Common Denominator

My son came home from school yesterday, peeved to bits.

The manner in which he jerked off his shoes after plonking himself on a handy chair, told its own story. With eyes averted and face glowering with impending thunder, he snatched off his tie and belt as if they were to be summarily hanged.

Hmmm, I said to myself. Something’s afoot.

Knowing better than to touch a tinder to a mound of gunpowder, I proceeded to douse the dangerous thing with some moist love.

“Here, drink some water”, I said to him, cunningly pretending as if I had noted nothing amiss.

He drained off the glass at a gulp and sat with his head lowered, fuming. I expected to see smoke coming out of his ears any minute. I moved aside prudently lest a bolt of lightening from his eyes turn me into a heap of ashes.

A few minutes as I tried to look busy while mentally twiddling my thumbs and waiting for him to be out with it. A few minutes was all it took.

“Mom, I’m angry today”, he began.


“You remember that boy I told you about, R?”

“Yes”, said I.

“Well, he is a very irritating character. He keeps on planning stupid pranks. And some of the kids in my class agree to any idiotic thing he suggests. Its like they have no brain of their own!” fumed he.

“Hmm… they say that about sheep too”, I interjected, thinking aloud.

“Whatever!” he declared impatiently. “Today R convinced some of the kids to replace the Good Morning Ma’am greeting withย Suprabhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttt Ma’am when the science teacher came into class.”

“Oh!” said I, secretly impressed with R. “Then?”

“Well, the teacher got angry. Because everyone dragged out the Suprabhaat Ma’am to almost a full minute.She was very offended. As it is, you know how strict she is! But even if she were not strict, that is not the way to wish a teacher!”

The boy was outraged with the ill-advised levity the effervescent boys had permitted themselves to indulge in; I could see that.

“So what did she do?” I asked.

“She called our physical education teacher”, he said in a voice heavy with disappointment. “He came, and scolded us for the rest of the period. I wouldn’t have minded that, but he did something even worse. He cancelled all our games periods for the rest of this academic year!”

Oh boy!’ I thought to myself. This is a biggie!

“Oh!” I exclaimed to him. “This is not good!”

“Mom, this is BAD… and unfair! Why should the whole class get punished because a few kids are stupid? Let THEM be punished… let them get kicked out of the school even… but WHY SHOULD THEY TAKE AWAY OUR GAMES PERIOD FOR FOUR MONTHS!?!”

When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spiritโ€”and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.

~Ayn Rand

While I wordlessly hugged him and tried to soothe his bruised heart, I slid into a silent soliloquy.

‘This is what we do beta. This is how we teach our children that they are not individuals. This is how we throw them- YOU- into a communal pool of sin and let the errors of your brothers and sisters cling to you like wet clay… impeding your progress, bogging down your footsteps, clogging your wings. This is how we teach you that even when you are not wrong, you still are because you are to be held in trial for the wrongdoings of your brothers. This is how we shove you all under the yoke of the Common Denominator. And then, my son, we wonder why you are so full of rage!’

“You will need to protest”, I said quietly.

“How? What do I do?” he asked.

Justice based purely on laws is about as accurate as a portrait created out of large low-resolution color pixels. If you stand back far enough it looks good. Come any closer and the glaring approximations overtake all semblance of the original. Justice should be viewable under the microscope, not from a telescope.

And for that it needs to be based not on law but on truth.

~Vera Nazarian

“Your class teacher is a fine person. Speak to her about it. Make sure she is alone. Explain the whole situation to her. You must remember to be objective when you are recounting the incident. Tell her of the punishment the whole class was given. Tell her that you are upset that you are to miss your games because of this.

“Once you’ve done all that, ask her what you can do to help her resolve the situation. After saying all this, be quiet. Don’t say a word. Don’t give her your suggestions on what YOU think she should do. Let her think and suggest a way out. If she tells you she will think it over and get back to you later, accept that. Don’t put her in a spot by forcing her to take a stand then and there. Assume that she is on your side…. which I am certain she is. I am sure she will find a way out. Don’t be upset now, okay?”

“Okay mom”, said he. I think I saw the sun peeking out from the clouds there. “So, what’s for lunch today?”

