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Dear Teachers, Don’t be Bullies

As I work diligently to drive positive change today, I recall both the insults and the acts of kindness I experienced from teachers.
04:00 AM Jul 08, 2024 IST | ABID RASHID BABA
dear teachers  don’t be bullies
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My earliest memories of a toxic teacher take me back to seventh grade.  Whenever I asked to go to the washroom, he would flat-out refuse, forcing me to sit there in discomfort. Meanwhile, he was disgustingly nice to the girls, allowing them to go with a creepy wink and a comment, “I know you’re not going to get water; you’re up to something else.” This man masqueraded as a decent person but was contrary to the image.


Another teacher once told me that I would be an academic failure because I wasn't good at math. He would call me “dumb and stupid” in front of my classmates. During my class 9 exam, I felt a lot of unease since we were made to sit on a tarpaulin in a playground under the scorching sun during a sizzling summer. I couldn't figure out what was written on the paper, so I decided to bend down. The physical education teacher in my junior high school slapped and kicked me, yelling at me in front of around 100 students. When I explained why I had to move from the disciplined line, he felt ashamed and apologized, but the damage done in his fit of rage couldn't be undone.


The ‘Counsellor’ at a study centre in North Kashmir demanded INR 15K from a student to sign her academic journal. Such corrupt minds should never be teachers. This parachuted coordinator of a particular department at the University is the most insensitive person I know. The “selected” class representative complained to the examination in-charge that I have not paid INR 80 for the student identity card. The coordinator curtly said, “Isko India Gate pay chada k phansi lagado (He should be hanged at the India Gate).” I stood there absolutely mute and frozen and broke down.


At that moment, all I wished for was to die. I confronted him, and he subsequently issued a public apology later that evening. Every time I review the screenshot and recordings of the incident, I feel a deep sense of pity for a teacher who humiliated his students.


Today, I have achieved significant success, surpassing all of my classmates from middle school through to university. However, the stingy behaviour of some teacher’s remains firmly lodged in my memory.  I would love to sponsor someone’s education so that no one is ever humiliated by a teacher in the classroom. I am aware that some teachers may present themselves as morally upright in public but can be unkind in the classroom. As I work diligently to drive positive change today, I recall both the insults and the acts of kindness I experienced from teachers.


Dear teachers, please acknowledge the efforts of quiet, shy, and sensitive students, for they are truly valuable. Treat your students as children, not merely as future successes. A good teacher should never have personal favourites. Always remember, some students look up to you as their guiding light. Do not let them down. Your presence and empathy can help children overcome their anxieties.


There are numerous stories of students who leave their abusive homes daily, where parents shout at each other, family members use profane language, or those who come from extreme poverty with no bus fare to attend school. Please be benevolent. Just smile at them, let them feel heard. Sit down with them, listen to their stories, and help them improve their learning skills.


Respect is earned, not demanded. It is disheartening to reflect on the unkind actions some teachers take. For instance, why would a teacher make a student do sit-ups holding his ears during morning assembly simply because he could not explain why he hadn't been able to purchase new shoes? Being a teacher is a significant responsibility, and not everyone is equipped to handle it. It is truly regrettable when teachers resort to bullying, pushing students into darkness. Beating a child is like throwing stones on flower petals. No teacher can justify beating students by quoting someone’s frustrating rant, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” It is like hammering cold iron-a futile exercise.

Please do not harm the tender hearts and minds of students; the emotional scars can last a lifetime. Your frustration can lead to your students becoming socially alienated. For some teachers, a "good student" is only one who is academically brilliant, while those who struggle academically are often unfairly labelled as bad, insincere, or lazy. Shaming, character assassination, and scapegoating are unfortunately common practices that should be eliminated.

You don't teach students how to choose better life partners, how to build self-confidence, how to improve communication skills, how to make money, how to invest, or how to deal with mental health and hormonal issues. Menarche is a traumatic experience for girls, but which female teacher takes the initiative to educate and support her students? Instead, you skip the chapters on the human reproductive system and engage in moral policing. It is a natural biological process we all go through and not teaching these concepts is unnatural and unacceptable. Your negligence and out-dated practices do nothing but harm in the long run.

Unlike great minds, our teachers discuss perks and promotions, not the ideas. When money talks, wisdom stays silent, therefore, we observe, people don’t reach out to teachers for wisdom, anymore. In this age and time, weedy elements in the community should be removed on the basis of quarterly or annual performance review (APR). Government must act tough on teachers minting money through coaching aka choking centers. Facts talk. The latest ASER (Annual Status of Education Report) clearly points out the poor performance of students in their reading abilities in J&K. The report has revealed that the children can’t do the basic arithmetic or can’t read the Basic English text properly. Our teachers ‘teach’ English as a compulsory subject from Nursery till they complete their bachelors. English is a language. And languages are not taught, they are caught. This is the reason, our students aren’t able to write a professional letter, email, or an essay or speak fluently for a minute, even after passing the subject for 14 years.

The Indian education system is a traumatic joke and a complete mess, run by even messier individuals. Exam heists and denial of leaks by untrustworthy agencies have ruined the lives of children and youth. From ministers and policymakers to teachers, power-driven narcissists are mistakenly seen as mentors and inspirations. There are fake gurus and false teachers everywhere.

When an incompetent teacher lacks subject knowledge, she annoys the class without remorse. Our teachers live under the false impression that whatever they spew in class is gospel truth. The reality is, there are better options for learning. Remember, you are a facilitator, not an infallible authority.

Our teachers may hold numerous degrees but often lack effective teaching skills. It is a harsh truth that many of our educators fan the flames of political or religious ideologies, particularly in colleges and universities.

After reading this op-ed, I urge you to enter your classroom and convey to your students that the world extends far beyond competitive exams. Emphasize the vast opportunities for exploration outside these exams. Utilize techniques like the token economy to motivate and engage students. Effective teaching should prompt learners to continually adjust and assimilate their values, thought patterns, and overall understanding.

Currently, our reliance on OMR sheets and rote memorization to assess student intelligence is flawed. Evaluation should be individualized, as machines are not equipped to fully understand human qualities. Students should also be made aware of Emotional Quotient (EQ), which is as important as IQ.

Bullying massively affects students’ self-esteem. It takes a lifetime for a student to heal. It creates the feelings of self-doubt. If you are telling your students “Boys don’t cry”, “You are very thin/fat”, making fun of them in class or otherwise by playing with their feelings, you are not a teacher, you are a bully. Your words sting. My very talented friend, now a doctoral fellow somewhere in Europe described it in one one-liner: “Nazro say gira kar kehte hai, nazre kyun nahi milate ho (they make us feel small, asking, “Why can’t you meet our gaze and settle?” Dear teachers, yours is a prophetic position. Value it.