A parent wanted to chat with me, so I left the classroom for five minutes.

As I was returning to the classroom, it looked like the Primary 1 kids were behaving themselves from the glass door.

“THA….” Just as I was about to thank them for behaving themselves, chaos erupted.

“X said I did this!”

“B bullied me!”

“Y started it first!”

“I hate him.”

“No, I hate you back.”

While this is not unusual for seven year-olds, I had to tell them off.
I have been quite laissez faire in my approach towards them in class. They have told me how fierce their teachers are in school and I have been very relaxed with them.

It’s amusing when they seek permission to write in pen or pencil or get worried if they do things differently. While I understand the school teachers’ need to maintain discipline in a large class, I want them to be able to loosen up in my class, let their creativity flow and more importantly, see the big picture and not worry about the less consequential matters.

In class, I encourage them to call me Wei instead of Mr Lim or “teacher” because I want them to be uninhibited around me and trust me as a friend. I want learning to be based on fun and initiative, instead of fear and rote-learning.

I told these students that I set up the place so that everyone can enjoy learning and not so that they can hate each other. That was the threshold for me and they should reflect on themselves for breaching the code of trust. Education needs to be conducted in a place filled with love, I said.

While they are merely seven years old, I believe in talking to them as a peer.

Education is not just about learning the core subjects. Nor is it solely about discipline. Education is also about learning to respect one another and accepting your friends. And I hope I can get my students to understand this, even though on the surface it is just a language class.