Children can change
On weekdays, I teach children of all sizes and ages.
I do it for 10 months a year, and I even sometimes come to school on Saturdays. I do it at a small private school in San Juan.
In my four years of teaching, I have seen various types of students. Some are smart beyond their years. Others work hard to achieve success in their curricular activities. There are others who may not be exceptional academically, but are extremely talented in sports, music and the arts.
Three years ago, in 2016, I met a student called Mark. He was tall for his age. He loved reading a lot. He knew a lot of things. However, he did not do his requirements, and he exhibited some inappropriate behavior inside the classroom.
As a result, teaching him was a terrible experience for me. Mark simply didn’t want to do anything; he even refused to jot down the topic for the day on his notebook. In addition, he disrupted the class by making noise and talking to his classmates.
Deep inside, I knew he was a smart student. Whenever he decided to participate in the class discussion, he gave insights that none of his classmates had thought of. Everyone inside the class would be surprised whenever he contributed a good comment on the topic at hand.
Meanwhile, I just went on teaching English to the class. I was hoping that, at some point, Mark would stop being a recalcitrant student and pay attention to his studies for once.
This year, when he became a Grade 6 student, he began participating more actively in class. He listened to the lectures, took notes when necessary and started to get high marks in his quizzes. He started to submit his requirements, and he became a well-rounded student. When I saw that he won the school’s spelling bee, I became really happy.
Best of all, he now appears to be happy with his friends and life at school. That made me smile the most.
I was ecstatic at the way Mark changed himself for the better. I felt grateful to see how continuous and student-focused education helped him become a decent student.
Mark is going to graduate this year, and though it’s too late for him to become an honor student, I’m sure he is going to have a nice future ahead of him.
The point here is that children can change for the better, as long as they are guided and educated properly. We should take into account the fact that they are still trying to learn more about the world at this stage, and as such, they will make mistakes along the way.
We should invest in creating an atmosphere of learning, education and rehabilitation for our children. Yes, punishing them once may deter them from doing things in the future. But too much negative reinforcement will cause the opposite effect.
I really wonder why we need to punish our children by lowering the age of criminal liability to 12 years of age. While it is true that many other countries have a similar or lower threshold, it is a fact that their system is also backed with proper rehabilitative facilities in order to win these children back into society.
Instead of threatening them with punishment, why don’t we try to teach the basics at home? The things they learn in these environments are reflected in their actions when interacting with society. It’s the responsibility of the adults at home to look after the moral development of the succeeding generations.
The new bill being proposed states that children would only be punished for heinous crimes, and for “evidence beyond reasonable doubt.” I personally don’t believe that a child with the proper state of mind would ever knowingly commit such an offense, unless placed under extreme duress or suffering from a preexisting mental condition.
Every child that goes to prison is one individual removed from society. Worse, the prison environment would most certainly rob the young person of any chances at a normal life, thus leading to a vicious cycle.
I believe that children can change for the better, if given the chance to do so. I also believe that if children are placed in an optimal environment, they would be able to do great things that we could never imagine.
The best way to prevent children from committing crimes and make them useful members of our society is through proper education. Rizal said the youth are the hope of our future. It is our responsibility as citizens of this country to put them on the right path through education. I hope we never forget this.
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Earl Carlo Guevarra, 25, is an English teacher at a private school in San Juan City. When he’s not teaching writing or grammar, he likes to dabble in poetry and fruit shakes.
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