This section will carry experiences of Educators who have moulded young people in difficult situations, applying the Don Bosco system of Education through Reason, Love of God and Kindness. May this be inspirational to teachers in handling students positively, bringing out the best in them through love and patience than through stern disciplining.
The Practice of the Preventive System:
By Dr. James Poonthuruthil SDB, Professor, Sacred Heart College, Shillong.
I would like to share a few of my experiences in the practice of the Preventive System from my “practical training”/regency days. Let me briefly describe the setting. I had three years of practical training and all the three years were spent in Don Bosco Technical School, Shillong. We had a big boarding with over 200 boarders hailing from all the Northeastern States of India. The Rector was Fr. Thomas Menamparampil sdb, presently Archbishop Emeritus of the Archdiocese of Guwahati. The practical trainees were also full time teachers in the two schools, Don Bosco High School (meant for the technical students) and St. Anthony’s High School, both in the same campus. My regency days were some of hardest days of my life; at the same time, the happiest.
Let me now share three of my experiences in the practice of the Preventive System:
1. The Rector was very insistent that all the confreres be present among the boarders during recesses. We used to have rather long recess after supper. The boarders’ time for supper used to be very short because they generally would eat very fast and then would be impatient to go for recess. As a consequence, the confreres too, particularly the Assistants had to eat very fast so as to be on time to be with the boarders. In the beginning I used to grumble for to lack of time even to have a meal in peace, after having spent the whole day teaching and assisting. What I noticed was that the Rector would be the first to come out and be with the boarders. He would move from group to group briefly chatting with them. Even the elderly confreres did the same during the recesses. Everyone was out with the boarders assisting them through their loving presence. This was a great lesson for me on the importance of Salesian Assistance.
2. During my regency, I had the misfortune of using the cane once on one of my students at St. Anthony’s School. Maintaining discipline was not easy due to over crowded classrooms. Most of the teachers used the cane often to impose discipline and the students seemed to have taken it for granted that they should get some beatings now and then to make them behave properly. In fact, the teachers would carry with them a cane into every classroom. But I decided to get discipline without ever using a stick. I used to be very serious and strict with my students during class hours and they cooperated and I was able to get good discipline most of the time without having to inflict any corporal punishment. But in one class there was a very naughty boy, constantly disturbing his companions during class hours. I warned him several times with very little improvement. One day during class, this particular boy was up to his usual tricks. I called him out and made him stand in front of the class, wanting to send a strong message to everyone, I took a cane and gave him two beatings on his hands. This action of mine shocked the rest of the students initially, because they had never seen me using the stick and they took it for granted that I would never use one. But contrary to my expectation, from that day, I lost control over that class and more and more students became problematic in class. Getting discipline was no longer easy in that class, giving me the impression that they expected some beatings from me to be disciplined. With this incident, I learnt the hard lesson that healthy discipline cannot be maintained with the use of cane.
3. In Don Bosco Boarding, there was a boy who was very disobedient and disrespectful towards me. Often I had to scold him particularly in the playground. But he would not obey and would often challenge me. Physically, he was stronger and I was afraid to confront him. This made me very upset particularly because I felt that he was not respecting my “authority”. So I complained to the Rector against him and even requested him to dismiss him from the boarding. But I noticed that he was disobedient only to me and the other confreres had no problem with him. That made me reflect on my way of dealing with him. So I decided to look for ways of winning him over. One day, it was his birthday. I forced myself to greet him with great affection and gave him a birthday gift. The boy never expected that from me. He was visibly moved. From that day, he became very friendly with me and obedience was no more a problem.