By Mohamed Handour
By Mohamed Handour
Beni Mellal, Morocco – They are caught in a difficult maze. Most of them make no effort to find their way through; they seem to have already given up. They look pitiful or more accurately lifeless. They never stir their energy into action as they are probably claimed by some mysterious inertia or listlessness. Some, however, still possess a ray of hope which makes them try, but always in vain, to find the starting point of their departure. A few, fortunately enough, have already started their journey, steadily moving ahead armed with enthusiasm, determination and will leaving behind their pathetic colleagues who are impatiently waiting for some “Godot” to show them the right path , but, alas! Godot will never turn up.
As you may have already guessed, these are our students. The overwhelming majority occupy their seats in their classrooms for no clear reason. Seeking knowledge, the inexhaustible torch of developed nations, is the last thing they are preoccupied with. For them, the classroom is a good source of fun, a place for entertainment and diversion. They are fully oblivious to the teacher’s angry shouts as he endeavours to bring back their attention to the lesson. Perhaps the teacher is unaware of his status in the eye of this category of pupils. In plain words, he is a mere brick in the wall. His inexorable efforts as he perspires to fulfil his mission – to get his job done-all blow in the wind. When he seriously advises them to shake off laziness and pick up the pieces, they take his advice with a pinch of salt with a smile of sarcasm on their faces.
In spite of all this, these “students” are strangely familiar with such conceptions as “Human Rights,” “Equity,” “Justice” and similar jargon. For example, they are wrongly convinced that they have the right to attend “their classes” without books and notebooks. They have also the right to create all sorts of trouble for their teachers and classmates in the name of personal freedom. This group refuse to admit their failure as a requisite step forward, a step towards positive change. So, they passively occupy their seats taking refuge in the chaotic world they have created with their own hands making sure they give a bad time to those willing to learn. Amidst all this, they never lose hope that Samuel Becket’s Godot is not far away and that he will soon show up and provide some help.
These troublemakers, whose number varies from class to class and from school to school, have other preoccupations. In addition to their insatiable desire to create confusion and chaos so as to drive the teacher “mad,” they spend most of their time chatting on the internet rather than looking for information or doing exercises related to the syllabus. (Pay a short visit to the nearest cyber space and you will see what I mean). However, they always blame their failure on teachers. They never dare say, “We are responsible and it’s high time we changed ourselves for better.”
In addition to all this, the absence of parental authority and parents’ excessive permissiveness make things worse. These parents seldom or never ask their children: “what did you study today?” “Is there any homework to do for tomorrow?,” “How is your relationship with your teacher?,” or “It’s midnight! Where have you been?” etc. For these parents, good upbringing is synonymous with buying expensive food and clothes for their children and giving them enough money to squander a sheer amount of their precious time in front of the one- eyed monster (the internet).
What strikes me most, especially last year, is their parents never-ending complaints about the teachers for one groundless reason or another. I could accidentally hear one of them repeat: “The teachers have wasted much time on strikes this year and our children have consequently learned nothing.” Impatiently waiting for him to finish, another one inquired, “What do these teachers want? They are interested in nothing but a rise in their salaries…..” But do these children really learn when the teacher is busy doing his job in front of them?” This is the question these parents should frankly answer.
They utter all this nonsense without batting an eyelid. Poor teachers have to shoulder the burden all alone. Parents with the help of the ordinary man are there just to criticize, gossip and brand teachers with irresponsibility.
In fact, the first thing we should do as parents is to reproach ourselves. And here are some crucial points we have to consider to help the teacher with his laborious task. The first one is to control our children; this cannot be done unless we know what they do indoors and outdoors. The second thing is to be critical of their bad demeanor. For instance, as a father I have the right to choose appropriate dress for my children. I can’t let my daughter go to school in a short skirt or tight jeans which shamefully display her voluptuous body. Similarly, I must make sure my son wear decent clothes which are commensurate with his status as a student. The last point is to keep track of their progress. Paying extra money for evening classes is just a cosmetic solution which doesn’t address the root of the problem- an attempt to shun the harsh reality. What my child really needs is how to fish, not the fish. I should teach him how to learn independently of his “life support machine,” the teacher.
The second category I have referred to at the outset of this article consists of a group of hopeless despondent creatures whom I’d like to call “walls of silence.” They feel more at ease at the back of the classroom. Coming to the front is something they hate most. The farther they are from the instructor and his “monstrous board,” the more comfortable they feel. A mere look at their faces, gives you the indication that they are compelled to tarry at the bottom of Abraham Maslow’s pyramid making little or no progress at all. The previous years have undoubtedly left a wide gap that is hard to fill. They are suffering in silence. They are lost in a labyrinth of family and other problems, which makes it almost impossible for them to find a way out as they lack in will and determination to make a change. Being fully aware of my role not simply as a teacher, but also as a psychologist and councilor, I consider it part of my work to get close enough to these students. I have to choose the right time and the right tool to have an idea about the exact nature of their problems. The right time is the end of the session and the right tool is to address them in their mother tongue in stead of in English.
It’s a fallacy to call them walls of silence. Teachers should avoid making such value judgements. Far from being silent, most of them admit that poverty is the main impediment to their learning. They make clear that their parents cannot cover the expensive demands of life (food prices, buying books and clothes for their children, etc.). Though poverty is no sin, they seem to be oversensitive to these conditions, which result in their low self-esteem and therefore in poor performance at school. So, the vicious circle continues. Others say that their low level has always hindered their progress. They are those who are allowed to pass their exams every year despite their below-average grades- part of the government’s plan to encourage “education” and “combat” illiteracy. At the second year back, these students are really lost. The majority of my students this year, as a case in point, fall victim to this plan of “easy success.” I wonder how they can face the coming national exam when they can’t accurately compose a sentence or raise a question in English.
The last group, though few, are those with big dreams. Unlike the first category, who seem to be waiting for “Godot,” these students believe in their skills and capabilities. They can tolerate anything but laziness. They regularly do their homework assignments and actively participate in their classes. In a word, they set objectives and work for them. The teachers like them, they like their work and feel eager to grade their exam papers. As a matter of fact, they try hard to create a positively suitable environment for them to learn. These students make sure to come into the classroom first, sometimes before the teacher, to sit at the front so as to have a clear view of the chalkboard. As the instructor speaks, you can see them busy taking notes. They are older than their ages; they behave more like adults than teenagers. They are really outstanding and their work is laudable. In a word they motivate the teacher, instil enthusiasm in him and make him firmly stick to his job. Thanks to them, teaching is enjoyable and without them it would be a hellish experience.
To sum up , I agree with Mariah Cary , who once sang:
” There is a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid of what you are
There is an answer
If you reach within your soul
And the sorrow that you know will melt away
And then a hero comes a long with the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside and you know you can survive.”
Absolutely true! There is a hero! Far from being pessimistic, I believe that every human being has been created with a gift or gifts in him or her. Unfortunately, rather than investing their efforts in finding “the hero,” and therefore the right path, the majority of Moroccan teenage students passively waste their time waiting for “ Godot.”
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