Home EDUCATION Letter: A student’s struggle should invite teacher’s empathy, not fun

Letter: A student’s struggle should invite teacher’s empathy, not fun

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Divine Kpe (Educationist & Africa Education Watch Fellow)
Divine Kpe (Educationist & Africa Education Watch Fellow)

Letter: A student’s struggle should invite teacher’s empathy, not fun

Of course, no one likes a boring class. We all want a lesson that’s lively and have some touch of amusement to it. And that’s what some students remember their teachers for – the teacher’s ability to make them laugh or at least smile through a lesson. But how is it like when the teachers’ fun is at the expense of a student’s struggle, weakness, challenges, pain or tears?

I’ve had my taste in JSS 2, and till date I describe that incident as the worst moment in my school life. I think I was lucky that it happened in 2004, at least there wasn’t social media, and camera phones were not ubiquitous for the teacher to record and share on social media to escalate beyond the classroom, the fun she and the other pupils had that day. Permit me to keep the story, please, but just know that it was so embarrassing that I cried throughout class, and never paid attention in the subsequent lessons that day. I got home and shared more tears.

When I started teaching in 2013, there are some principles I clearly made to live by. One of them, inspired by my JHS 2 experience, was NOT TO MAKE FUN AT THE PAIN, STRUGGLE, and TEARS of LEARNERS. Throughout my seven years of teaching, I’ve lived by that and it became part of what I teach my students as well. My students know I’m much particular about that – they not making fun about the challenges of their colleagues.

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It’s so disheartening knowing some teachers find delight in recording their learners who have some difficulties with learning, and go extra mile by sharing such unprofessional conduct on social media to create amusement. It’s becoming too of many.

A child’s struggle in school shouldn’t invite fun-making, but rather empathy from the teacher and other students. By empathy, we demonstrate to our students that we understand their situations- be it difficulty with reading, pronunciation, explaining a concept or any other personal difficulty they may have. That builds connection and assures the child he/she is not alone, but has the teacher’s support to address that challenge. When empathy is at play in teaching, teachers find what could be driving the child’s difficulty and find strategies that could help. The moment a teacher takes a child’s challenge lightly and create fun out of it, the opportunity to help that child may be missed.

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It’s not enough for the teacher alone to treat children’s difficulties with empathy. For a positive classroom culture, it should be a value that all the students also have. That’s how we create classroom as a COMMUNITY, where every child is assured that he/she has a teacher and colleagues who can relate, or can understand their difficulties, pains, tears and fear, and are ready to give their support. That’s an opportunity for learners to thrive.

A single bad joke about a child, a single act of fun-making (either subtly or openly) against a child (to the extent of filming for light-hearted pleasure) can negatively affect that child for a lifetime.

The continuous filming of students and sharing on social media to create fun should be of concern to GES. The National Teacher Policy being developed is an opportunity for GES to address this worrying trend in the profession.


WRITER: Divine Kpe
(Educationist & Africa Education Watch Fellow)

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