Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 58, Tuesday August 16, 2005




Special feature

Don't jump out the window

Phones, voice mail, faxes, e-mails and great looking secretaries have all been invented as labour saving devices. But have you noticed how none of it really reduces the workload? On the contrary it simply increases the way that work can pile up. For example the phone allows anyone from anywhere to barge in on you even if you are relaxing on the toilet. Voice mails, faxes and e-mails are just other devices through which annoying people such as bosses can throw work at you. As for great looking secretaries they create a distraction by making you stare all day.

Some futurist of the early twentieth century predicted that man of today would be working only four hours a day, nine months a year and earning all the money needed. Doesn't sound like reality does it? Before you know it work piles up like crazy and you take a leap out of the window possibly landing on someone's beautiful new car. What a waste of car.

People with too much time on their hands have conducted studies based on this. It has been found that despite the introduction of many labour-saving devices people are working the equivalent of one month a year more than they did at the end of World War II. It seems that whenever a significant new "labour-saving" product or service is developed we use it so much our workload actually increases.

We are constantly on-call and burdened with numerous queries that people expect to receive immediate responses to. That's on top of the actual job. For some workers, the best way to deal with the overload is to take an extended sick leave. Some would have preferred to pick up a gun but in Bangladesh luckily weapons are a little difficult to find at the nearest general store.

For your benefit, the Lifestyle staff have stressed themselves out to come up with 5 ways to better utilise your time. In fact it could also help stressed out students, mothers and dogs with too many itchy spots.

1. Focus on the important
Some things are simply more important than others such as finishing this article as opposed to worrying about syntax. This may sound obvious, but many of us are tempted to work on easy tasks first so we can have a sense of accomplishment. The time spent on these can quickly add up, creating even more stress when you see that not much time is left for the important work. Think about exams where you do the easy stuff first and when its time to work on the difficult matter you panic due to lack of time. But that does not mean you waste time scratching your dandruff over an impossible problem. Then you lose everything.

2. Create a schedule
This will help you figure out how to utilise your time. It will also help to focus. Keep track of all the times you start and end a new activity including taking a break. It will help you to notice any time-wasters you might not have been aware of. Of course great plans are nothing if not carried out.

3. Prepare for the unexpected
Law of the universe states that the tighter your schedule the more likely something will turn up to make you head for the open window. When scheduling your time, assume that something unexpected will come up and build in a cushion of time to deal with it. Avoid self-imposed deadlines. If you must commit to a date, be conservative. Consistently under-promising and over-delivering could earn you a great reputation while reducing your stress.

4. Be nice to yourself
Aim to meet or even exceed expectations, but don't try to achieve perfection. Wherever possible, delegate routine tasks, even if you think you can do them better than someone else. Unless of course, there is no one working under you to delegate. In that case get a pet turtle to blame things on.

5. Don't be a doormat
Don't let other people's problems become yours. Try limiting your contribution to advice when someone hands you their headache unless you really love them. People will be people and will want others to do their job. They are the ones who greatly believe in advice number 4.

You won't become the supreme ruler of time by following these advices but they can make your work more manageable and save the office from installing bars on the windows.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Reader's chit


Back in 1983 on my first day as a teacher in a school in Vancouver, Canada when I walked into a class for little children who were between four to seven years old I was amazed by the tranquil atmosphere of the school and the class room. It seemed to me like a well-managed home where everybody felt happy and relaxed doing his or her own work. But then this was no ordinary school classroom that I had entered. It was a Montessori classroom. Here every child had the freedom to choose from a range of activities as long as s/he was not disrupting class discipline. In this setup the educational materials, I could see, did the job of teaching to a great extent.

What I had seen then is in contrast to an ordinary classroom in our part of the world where the teacher is the "boss" acting according to a predetermined, often stereotyped, plan. Someone who forces others to listen to him or her and who imposes punishment on those who fail to conform. Indeed, giving punishment in these cases is all too common a practice. But such practice can traumatise a child to such an extent that he or she might fall sick. In some cases physical punishment may lead to the child becoming sick. It may, in extreme cases, even kill the child.

Consider the death of Dipu as an instance. A few days ago our papers reported the death of this little boy who was a student of a school in Nayatola, Dhaka. Nine-year-old Dipu was tortured and bruised. So traumatised did he become after being beaten up by his favourite teacher as well as the headmaster of the school that he became fatally ill. And his fault? He had failed to answer some questions he was asked in class! What a shame it is that a child has to die because of violence in the classroom. What will the other students of the class learn from such a situation?

Education, it must be stressed, should not involve the use of physical force or must not involve abusing anyone at any stage. To assault a child physically is to break his or her spirit as well as to break a vulnerable young mind. Education should not involve inflicting torture, taunts, or humiliations on a child for not understanding a lesson or restlessness or any other reason. Teaching does not mean jeering at a child's failure, even though some teachers continue to do so. What a shame it is for our profession that this is the case with so many people in our profession!

When I read Professor Zafar Iqbal's excellent essay on Dipu and the system of punishment enforced in our schools in the pages of Prothom Alo a few weeks ago, I almost cried. I felt that as teachers we should take collective responsibility for the death of this child. Dipu did not certainly deserve such a fate from those he respected and yet he had to go through such extreme measures. Just because children respect and love us and we are supposed to teach them, we cannot bully them into submission or education even if they fail in their studies or misbehave with us.

As teachers we should try to find out the reason for the child's failure to learn lessons or behave properly. A child may be physically sick or come from an environment that is not conducive to studies. In that case, why can't we meet the parents and find out the real reason for his failure to learn or behave? In this manner we can help our students positively. This will also help the child to trust us more, love us, and open up to us teachers. In the process we can develop a wonderful rapport with children.

I am aware we may not be able to adopt the kind of procedure that I am recommending as a way of dealing with students who are having problems in the classroom when class sizes are large. Nevertheless, I feel that with a little help from all the stakeholders the school administration, guardians, teachers and students we can avoid future tragedies in our classrooms. Indeed, I dream of a day when we won't have to read in our newspapers of any student being spanked or beaten up for not living up to her or his teacher's expectations. As teachers, if we accept our students as they are and a avoid putting excessive pressure on them to make them perfect, we will develop their confidence and improve as teachers ourselves. Making children feel secure in their learning environment and giving them tasks that allow them to be creative is the reason why the Montessori classroom has been found to be ideal all over the world. To learn from this system and to avoid the kind of mistake that was made in the Nayatola school that led to the tragic death of a child is what we should be doing if we want a better future for our children.

By Najma Alam
The writer is a teacher of Sunbeams School, Dhaka


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