Home Quranet Chapter 12 How should a teacher approach a weak pupil?
How should a teacher approach a weak pupil?
Chapter 12

وَلاَ تُؤْتُواْ السُّفَهَاء أَمْوَالَكُمُ الَّتِي جَعَلَ اللّهُ لَكُمْ قِيَاماً وَارْزُقُوهُمْ فِيهَا وَاكْسُوهُمْ وَقُولُواْ لَهُمْ قَوْلاً مَّعْرُوفًا (سورۃ النساء, آيۃ 5)

To those weak of understanding Make not over your property, which Allah hath made a means of support for you, but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice. (Surah 4, Verse 5)

One day Mahmud, a third-grader, went into the counselor's office, and sat down silently. She knew him to be a pupil with serious learning disabilities as well as physiological problems. She said: "Mahmud, you look sad. Has something happened?" and then he told her that the mathematics teacher treated him badly and did not give him as much attention as he gave to other pupils. "He doesn't even look at me during the lesson", he told her, "and I sit separately. He's the only one who makes me feel like that. And in recess he doesn't look after me and doesn't respect me the way other teachers do". The counselor asked Mahmud what he thought the reason was. "It's because I'm weak and different from all the others and that teacher has no sympathy for weak people", he replied. "If you don't talk to him, I'm not going back into his lessons", he added emphatically.

That same day the counselor called the mathematics teacher and read him the verse: "but feed and clothe them therewith, and speak to them words of kindness and justice". She asked him if he knew why she had read him that particular verse. He said he didn't know. Then she asked him about Mahmud. The teacher claimed that he treated Mahmud the same way as he treated other pupils but that Mahmud wanted preferential treatment. Then the counselor told him that Mahmud did not feel that way. She explained that it was problematic and wrong to deny the instinctive feelings of a child or, indeed, any person. It was worth the teacher's while, she said, to try and improve his relationship with him, whether Mahmud was right or not. The teacher thanked her for giving him the opportunity to improve relations with Mahmud.

Explanation: The counselor was right in saying that one cannot argue with a feeling. Possibly Mahmud is sensitive and very vulnerable. In that case it is the duty of the teacher, who is responsible for his pupils' good feeling in class, to make an effort to make Mahmud feel better. The Quran verse emphasizes the importance of kindness in approaching the weak. It does not encourage condescendence or disregard for the child's presence and difficulties. The Quran excels in nurturing and encouraging compassion in human society. In Western society, we call this quality empathy, in traditional society compassion or kindness. What is important is that every parent and every teacher remember that only by adopting such an attitude can we raise a child who thinks independently because if a child is humiliated, he will remain dependent. If he is addressed with kindness and justice he can develop an inner expanse of choice and discretion.