Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Happiness and Tolerance - Welham Boys' School


Reflection pieces 

1. An Unhappy Student

A while back, I came across this “unhappy student”, who I want to stay anonymous, so let’s call him X; clearly, the math teacher in me never fails to keep hidden. X’s parents recently separated, and he was living with his father, stepmother, and a step-sister who was almost as old as him.

X used to come around like a miserable, troubled kid who preferred to stay alone. He often cried and complained that he didn’t have friends and wanted to go home. Repeatedly refused to have food and acted stubborn as he was pampered by his grandparents at home. After discussing with his parents, we learned the scenario and that he felt unwanted and unloved because he was sent off to a boarding school whilst his stepsister wasn’t. Whereas his father just wanted him to have a better future, a higher sense of independence and self-awareness. Instead, his parent’s divorce created emotional turmoil and insecurity for him.

I felt the best way of overcoming this emotional barrier was through communication and creating an atmosphere where he felt wanted and comfortable sharing his feelings. That was not enough; we had to channel his energy into different things so that he could get distracted and becomes emotionally healthy again. We enrolled him in several activities like guitar and vocal music, which were his interests. That opened up various opportunities to perform on stage and build up confidence.

Love, care, patience, and empathy have made him a happier kid than he was initially. He has not opened up about his feelings yet, but I respect that and give him space, to grow more confident and content and time to reflect upon himself. It wasn’t just me battling against his emotional demons. It wouldn’t be a fair fight; it was a united team effort of the House-Mother, teachers, tutor, House-Masters, and parents, who did everything to mend and give direction to him.

2. An Intolerant Student 

Bob Keeshan was right when he said, “Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, every movement, and action affects. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than a parent.”

Children who witness violence between parents may also be at greater risk of being violent in their future relationships, and it becomes a part of their personality. I had seen such a case myself. 

Keeping the kids’ identity hidden and calling him Y, he had joined the school on a particular recommendation in the middle of the term, which was very unlikely. That was enough to draw attention to him, but he still managed to do that, as he used to hit and abuse other kids. He was a challenging child and had significant anger issues. By addressing this issue and taking the parents in the loop, we discovered that Y’s behaviour resulted from the domestic violence that used to take place at his house. 

The school took this sensitive matter very seriously, and firstly, his hostel was changed until he was comfortable and settled. Secondly, they changed the faculty that dealt with him to those staff members who knew and understood the matter in depth. Everyone showed patience and calmness, which slowly changed him, and even a little of his good behaviour was encouraged and appreciated. 

His way to cope with his anger was to hit people, i.e., he let his feelings out ‘physically’; now, our challenge was to channel his anger and frustration and give it direction. Thirdly, we introduced him to drums; this turned out as an excellent escape for him, gave him something to focus on, distracted him and in the end, he turned out to be one of the best drummers and became an asset to the school. 

During all this, Y was regularly undergoing professional counselling offered by the school, which helped him deal with his behavioural issues and anger management. 

After a slow, steady progress and baby steps over 5 years, we successfully taught Y how to make friends, manage his anger, balance his studies and lastly, WE transformed him from an intolerant student to a ‘tolerable’ one.

Neelima Parmar, Vandana Sahay & Monika Gupta
JOL Cohort 2022

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