Teacher Anecdote – Lekhnath Sharma Pathak
When the table turns on you
I was teaching English to the BBA first year students of Tribhuvan University in a private college in Kathmandu. As part of their assessment, I had given them a short presentation task. The textbook had some texts against the watching of television as how it destroys family and reading culture and creative thinking and all that stuff. After having discussed those texts I asked my students to make a two-minute individual presentation on either supporting the watching of television, or opposing it or balancing both the view points.
Many of the students made very good presentations and I was evaluating their performance on the spot and giving them their grades. When the student presentation session finished one very smart boy, Lobsang, raised his hand from his seat and challenged me, “Ok sir, now let’s hear from you, how do you fare yourself on the same kind of presentation. Let’s see a good example of presentation from you now.” My God! I was caught unawares at the middle of it. This was something which had never happened to me before. My students had never dared or challenged me. I thought for a while, as how to deal with this unexpected situation. A teacher in our situation is an absolute authority in the class. I could easily dismiss the challenge saying, “It’s your test, not mine. So just shut up.” But I didn’t do that and didn’t feel like doing that as well. I thought of the repercussion it will have, if I did that. It would be letting the students down, not respecting their voice. Giving a message “I don’t give a damn about you”. And since I am in the teaching profession out of choice, not out of any compulsion and I always hold my students above anything else, even above the authority of the college, I couldn’t dismiss the voice that had come from among them. So I thought for a while and decided to comply what they had said. And in a couple of seconds, I thought of how to do it, in my mind. I decided that I will take a balanced view about TV watching. Within a minute, I had taken my stand and then I smiled, with the whole class smiling with me but they smiling for a different reason and me for a different reason. And I said, “Ok, I am game. I will do it for you. You count the time and warn me ten seconds before as I had done with you. The same rules apply to me. I will take a balanced view of TV watching.” The class was quite excited. The whole class was my judge now. And I had to prove myself before them. It was totally a different test from whatever I had faced so far. I took a deep breath. And quickly organized my talk in my mind. I began by the days of radio, how you could listen and imagine the event yourself, which could have been better than shown, how when you watch a TV you can’t use your imagination as the visuals control your thought, how TV creates a falsified world and manipulates your thoughts and perception but at the same time had somebody taken the entire film of how Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and came back, how Hillary and Norgay reached the top of the Mt. Everest our knowledge would have become richer, if we had no access to the live telecast of important national and international events we wouldn’t know how things actually happen. So there are equal pros and cons of watching TV and we need to use our discretion. By the time, I was about to finish my talk I saw a student at the back writing a big 10 on an A4 paper and lifting it with his both hands above his head and pointing it to me. When I had finished I got a good applause. And Lobsang was very impressed and he said, “I could never think of the points you touched within those two minutes.” I felt very happy, obviously. And the class was never the same again. I had gained their respect and confidence.