(For other articles by Dr. Swatantra Jain, please check her website.)

It is my strong conviction that every human being is a condensed cosmos. Each human being inherits the traits from the whole universe – from the animate as well as the inanimate beings. Thus, every human being is potentially Buddha, Christ, Gandhi but like Balmiki has the dacoit as well as the saint in him. In real life, we may find very rare manifestations of saints/gods – sometimes they manifest once in a few centuries. The question is how do we bring out the best in our youth and children given that our children and youth are not being led by a holistic education system in our times?

If I have the faith in the infinite potentiality of any human being, stronger is my faith in the infinite and inexhaustible potentialities of education system that can channelize a human being towards empathetic qualities or hurtful qualities. Because teachers impart education, they have a great role to play in shaping the personality of their students and through them change the shape of our society.

Without feeling dismayed with the facts of the present crisis all over the nation and the world, a true educationist will not lose his faith in the absolute truth. He/she will find out ways and means to make it practical, acceptable and appealing to his pupils within the framework of the society and the humanity at large. The need of the hour is the transformation of the human psyche by bringing a qualitative change in the entire education process itself. ‘How to make this possible’ is the big challenge to the psychologists, educationists and the teachers.

The object of education is the child, the objective being the unfolding and maximum development of the best of his potentialities by the best possible chiseling and channelization of his instincts, emotions and exuberant youthful energy into constructive and socially desirable channels. The teachers are rightly entrusted with shouldering the noble but huge task of shaping and molding the pupils and their psyche. Hence, a committed teacher shouldn’t be satisfied with just the academic excellence of her students. She needs to know every aspect of her pupil’s growth.

A receptive teacher must know her students in all their blessings as well as shortcomings, with all their humdrum petty needs as well as spiritual requirements. She should know how a student functions in the society and not just in a classroom. According to Ushinsky, a Great Russian educationist, a good teacher ought to know the child, “When he is alone with his conscience, in all age groups, in all classes, in all situations, in sorrow as well as in joy, in exaltation as well as humiliations, in excess of strength as well as in weakness and among boundless hopes and despairs. The teacher should know all the motivating causes of the most sordid and the loftiest acts, the history of the genesis of the criminal as well as the lofty ideas, the history of the development of every passion and every trait. Then and only then will she be in a position to derive the means of educational influence from that student’s very nature – and these means are immense.”

The need for knowing the student/child in all the depth is somehow emphasized at primary or middle school level, but it is usually not given due importance at higher education levels. We must keep in mind that every stage of development is characterized by its special needs & characteristics. No teacher can succeed in her mission unless and until she knows her students deeply. No doubt that every teacher has some intuitive feeling about what is going in a student’s life, but this general feeling is inadequate if it is not supplemented by the knowledge and practice of psychological principles.

The stage of development during which students enter any college for higher studies is called the late adolescence stage which begins after a student finishes his school. The late adolescence stage, like early adolescence is a transitional period. The adjustments to a mature level of behavior began during early adolescence are normally gradually completed by late adolescence. According to Sorenson, “This is an intermission between earlier freedoms and subsequent responsibilities & commitments. Some chief characteristics of older adolescents are: increased maturity, change in the methods of solving problems, knowledge of decreased adult concern, increased emotional calm and increased realism, interest in the symbols of maturity and reduction in moodiness. He/she is not easily swayed by propaganda”.

However, our expectation of mature behaviour from the youth is not in tune with the facts as they stand today. We find them more insecure, frustrated, worried and unstable due to the economic and vocational insecurities. Out of many innumerable needs and problems of our youth – the social and emotional needs are more crucial. I am convinced that there can’t be any wrong with the students whose emotions are channelized and developed in a healthy manner. A good and successful teacher is she who appeals to the emotions, to the heart of the individual and through his heart to the intellect. Emotionality is the means towards stimulating interest and fostering sensibility. And the only way to stretch and expand a youth’s emotions is to preserve their magic while teaching them. It may seem that the path from a teacher’s knowledge to student’s intellect would be a straight and shortest route, but, it can prove to be the longest and the most difficult one if the conductor of emotions is not set in motion.

A teacher should be able to sense what is preoccupying her student each moment, what is his life space in which he is roaming – his private inner world. If the teacher is unable to know students’ heart, she can at least peep through their sad eyes and see their worry, grief, anxiety or agony. Again, being aware of their anxieties is not enough, the teacher must be able to compassionately and empathically deal with them. But kindness is not syrup with fixed recipe that can be given to a student. It is not a matter of teacher’s tone or choice of words even. It is a matter of teacher’s own maturity and intentions. A genuinely compassionate teacher should be capable of holding the space for student’s wide range of emotional expressions. If the students trust the teacher and her intentions, they can accept even the bitterest of the truths conveyed by the teacher. If the student doesn’t trust the teacher; he/she can misinterpret her statements, comments or even gestures. And when students don’t trust their teachers, the chances of their turning into delinquent, abnormally-adjusted or neurotic are enhanced. So every effort must be made to win the trust and preserve the vital most psychological needs of the youth, e.g., self-respect and self-esteem, self-confidence, self-recognition and self-approval

At a practical level, teachers must create opportunities that may enhance the self-esteem of the students; enable them to shine in one or the other field. The teacher must carefully eradicate all the situations that lower the student’s esteem and self-respect.

The hardest task of educational systems is to mold a teacher’s conviction with regard to the purpose of her work. What is the true role of a teacher? I think it is to instill trust and self-esteem in the student. If she is able to light this kindle of faith within her student, she will be able to save him/her from turning out to be a frustrated and a delinquent human being by making him regain his lost self-esteem.

To conclude, a student must be welcomed as a friend whose trust is important for teacher. A student must be seen, heard and respected.

Let us not let the spark of a student’s own desire to be a healthy member of society die away.