I heaved a sigh of relief.ย 

Common Denominator

Common Denominator

29 thoughts on “Common Denominator”

  1. Alas! The real world is such. But yes, as Leo noted, he’s super lucky to have someone with a strong head on her shoulders to give me timely advice. I’m curious though – I find it a bit odd that PE teacher cancelled their PE sessions for a prank on another teacher. I could be over thinking it ๐Ÿ˜› Plus I think the teacher should have dealt with it, rather than getting someone else in. Okay, I might be rambling now.

    1. Sid, I find that very weird too. But in his school, all tough disciplinary action is taken by the PE… I have NO idea why. Maybe they think of the PE teacher as a dean of students… or something. It is like giving away your authority to someone else. I would never do such a thing.

      That’s what parents do, right? Give timely advice… and then sit on the sidelines waiting for them to do it in their own bungling ways. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Oh that is terrible. Yes, I encounter this situation every day. ๐Ÿ™‚ You handled it well. Hopefully he will get his games periods back. I am sure the teacher’s anger having come down will be able to see more clearly as well.

  3. The manner in which they jerk their shoes and plonk on the bed after school, college or work says everything. You handled it very well. Unfortunately for me, moist love is all I can manage. Mine is an adult and doesn’t open up easily. When he does after a few hours or a day, he is not as receptive as he was as a kid.

    1. Oh I too am dreading the day when he’ll be older and learns to clam up. And you are right, they aren’t as receptive as they are in childhood. My eldest is giving me a taste of that too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I hope he gets his games period back we were always punished like this and told that if anyone comes forward with the guilty child’s name -the class would be excused..
    Somehow, neither way was a good way to teach any sort of lesson to young impressionable minds..

    That was great advice Dagny!

    1. You are right Hema… neither is good advice. On one hand you are punishing kids for the faults of other kids, on the other you are teaching them to turn on each other.

      Thank you for your visit!

    1. Actually Kalpana, the boy R is a bit of a rowdy character. And he has a pretty strong following. So reprimands don’t really work. My son is so fed up of that boy’s poor behavior- because of which the rest of them get a bad name and are punished- that he wants to leave the school!

      Thank you for sharing this!

  5. oh! this was a lovely way to handle it Dagny.
    My kid has been under such circumstances, and yes I agree talking one on one helps…that gives the child the added confidence to express what’s on his mind.

    You turned an ordinary event into an unprecedented affair by your exquisite choice of words ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. How really unfair to punish everyone because of what one person did! And, why on earth call the PE teacher…couldn’t the science teacher deal with this on her own?!
    So glad that you gave him such a wonderful solution! Do let us know what his class teacher did!

    1. I have no idea why the PE teacher was called Roshni. In their school all heavy disciplining is done by the PE staff. I find that strange too.

      I will let you all know how it falls out Roshni! Thanks!

  7. That was such sane advice. To say your thing and ‘keep quiet’. How hard is that! Hope he was able to do it. Isn’t it just wonderful when children talk to you and tell you stuff? I do hope he gets back his games period. It’s a weird punishment to begin with. They should have gone without science class :-). Not sure that would have been a punishment, though.

    1. Haha…! I agree with you! Going without science class would have been a welcome holiday for them. I hope he gets his games period too. He’ll so sore as a bear otherwise. ๐Ÿ™‚

      So happy to see you here! Thank you!

  8. You gave some very sane advice there. But it’s really weird that such a big punishment would be given in the first place for something which in my opinion is not that big a deal. And I say this based on my experience as a high school teacher. In fact such pranks can be opportunities to build some strong and friendly relation with the students. I would have actually asked them some questions about why Suprabhaat, what is wrong with Good Morning, should it be Suprabhaat or Suprabhaatam, etc etc…you get the idea ๐Ÿ™‚ If at all I would have called another teacher to help, I would have called the Sanskrit teacher! But that’s just me. I am sure the class-teacher in this case would know how to bring appropriate “justice” and resolve the matter.

    1. Such a beautiful comment Beloo! I fervently wish you were my son’s teacher. I couldn’t find a better teacher for them I am sure of that. Why do you live in Pondi? Sigh!

    1. Absolutely. There is no reason to make it easy for the world by meekly letting them push you around.

      Happy to see you hear! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Sent from My Blackberryยฎ @ Tata Docomo

  9. Pingback: Sacred Gift | Rugs Of Life

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