should take for themselves. Funny thing is we are the same people who couldn’t take our own decisions (our teachers and parents did for us) and now we want to take someone else’s decisions! In such situations, we are actually disrespecting our children’s intellect.
I feel happy that my students are making their own choices, and they have their reasons for those choices, irrespective of what I may have to think of them.