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I encountered something interesting about one of my students today that has made me rethink my position on some assumptions I held deeply about human behaviour. It also changed my entire perspective on behaviour and punishment.

We are almost at the tail end of the term and school is about to vacate. Every class is writing end of term examinations which started about a week ago. I noticed that one of my students has been quiet and would not talk or play with other students.

She would not respond when I walk to her table to speak to her. She would roll her eyes and pout her mouth the entire time. I was shocked because throughout my years of teaching I have never encountered such hostility from any of my students. I decided to let it pass and not report it to her parents.

This week, I noticed that she was hostile towards her mates as well. She would shout at them and push them to the floor at the least provocation. Frankly, I was getting tired of her antics and I wasn’t going to tolerate anymore of it. I started the school term on a good note and I was determined to end it on a good note.

I reported her to the headmistress in order that she could speak to her about her unruly behaviour. My student was asked to invite her parents for a parent/ teacher meeting.

But to my surprise, her parents didn’t show up for the meeting. I was getting fed up with her and behaviour, thus after school, I decided to visit her house all by myself.

I got to the door and I was about to turn away because after standing there for awhile, there was no response to my knocks, when a frail woman opened the door and ushered me into a living room. We spoke for some time and I felt really bad for secretly judging my student.

After the meeting with her mother, I learnt that things have not been ok at home for my student and she has been going through a lot. I initially thought she was being a bully and disrespectful. It turns out she was facing a lot of challenges at home.  

The next day, when school closed, I bought her a cold drink; spoke to her about life, her behaviour and others. I made her understand that I felt her pain and was ready to provide her with support.

The following day I referred her to the school counsellor who is now taking her through a therapeutic session.

She is very grateful for the help and I am equally grateful that I could help. She would be starting her session with the school counsellor tomorrow


Sometimes when we encounter difficult students, our first reaction is to administer punishment but that should not be the first port of call.

It is important that as teachers, we try to understand the root cause of the issue before passing judgment. It is time to do better and offer more support to students who are usually recalcitrant.

  Therefore, I have decided that as part of my New Year resolution, I will spend time understanding the behavioural patterns of my students instead of handing out punishment as the first port of call.

December 12, 2019


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