Teacher-Student Communication: Assertion and Assessment
– Nirmala Mani Adhikary
We, at the Department of Languages and Mass Communication in Kathmandu University, had been planning to organize some kind of program that could promote intellectual, academic and professional sharing among the faculties. Finally, we started the Friday Lecture Series from 2010 September 10. Our colleague Kashiraj Pandey, Assistant Professor of English at the Department, initiated the Series and presented a paper dealing on different dimensions of teaching and teachering. His presentation was followed by a short discussion session, where the faculties from the Department shared the best and worst moments of professional lives.
I also shared one of best moments I had experienced as a teacher followed by recollection of an incident I had been considering the worst in my teaching life. It was during this course I remembered Preeti, a former student whom I taught in Madan Bhandari Memorial College and whom I had not met since that incident. While telling about the incident and thereafter, my eyes were full of tears and finally I could not speak a single word. My colleagues said that they had never seen me in such an emotional state.
As a teacher, I have been enjoying both respect and affection from my students. I always keep ‘asymmetrical but full of sahridayata‘ relationship with the students. My view on the teacher-student communication in the classroom is geared by the belief that it is the site and situation, at least, in the cultural contexts of Nepal and India, where prevails asymmetrical relationship between the communicating parties (the teacher and the student), but with the experience of sahridayata. Only two incidents have gone contrary to my belief: the case with Preeti was the first one. However, her case has been subjected to reinterpretation very recently. And, at this juncture, it has contributed for strengthening my belief.
Preeti was my student in Madan Bhandari Memorial College, Kathmandu. She was studying B.A. majoring in mass communication and journalism. Like her classmates, Preeti also used to interact with me even outside the classrooms. During classroom presentations and other conversations I found her candid and insightful. However, it was due to my daughter I took special attention to her.
I used to take my elder daughter, Supriya Yashaswinee, to the college sometimes, especially during programs on Saturdays. During such visits, Preeti and Supriya developed affectionate relationship; of course, the chocolates and biscuits presented by Preeti being the decisive factor. It is not that other students had not gifted anything to my daughter; but she liked Preeti most. Supriya used to remember Preeti time and again, and hence I was aware of their relationship.
One day, in the year 2005, the students were supposed to present on their respective topics as assigned by me. Preeti also had got some topic that I don’t remember now. But, she failed to do so. It was unusual to her previous performances. I was very unhappy to see her not being able to speak a word on the topic assigned. Worst, I did not see her attentive to what others were presenting. At one point, I asked her to just stand up and interrogated why was she behaving in that way.
May be due to her earlier performances in the class, or due to a kind of affection I had got because of her ‘friendship’ with my daughter, I had some sort of expectations from Preeti. I still remember, I was really unhappy with her. In her part, she was familiar to my warm regards only. Hence she did not take my interrogation seriously. In response, she very easily said, “Naae pachhi ke garne ta?” [“What can I do if I could not get it?”]
Other students started laughing to her careless expression. Her response alone was sufficient to make me embarrassed. Other students’ laughter made me furious. I not only ordered them to keep quiet, but also ordered Preeti to get out from the class. At that very point, the situation became quite awkward. All students were stunned, and Preeti was shocked. After a while, she spoke in very soft voice, “Sorry sir,” and she left the class. I asked another student to continue the presentation.
After that incident, Preeti never came to the class. Later, I asked her classmates but they could just say that she left the college. Till very recently, I was unaware of her whereabouts. It was a kind of mental burden for me that one student had left the college after such a bitter incident. Moreover, my daughter used to ask about Preeti time and again, and that would certainly increase my despair.
In the course of time, my daughter forgot about Preeti. In my case, she went from conscious mind to the subconscious. But, while my colleague Kashiraj Pandey asked to remember the worst moment in my professional life, my subconscious mind got activated, and I just remembered Preeti. The disappearance of Preeti from the college, and incommunicado between her and me, was in every respect contrary to my belief of ‘asymmetrical, but with full of sahridayata‘ relationship between teachers and students. Yes, my eyes were full of tears and finally I could not speak a single word. Thus, the first episode of the Friday Lecture Series ignited my restlessness.
