Schools and teachers are not the only elements in the teaching process and bringing change in a student’s life. Primarily, the parents have to be the role models. Friends circle comes next
A relative, who is also a parent of a 3rd grader son, once shared an interesting fact with me. She said her son was always engaged with the school project work. I told her it is good that he was indulging in something better than gadgets or electronic devices. But I was unable to calm her down. Probably she wanted to share her problem with me because I was not only her cousin but also a teacher. What worried her was that her 8-year-old son was always busy making placards with the words “No Smoking” and “No Alcohol” written on it. The boy had learnt that creativity in school, but it had a deep impact on him. He was so engrossed in his project work that he would not do any home assignment. The reason behind all this was the habit of his father, who took liquor in front of the child every evening. The knowledge that alcohol and smoking are harmful to health worried the child about his father’s health. He would place the cards where his father could easily see. Little did he know that the father was also fully aware of the harmfulness of smoking and drinking.
This incident reminded me of my own class where I teach Social Studies to 12- year olds. Teaching the topic “Our social problems and solutions” always takes more time than the allotted time. It seems that social problems like alcoholism, smoking and drug addiction are prevalent in every community, leaving far-reaching effects on the students. Some are worried about their fathers’ health, others about their uncles’. Some also said that even their mothers drink at parties. This portrays the present social scenario, where we have very few people who do not drink. But the same group of people will not feel comfortable when their own children are found smoking or taking alcohol.
“My father sends me out to buy liquor and cigarettes every evening,” a seventh grader had told a colleague, who teaches the same subject to 5th graders in another school. She also said that 11-year olds were more open and willing to share their familial cases of smoking and alcoholism. Also students from the Newar community took up the issue very casually. But this was not the case with the other communities. Others don’t want to open up.
Comparing the level of the students, what I found was that students from grades 3 to 7 are inquisitive and are willing to share experiences. On the contrary, those in grades 8 and 9 don’t want to share these things in public. They seem conscious that they might be unnecessarily questioned by their friends. Sharing family problems openly in class can be one of the reasons of being bullied. Not only that, some of them also reach a level where they want to experiment themselves.
To teach this topic I try activities like role play (drama) where they can learn empathy. They create beautiful scripts and also play the roles very well. I can find the causes and effects in their self-scripted dialogue, which is an essential part of their understanding. They even make fabulous posters with catchy slogans. Sometimes they come up with interesting poems, stories as well as illustrations.
Marking “No Smoking Day” every year in school has always been helpful in increasing their knowledge and brainstorming on the adverse effects of this social problem. Among the many objectives stated by the curriculum of Social Studies, one is to help minimise the social problems and evils. Teachers can, of course, play a vital role in telling them about the dos and don’ts. Videos, discussion and drama can be the tools for teaching. But teaching only in school is not enough. Parents’ support is always needed — support that does not contradict what you say and do.
A teacher can always educate about the right thing to do, but what the students see in their surrounding matters a lot. In school they learn that smoking is injurious, and alcoholism and drug abuse are a social problem. But they see every other person either smoking or taking alcohol or hear about drug addiction every now and then. It’s a fact that what people see stays in the memory for a long time. Students find reading and writing boring. They refuse to accept everything the teacher says until they themselves experience them. And there is always a deep impact of the larger society where they live in. It tells them unknowingly that society easily accepts alcoholism.
Furthermore, alcohol has become a synonym of prosperity. We barely see any parties without liquor. No liquor. No fun at social functions. Hence, one social problem becomes the cause of another social problem, that is, alcoholism leads to extravagance. Where is our society heading to? What lessons are we teaching the next generation? Send the kids to an expensive school, and it will assume all responsibilities of teaching them. Such a concept can be harmful for the parents and the children themselves. The socialisation process starts right from birth, and our home is the first school for them.
Hence, schools and teachers are not the only elements in the teaching process and bringing change in a student’s life. Primarily, the parents have to be the role models. Friends circle comes next. Limitations set by the family are always strong in the young minds. We will put them in a dilemma through our contradictory actions. Some sacrifices must be made to give a better future and environment to our next generation. Let’s stop blaming others.
A version of this article appears in print on July 03, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.