Does Punishment Really Work?

Uma Kandel

Each and every corner has a story to tell. I never like to say I am a successful person however I am here with the combination of various mixed experiences and bitter realities. As a student of education, I have gone through some theories and philosophies of teaching and learning. Among them, the renowned behaviorist B. F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning is most useful for behavior and educational change with reinforcement.  Skinner’s reward and punishment is a very popular theory to be implemented in South Asian reading culture. If someone commits a mistake, his seniors carry the anger on their noses and start to punish. For example, a child spills a jug of water on the carpet, her mother picks up the broom and punishes her physically. What actually is this? Can’t she tell her spilling water is not good or something else! It is our universal reaction. Both reward and punishment work mutually in the teaching-learning field.

          One day, I assigned a reading task to class nine. It was in the seventh period. The next day, I observed them. No one was serious regarding yesterday’s homework. Silently, I entered the room and asked a boy to tell the lesson. He was carefree. His response was, “Aundainamalai” in an impolite manner. I didn’t say a single word and moved to another girl. She was afraid of my way of handling the class and uttered some of the lines of the text. I pulled them outside the classroom and ordered them to complete the lesson saying that they wouldn’t return home without completing the task. Within an hour some of them did that.

          Human being obviously reflects oneself first. Treating the students the way was my reflection of my childhood and a mixture of my parents’ and teachers’ reactions to me. I am from a middle-class farmer family. We had a lot of grain from our field except for the rice. There was not any scarcity of food but we used to get new clothes just once a year. We had to manage with a single pair of clothes. No matters it is winter or summer.

          I want to go back to my school life. At that time, English was taught only from class 4. My father was very strict regarding his children’s basic learning. I was taught English alphabets, basic numbers, Nepali Bahrakhari before going to school at the age pf six. My elder sister never stepped to school and saw the classrooms. Instead, she was taught basic alphabets and numbers at home. My two elder brothers were sent to school but my father noticed some of their mistakes and sent them to Delhi. Seeing these all, I was very frightened of my school drop-out. He always used to say, “If you fail the exam, it will be the time for your marriage”. I could do nothing but wanted to learn more. My one and only dream were going to college in a sari.

          One day, my father returned home from the village in the evening. He was too angry. No one dared to ask why he was in this mood. When it was lunchtime, he said to my mother, “It is time to send her to her husband’s house”. I was too much shocked. I came to know that the result of class eight was published and I couldn’t get pass marks in three subjects including English. But I was upgraded to class nine. I didn’t sleep the whole night. I couldn’t even think of my marriage at the age of fourteen. When the new session started, my father took me to school and I was admitted. Most of the teachers were my relatives. They promised my father that they would bring change to me. I was out of the office and could only hear from my teachers that I would do more in class nine. They ensured my father that they would make me a good and successful citizen.

          My daily routine was changed after being admitted to class nine. Most of the teachers were new in the classroom. My English teacher was different from all of them. He had completed his I. Sc. (Forestry). He used to teach us Science and English. Every day, we had to complete our lesson that he taught at school either by rotting or remembering. There was too much homework. I had to support my family in farming as well. Sometimes, I needed to clean the buffalo shed, milk the buffaloes, and carry the milk to the bazaar. In the morning, cutting grass was compulsory. Gradually, my interest in learning was increasing. I bought a small radio with Rs. 120. I used to study till 11:00 pm by listening to the radio programs. At that time, we burnt the lamps with kerosene. My father used to wake up to feed the buffaloes at midnight. By seeing the light in my room, he used to call me. In the morning, I used to get up at half-past three before my parents. At school, our teachers had stout sticks with them. In the first term exam, I obtained 9.5 out of 10. I was too much happy. But in the latter days, the teacher used to say, “How did you score that marks? Did you cheat in the exam?” I was so nervous. It used to pinch more than the four powerful sticks on my palm. Do you know? Mental punishment is more powerful than physical punishment.

          It was my beautiful past that helped me to stand here as a school teacher.

सोमवार, पुस १३, २०७७ मा प्रकाशित

सम्बन्धित सामाग्री

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