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Updated: Jun 3, 2023

I attended school back in the days of corporal punishment. We had an extremely strict PE teacher. His face looked a bit like ‘Thanos’ from the last ‘Avengers’. Can you imagine a primary school child arriving 5 minutes late, entering through the double doors, and behold! ‘Thanos’ staring down at you?

Just to avoid any confusion, that boy was me. I used to be occasionally late for school. Perhaps a little more than occasionally. Now that I look back, he was probably 4 feet tall but at the time he seemed as tall as a mountain! In my days, being late for school meant Doomsday! It was quite the catch 22. If you were late to school, you were tormented which meant you did not want to come back to school the next day. So, you would act like you were really sick the following day, but after a 30-40 minutes struggle your parents kicked you out anyway so you would end up in school but late again. And there he was, looking at his watch and then your face, then the watch again, then you, multiple times! Welcome back to hell! We were made to run 5 – 10 laps of the school playground, and we had to do it at speed. If you made the mistake of slowing down, Thanos would catch up to you and give you a tight slap! I did get a few of those. Anytime, this teacher walked down the corridors, the pupils would freeze in a military stance. Outsiders visiting the school complimented the school for its excellent discipline. Straight rows, shiny black shoes, and immaculate ties. The school was seen as a place brimming with respect for teachers. But one day, I overheard some backbenchers saying that one of them saw this teacher outside the school but the teacher hadn’t spotted him. So, this boy decided to throw a stone at the teacher out of spite. Although, I can’t confirm the truth of this incident but the teacher did come to the school after a few days with a bandage around his head. The point is, the ‘respect’ that had been apparent to others was in reality ‘compliance’ out of fear. Children did not speak of this teacher with respect behind his back. They feared him. They hated him! Outward respect can originate from two intrinsic causes: Fear or Humility. A fear-driven respect is only superficial. It is not really respect rather an outward compliance. For example: a child might obey a teacher who is strict and harsh, simply because he/she fears the consequences or feels intimidated by the teacher. However, this unwilling compliance will last as long as the fear does. Someone might wait at a traffic signal demonstrating respect for traffic rules. But whether this respect emanates from a fear of penalty if they jump the lights or a genuine respect for pedestrians crossing the road is an intrinsic cause.

A culture of learning that exploits psychological fear is more likely to make children believe that fear works. When these children grow older, they’re more likely to revert to intimidation to achieve goals. Fear gets short-term compliance and long-term damage.

However, if a humility driven respect is instilled, not only does it address pride and arrogance, but it also brings out genuine respect out of children. As Rick Warren puts it, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” It is to ask children to think about others before themselves. Service before self – is the motto of Delhi Public School in India where service for others is highly praised and celebrated. Children are taught to make themselves available for others. In order to grow this respect, character must to be watered with teachings of humility. We tell our children the story of Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to climb the Everest. On one of his later treks, he was stopped by another trekker who, not knowing who Hillary was, tried to correct his holding of the hiking pole. Hillary thanked him for giving him the instruction but never said, “Are you going to teach me how to trek?” In fact, the humility in Hillary made those around him watching, respect him even more. This is how respect is earned. Outside and inside the classroom! Author: Vijith Vijay Twitter: Facebook: Instagram: @vijithvijayphotography Email:


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