Monday, 21 September 2015

Teen Rebellion

If you think preparing for a boardroom presentation is difficult, try delivering a class to a bunch of 13 year olds!

Do you remember the time you were a teenager? It was so easy to hate everything around you, feel victimized all the time and never feel heard or understood. Class 7 has the most unruly boys in the whole school, notorious for their rebellion with every teacher. I experienced their hostility driven by their raging hormones in my very first class with them when I sent a bunch of them out of my class for their rowdy behavior, only to find all our 30 pairs of shoes, which were lined up outside class, scattered all around the playground and thrown onto the roof top of the school building. Let’s just say we didn’t start off on the best note.

I spent the next few weeks trying my best to motivate them, to talk about things that mattered to them, take on projects they were passionate about, engage them in meaningful conversations, make them open up in class and be more proactive with the experiments we did. But everyday seemed like it was a waste of my time, energy and effort with class 7 and there was no point losing my voice shouting at walls. They didn’t stop with their mocking funny noises, their back answers or their idle pondering in class. 

But suddenly one fine day something happened. They stopped. To think back, I can’t pin point this transformation to any one incident or event but I do vaguely remember it was right after a deep conversation I had with the entire class on my birthday. They were perhaps being nice to me because it was my birthday or something, and actually listened. But something stuck with them since that day and they’ve been doing phenomenally well in class ever since. It could also be the fact that the field trip was announced in that session and I left them to decide on their main project topic on their own. I was mighty excited when they told me they wanted to make a greenhouse on their return from the field trip.

And since then they have submitted a written report on the field trip (something they would've never done in a million years) and built a successful greenhouse that is still standing 3 days in. They took on the challenge with such gusto that all other teachers were shocked to see them going against their well set reputation of being the rebels of the school. It makes me immensely proud to see them redirect their energies to something as productive. They finished the entire project in less than 3 hours and in less than 30$. And to think this was the same group which threw my shoes on the top of the school building once.

My learning through this whole experience has been, it’s not about Behavioral Psychology or using “the incentive method” to get kids to do something. It comes down a simple rule-“They will do it if they want to do it”. Yes, that’s a no brainer. But the key is to make them WANT to do something by making the task fun and by trying your best to inspire them in every possible way, till you succeed. You can achieve it by trusting them enough to be the judge of what’s in their best interest, while treating teenagers like adults, with respect till eventually it turns into mutual respect.

From throwing my shoes onto the roof top to now taking selfies, we’ve sure come a long way! I only wish for the best things for this class, and more such projects. Man, am I going to miss them!

LOL! I love that guy's no-smile-straight-face in the back.


  1. I think watever u do and did is commendable and very few were born to do this ......The travels plus being the fisbee player plus being a teacher...........Hats off to u :)

    Shivalika :)

    1. Thanks Shivalika. I really appretiate it. :)

  2. Dear Aarati, it is mutual. Even kids are going to miss you. i can imagine the emotions and feelings the day when you are going to leave the Mahabodhi School. The lasting impression & the impact, you are going to leave on the kids. The learning outcomes are of imminence value in developing their Life Skills, specially in harsh climatic conditions in a place like Leh. Try and organize another Field trip and take them to Food Research Laboratory (FRL) a DRDO setup at Leh. it will be of great educational value.