Indian culture has always placed a lot of emphasis on respect, especially for elders and teachers. We don’t address our teachers by their first names and may share a friendly relationship with them within a respectful dimension. And elders, we address our parents’ friends as uncle or auntie. We touch the feet of our elders like parents, grandparents and people of their age group, and we are supposed to answer them respectfully, sometimes not answer at all. Yes, answering back is also sometimes considered as disrespect.
Now, let us fast forward to the current generation which is brought up in a more democratic environment at home. I wouldn’t say that I would like my kids to call me by my first name or backslap me, but yes, they have the freedom to question, argue and state their point. At school often, they feel at a loss because many teachers still do not encourage free discourse or exchange of thoughts and ideas. Most of us still carry the archaic notions that challenging a teacher’s stated fact or opinion is disrespect. I know of teachers whose pet gripe is that because corporal punishment is no longer officially allowed in schools, children are becoming disrespectful. After all, how do we control this noisy bunch if we can’t give them a slap or two? PT teachers consider themselves above this rule as they still freely hit children. I had a run-in with a PT teacher who enjoyed pulling the ears of kids and also hitting them on the back. And you know what, they are much more considerate towards girls than boys. Boys are manhandled, pushed around and treated roughly because well they are boys and they are stereotyped to be rough and unruly. What kind of thinking is this? And then we say that boys resort to violence. Are we treating them with respect, showing them kindness and love?
Unlike other parents, I take up the matter with the teacher, politely and firmly. There is no teacher who can tell to my face that they think violence is good. And even if they think so though not voice it, I will not allow them to raise a hand on my children. Perhaps, this fearless manner of speaking up and standing up for what is right has rubbed off on the kids who know when to voice their opinion especially when they are not in the wrong.
Between you and I, I think men don’t make very good teachers. I am sorry if that upsets some of you which is not my intention but their nature and temperament and especially their lack of patience makes me say so. I’ve had a number of fantastic male teachers when I was studying but it looks like their creed is on a decline. Another pain point is senior teachers. Why is it that they keep lecturing on decline of morals or act so bitterly towards the new generation? If we can’t stay with the times or realign our thinking and approach, we surely have no right to be with children.
I taught for a year at school and totally loved the experience of being surrounded by young minds. Children can be pure joy to be around. So much to learn from them and so much love one can get from them. I experienced it, as I am sure do so many teachers who take up this challenging vocation. Not that all children are fun to be around, and some can drive you up the wall, but that does not give anyone a right to abuse or hit them. I am sad to say though that many teachers are still caught up in the old notions of respect which stymies children from opening out to them or exploring their own curiosity to the maximum.
I think with time, we must learn to understand our kids and youngsters. On the surface, some of them can seem irreverent and God knows I have seen many brats too, but it would help to recalibrate our own expectations and notions from time to time.
In my opinion, respect has to be earned and cannot be demanded just by the virtue of age. Similarly knowing how to put across your point tactfully and firmly is an asset that a person of any generation should strive to have.
I would love to hear your views on respect. Do you think paradigms of respect have changed over the years?
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