Behavioral problems with students are not uncommon even at the kindergarten level. But with the students of secondary classes, the dimension of the problem often begins to assume alarming proportions. Unfortunately, a large number of teachers dealing with secondary classes are so preoccupied with the academic aspect of their function that they tend to overlook the importance of observing and taking into consideration the emotional problems and needs of their students, eventually leading to a destructive mutual blame game.
It has been my personal observation that the most successful teachers are those who put taming before teaching in their priorities. It is true just as well as with the parents who are keen to guide their wards to do better academically. Rapport-building is easier said than done, on the one hand because of what may be called a generation gap, and on the other, because of the egoistic assumptions of parents and teachers about their own wisdom which makes their approach authoritative, in turn, making them take the children for granted. As the gap in the wavelength widens, taming becomes all the more difficult particularly with adolescents and teenagers.
That brings to my mind an interesting short story by William Saroyan titled ‘The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse’. It presents an eccentric character of a thirteen-year-old lad named Mourad. He steals a farmer’s horse and takes early morning rides (stealthily, of course) along with his nine-year-old cousin Aram. The horse is very obedient as long as Mourad is on the saddle but becomes uncontrollably wild when it’s poor Aram’s turn. Mourad claims that he ‘has a way with horses’. At the end of the story, as the two boys go to the grieving farmer’s house to return the horse, Aram is worried the dogs there might bark. Mourad assures him they won’t, because he ‘has a way with dogs’.
In spite of the author labeling Mourad crazy, his self-possessed demeanor is bound to make an impact on the reader and makes him look like a hero. Mourad offers a very brief and vague explanation of what he means by having a ‘way’ be it with horses or dogs or birds or farmers. He says he has with them ‘an understanding’ and it is ‘a simple and honest one’. The nature of this understanding becomes clearer when John Byro, the horse’s owner, gladly admits that the returned horse was ‘better and stronger than ever’. It makes me wonder Mourad would probably make a very good teacher if he chose to be one. He is one of those who have mastered the art of taming.
Teenagers are like horses. If you perceive them as rebellious, it only testifies that you are as naïve as Aram and are yet to evolve into the imaginative Mourad, the master-tamer. There’s no big secret. It’s about a simple and honest understanding, honest being the key word. Then you begin to see the beautiful white horse and enjoy your summer with it. Isn’t that quite simple now?
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