I have always believed strongly in the benefits of open dialogue and conversations with people right from childhood. It not only helps us share ideas, sort out messes, but also creates warmth between people, sometimes forging strong bonds that last a lifetime. As a child I have had infinite conversations with my parents (especially my mother) that have shaped me into what I am today. And as a teacher too I was able to partake in so many such open talks with my students that have made the bonds between us unbreakable. These informal talks vary greatly in their purpose, content, age of the student and duration. Many a time they have helped us solve problems (either mine or the student’s), bring out hidden potentials, console, encourage, cooperate and clarify. Often, they appeared pointless and unproductive superficially but beneath the layers of numerous spoken and unspoken words was the desire to share feelings, thoughts and worries with a loved one. Yes, just plain sharing sometimes lightens the heart and brings so much cheer that the problem itself becomes insignificant.
Student: Vidya Akka, I want to talk to you.
Me: Is it urgent? What is it about?
Student (Hesitant): Err..not in front of others.
Me: Sure. Feel free to come to me whenever you have time.
Student: Thanks Akka. Next hour?
Me: Let me check my time-table. Hmm…..yeah I’m free, you will find me with some books on one of the benches in the playground.
The student leaves with a smile and comes back promptly the next hour.
Me: Hi, come and sit.
Student (looking away from me): I did something very bad.
Me: So you did something, but now you feel it wasn’t right.
Student: Yes Akka.
Me: Ok. What did you do?
Student: I browsed some “dirty sites” on the internet and now when I open my books to study I get easily distracted. I want to study well, but feel like seeing them again.
I was a little surprised. Yes, not shocked or angry. Surprised, because I had never expected a boy in his teens to share with his female teacher things that were usually kept secret among friends. At the same time I also felt glad because one, the boy realized he had done something he did not want to do, two, he was honest enough to confide in an adult whom he trusted and three, he still had not lost his focus and wanted to work hard.
Me: Don’t worry. It is quite normal for a child of your age to be curious. There is nothing wrong in what you felt or did. It DOES NOT mean that you are a bad person. You are growing into a young man, so your body, mind, emotions and relations evolve. It is quite natural. You may have noticed many changes yourself by now. Right?
Student (now looking at my face and smiling): Yes Akka. I thought you will scold me. I went to the computer lab when no one was there and ……
Me: It does not matter now, does it? I don’t want to know. But just remember that it is not allowed in school. Got to follow school rules right? Of course, I don’t have a say in what you do outside school but you have seen it for yourself. Not being able to focus…
Student: I will not do it again. I feel good talking to you.
Me: Sure. Try not to. Not in school. Remember that some of what you see or read may totally misguide you. If your friends are doing it, you could tell them too. Adolescence is a truly wonderful period in one’s life. New burst of energy and creativity, new ideas and points of view, exploring oneself and others…..make sure you make the best of it. And enjoy whatever you feel…the adventures, the crushes, the jokes..everything...just stop to think once in a while..
Student (laughing): Beautiful girls, crush….
Me(teasing): I know who you are talking about!
Student: Akka!!! Really??
Me: Yeah, don’t worry, it’s our secret.
Student: But how? When? Who told you?
Me(winking): Even I was once a teen you see.
Student: Thanks for talking to me Akka. I feel better. Bye, I have class now.
Me: No regrets, no guilt. You are a nice guy a good student too. Bye.
(Coming soon…another interesting conversation!)