29 October 2017

Contrast

There's something that happens in school classrooms that is never commented upon in inspection reports or by academic observers. I am thinking about insects - mostly of the flying variety and about spiders too.

Especially in  warm weather - perhaps when a couple of classroom windows are open - insects will get inside the classroom and fly around. Such an event can cause disruption. Some daft youngsters may use such a happening as an excuse for silly over-reaction.

The teacher finds himself or herself charged with the responsibility of getting rid of said insect or spider in order to return to the lesson in progress. When I was a teacher here in South Yorkshire, I would often hear schoolchildren baying "Kill it sir!", "Squash it!", "Stand on it!".  They wanted that unfortunate creature dead in no uncertain terms and were generally puzzled when I gently captured them or wafted them out through an open window. 

I never killed the insects, never swatted them, never squashed them. Once a red admiral butterfly found its way into my classroom and still the youngsters urged killing like medieval onlookers at a hanging. I cupped it in my hands and let it back outside. The disappointment in the room was almost palpable and this made me feel a bit like a hippy alien Jesus kind of guy.

Fast forward to one of my teaching spells in Bangkok, Thailand.

One afternoon, a small flying cockroach found its way into my classroom when I was teaching a class of fifteen year olds. There was a ripple of distraction but none of the children were urging a killing. Nobody wanted to squash the creature or stamp on it. The exact opposite was happening. They all wanted that cockroach out of the room so it could live.

I trapped it with a plastic beaker from the water cooler and slid a piece of card beneath. "Please don't kill it Mr Neil!" begged one of the boys and I assured him there was no chance of that. I carried it to the back window which one of the girls kindly opened for me and I released the cockroach into the tropical afternoon air outside. 

The contrast between the two classroom attitudes was stark. My South Yorkshire charges bayed for killing and expected it too but my Buddhist students in Bangkok wanted the life of that little cockroach to be respected, nay cherished. And to me this felt very right indeed.

Of course I am not so naïve as to believe that there should be no killing of insects. Some of them can decimate food crops, others can spread disease and some can give you a nasty sting but surely we can still admire the lives they lead and view them as precious creatures. Earth was their planet ages before we came along.

23 comments:

  1. They even wanted to kill a butterfly? Wow. I'm glad you showed them another way to behave.

    Good for you, Mr. Neil. :)

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  2. I have no mercy on cockroaches, flies, mosquitos or fleas. I also refuse to use insecticides so all kills must be made by hand which gives them all a good chance of getting away.

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    1. And there was me thinking you are all sweetness and light Kylie! To any Australian insects or arachnids reading this I suggest you avoid Kylie's place!

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  3. If a mozzie decides it wants to nip me...I'll nip it in the bud! Fair is fair!

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    1. None of those little fellows want to "nip" you Lee, they want to pierce your skin in order to gorge themselves on your hot blood.

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  4. I'll squash a mozzie but most other things just get thrown out of the window. Paul says I'm wasting my time because they'll just come straight back indoors.

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    1. And most of them will be transported indoors by Rick.

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  5. Mosquitos are nature's way of telling you that you live in an area that was never meant for humans. Get out of the swamps and the rain forests and the desert and you'll be fine! I like the way mosquitos protect the most fragile ecosystems from human incursion...or, at least they try. I feel about raccoons and rats the same way: it's their world too. Human beings are the biggest pests on the planet.

    But what an interesting story about the Buddhist mind set. I used to think that it was a reversion to our monkey brains that we people shudder at small crawly things, but maybe it's just our Judeo-Christian entitlement, and our brutality is a consequence of our supposed Biblical birthright as the epitome of God's love . Ha!

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    1. Ironically, many Thai people happily eat insects. I think you are right to suggest that western culture has evolved an aversion to many insects and spiders that is not necessarily shared by our eastern or African cousins.

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  6. It's interesting to read of the difference in student attitudes, but - sorry - I'm mostly just laughing here at your Jekyll and Hyde performance re your comment on Steve's blog and your post here :)

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    1. Jekyll and Hyde? My position is consistent Jenny.

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    2. Ack, yes it is. Tired brain, here. Maybe it makes everything funny as well as backwards. Sorry!

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    3. I accept your apology with good grace but please tell me what "ack" means.

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    4. It's a synonym for "yikes" or "oops" - to be pictured accompanying a smack to the forehead and rolling of eyes :)

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    5. Yikes! Oops! Ack! I just slapped my forehead and it hurts!

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    6. No, no, not YOU slapping your forehead . . .

      oh, please just delete this whole thread!

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  7. In the larger picture, man has tried to control critter lives and succeeded in making things worse. The micro manager goes on a spider patrol almost every day in the summer. I say , "Leave then alone as they are controlling other critters that might want in the house."

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  8. Now I see why you were so vehemently appalled that I killed those aphids. I think they do fall squarely into the "harmful" category of insects, though. And I did let the spiders live, remember! :)

    Seriously, I am with you on this 100 percent. I never understood the automatic "Kill it!" response toward insects. I was riding in a car recently with my brother's family when his wife and daughters in the back seat started freaking out over a spider that had hitched a ride with us. The poor spider never had a chance!

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  9. Nope ! Cockroaches, mozzies, flies and spiders are all on my kill list !

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  10. I just slapped my forehead and it hurts!


    แคมฟรอก

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