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“Is A Failed Student The Result Of A Failed Teacher?”: In Words Of A Student Whose Sufferings Were Neglected

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By Neha Duggal:

The opportunity to fulfil expectations of others often makes students study day and night, be competitive, become teachers’ pets, and participate in extracurricular activities to become the well-known personalities of the school. But are these the only students that make up the school system? What about those students who are unable to express themselves through writing, or who are experiencing some kind of trauma at home, or those students who are struggling to find an identity for themselves? What about those who are stuck between the expectations of others, peer pressure, and attempting to fit in their growing environment?

As a 13-year-old, I was immigrating to the United States. I was not necessarily excited or depressed because of the lack of understanding of what to expect from the move that I was to make with my family. Having experienced domestic violence and alcoholism at home, I had lost interest in studies, leading to low grades and multiple red marks. While I was lost trying to understand the whole idea of moving out, I attempted to stay close to my, then, best friend; but only to my disappointment, she was busy with her new found friends. This is when I experienced the extent of bullying by peers and teachers. One day a couple of my classmates dropped by my house to give me my exam scores from the 9th grade first term; and to inform me of something my history teacher said about me, “If she cannot even pass a History exam here, how will she ever make it in America?” My teachers’ remarks about me in my absence were unethical and they provided an opportunity for my peers to bully me at home. Although I was thankful that I never had to go back to school again, I was hurt but with no place to express it. The question then is if the teacher had the right to judge me based on my exam scores without completely understanding the basis of the problem, did she have the right to discuss the same with my peers?

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About 14 years later, I can tell you that I am currently a student working towards my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. My experience in high school in a new country included nervousness, lack of confidence, fear of being criticized or judged, etc. I still did not fit in with others but I was in control of my education. I was appreciated for the work I was doing, had accomplishments and dreamed about higher education. It is clear that my teacher was saddened with my grade in her class; however, the role of a teacher includes being a mentor, a guide, providing support and a safe environment for the student who is struggling instead of judging or criticizing him or her. How many students are out there who were least interested in studies, were constantly criticized for getting low grades, and even punished? My question is, did anyone ever ask you about what is going on in your head? Why is it that you are struggling or if you needed special attention?

In the United States, students are given a chance to explore multiple study ethics, different classes of interest, competition but to the extent that is relevant to building their personality, and supportive staff such as Psychologists, Social Workers, Mandated Reporting, Counsellors to guide the lost, and others are employed. I am not saying the education system here is the best possible; believe me; it has its own negatives that can be discussed in another article. Why does the school system in India not support the mental health of the students? Yes, there are social rules about how much the teachers or the school should be involved in the domestic concerns of the child. If parents are the culprits of the abuse, then who is responsible for the child? When the same child (that no one supported) acts out the same way he/she observed in his/her home, he/she will then be labelled a “delinquent”. Is that how the children are protected or raised?

Our cultural expectations of ourselves and others limit us in taking the moral decision to speak up and protect people. Who designed this culture? Even as an adult, I continue to figure out who I am as a person, as an individual, as a citizen, as an immigrant who connects with both the cultures, as a friend, as a Domestic Violence advocate, and a prospective Psychologist who aims to support children, women and those who need the support. I am constantly growing as a person, but are the school systems and teachers doing the same? Tell me about your experience with the school systems. Who were the teachers that judged you or those who mentored you? What values and culture are you choosing? How would you like to change this system and what actions can you take?

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  1. Uday Kant Naik

    You raised a valid point here. The Indian education system clearly lacks the sensitivity to act upon such issues. Not only the education system but even the society itself fails to respond several times. The question remains the same how we are going to tackle this problem. You can’t just implement West’s education system as you, yourself said that it has it’s own flaws.The only solution to this problem is that we can somehow make people understand the misery through which a student undergo

    1. Neha D.

      Thank You Uday for sharing your opinion on this. You are absolutely right that we cannot just implement the Western education system into our cultural stream of education. However, we can train and educate the teachers to be culturally sensitive. In my profession (as a prospective Psychologist), we are taught that culture is not just connected to ethnicity or race; but a culture is also an individuals’ personal environment, work environment, that they connect with emotionally. Do the school systems provide cultural sensitive training’s such as domestic violence and its effect on children, sexual child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.? If these issues are not raised by the teachers, and parents are feeling helpless for one or another reason (either being the culprit or the victim), then who is going to advocate for the students? These discussions can allow the student to feel safe at school and speak their mind to their counselors’ and Psychologists. I do not remember meeting with either during the course of my education in India; and neither do I remember my parents being involved with the same. Change takes a long time to occur but small steps can make these bigger changes happen faster.

      Neha D.

  2. Raj

    “Hey! Teachers! Leave those kids alone” – “Another brick in the wall” by Pink Floyd

    1. Neha D.

      Thank You for your comment Raj. Only if they would.

    2. Raj

      Welcome! Good article

  3. Parul Sriwastava

    Dear mam , it was so soothing to know , that there are people out in this country , who actually are concerned about this issue . I myself was a victim of it. So I exactly know its piercing terses, & how it feels like.
    Well in my opinion ,As a country has social workers , few good politicians ,good teachers who lead the country forward , samewise , yes we do have terrorist , corrupted people, & rapist as well. And Likewise , in our personal lives, there are some teachers , who make us realize , what we are , what we can’t do & how we don’t match up with the others. Whereas , there are some teachers who come in contact with us and make us realize, WHO we are , what we CAN DO , & how we are DIFFERENT from others. And I have been through both sides of the tale, & I feel lucky about it .
    well I guess we are just discussing the ‘a’ part of the issue , whereas the ‘z’ is yet too dangerous in a respective manner , as in some cases it’s impact is so worse that it affects the whole life of the kid.
    And when it comes to the tackling matter , I totally agree to you , these measures should be introduced in our education system , as it is so aptly said that, “ a teacher builds those , who build the nation “.

    1. Neha D.

      Thank You, Parul, for your wonderful thoughts. I am sorry to hear that you have been a victim yet I am thankful that you have because at least you discovered yourself through your journey. You are right that there are some good and some bad teachers out there. However, the bad should be eliminated to rather more disciplinaries. I do support the teachers who attempt to discipline the students through stringent methods such as a lot of homework but they should do so only after understanding why the student is unable to complete the task required. It is not the INCAPABILITY of the student instead it is the lack of guidance and support that could be affecting them. Teachers have the power to create the good out of bad and bad out of the good; it is on us, as a society, to choose which ones do we help in their goal.

      Neha D.

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