Later, in the evening, I shared my feeling with my wife too. She gave me consolation by saying that the incident was just an exception and I should not blame myself. She even cited number of students who have visiting me or communicating with me, even from abroad.”
After a couple of days, while I was signed in to the facebook, I was greeted in facebook chat by ‘Manushi’: “Sir, namaskar! Do you recognize me?”
I did not remember recognizing anyone called ‘Manushi’, and hence replied, “Sorry, I could not.”
“Sir, its me – Preeti, once your student at MBM College.”
“God! here is Preeti,” I just became happy.
The chatting continued for about an hour. Finally, I could get what had happened.
According to Manushi, it was extremely painful for her to be ousted from the class. It would not be unbearable if she had received such treatment “from other teachers,” and she “would just join the classes the very next day.” As she explains, it was not her anger toward “Nirmal sir,” but rather it was her disgrace for not being able to show appropriate respect to her “beloved” teacher, who was “highly regarded” and “very popular,” that made her impatient. And, she supposed that the classmates also would tease her for being ousted by even such a “kind hearted” and “friendly” teacher. She blamed herself for that incident. Consequently, she gave up her study here and went to India for further study. As I have been communicated, she not only did well in her study, but also has got job in a UN agency.
I asked her why she had not been communicating during all these years. She said that she did not “dare” to contact me due to some sort of fear, but she always wanted to beg pardon as she had something “unbearable” within her mind. When she saw me in facebook, she could not resist sendin the friend request. To be accepted as a friend in facebook was a positive node for her, and finally, she decided to greet her teacher. As conversation continued, we both not only expressed the sadness due to that incident, but also could overcome the mental burden we were keeping in our minds.
Though I was angry toward her on that very day latter I never regarded her guilty. Rather, I started blaming myself: “It was just a matter of student being informal,” “I should not have sent her out of the class,” “How could I be so harsh to her who was so nice even to my daughter !”
In her part, she says that she never thought me negatively. Rather, she also blamed herself. Moreover, she always remembered my “persuasive” statements, and always tried to get lessons from those statements. She had always thought of meeting “Nirmal sir” one day.
Thus, we both were sharing the same feelings even though we were not in direct communication for years. We had not fallen outside the domain of sahridayata.
Teaching is not just a means of earning for me. I have not come to this job as the last resort. I have given up such jobs that were more lucrative in terms of money and other tangible standards to choose this desired work of teaching and learning. Hence, students are not just receivers for me; rather, they are sahridayas with whom I am engaged in the process of sadharanikaran.
While I am writing this article, Preeti is online on facebook. She is seeking to fix the date and time for meeting face to face. She has come to Kathmandu just for a couple of days.
This article consists of some words (viz., sahridayata, sahridaya, and sadharanikaran) as key concepts. These terms are drawn on from my research works (for e.g., Adhikary, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
Adhikary, N. M. (2003). Hindu awadharanama sanchar prakriya (M.A. Thesis). Purvanchal University, Nepal.
Adhikary, N. M. (2004). Hindu-sanchar siddhanta: Ek adhyayan. Baha Journal, 1, 25-43.
Adhikary, N. M. (2007). Sancharko Hindu awadharanatmak adhyayan. In N. M. Adhikary, Sanchar shodha ra media paryavekshan (pp. 93-138). Kathmandu: Prashanti Pustak Bhandar.
Adhikary, N. M. (2008). The sadharanikaran model and Aristotle’s model of communication: A comparative study. Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2 (1), 268-289. [Available online: http://sadharanikaran.com/pdf/Aristotle%27smodelandSMCcomparative.pdf]
Adhikary, N. M. (2009). An introduction to sadharanikaran model of communication. Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3(1), 69-91. [Available online: http://sadharanikaran.com/pdf/AnintroductiontoSMC.pdf]
Adhikary, N. M. (2010c). Sancharyoga: Approaching communication as a vidya in Hindu orthodoxy. China Media Research, 6(3), 76-84. [Available online: http://sadharanikaran.com/pdf/CMR10031.pdf]