Some of the questions have more value than others. Recently I was having a casual discussion with our set of children at Goregaon facility around how do public schools run since all these kids are from public schools and their quality of learning is really poor.

Last Saturday one of my students asked me, ‘Why should we vote for our politicians when our situation doesn’t change either ways’. I was really happy to hear this question since very few people tend to get that in their minds. In slum communities politicians take the dwellers for granted and lure them by cheap sops like a bottle of liquor, free health checkup, free specs etc.  If children are able to see through the intent of doing these feel good initiatives, they would always emerge as more informed citizens and thereby act more responsibly.

I preferred not to answer that question as I believe it was important for it to remain unanswered till she reaches a stage (at present she is 12) when she herself gets perplexed and may be try to figure out the alternative herself. I am confident about her capacity to do something really concrete for her community as she grows in life.  And for that to happen its critical that she takes the effort to figure out answers from within her.

Some questions actually have immense capacity to shape our minds.

We had an interesting experience the other day with our batch of children at the ‘School of Life’ program.
There were certain children in the batch who have been identified for art therapy based on the attention deficit indications that they show. These sessions involve various activities using differet art forms such as music, painting, dance, also games, story telling etc.
Now a certain group of children feel deprived of these benefits and they tend to develop a kind of grievance against the other set. This different builds up to a level where they don’t even want to talk to each other.
The interesting part is that some of these kids who are showing resentment are also very bright in their regular academic performance. The fact that they are not able to check their own emotions and also deal with them appropriately or handle their social interactions with maturity indicates a huge opportunity for providing them inputs on some important life skills like- managing one’s emotions, critical thinking, communication etc.
Thus what was earlier seen to be a difficulty, emerged as a big opportunity to help the children come together and explore what makes them feel the way they do and then giving them freedom to expresss that resentment. This expression leads to a more candid admission of sentiments which then leads to self awareness.
We believe that these behaviours and approaches of children in their larger society provide very significant opportunities of helping children develop both their emotional as well as social intelligence. The fraily of our education system is that none of these aspects would be covered by the traditional academic disciplines yet, we know that if a child has to emerge as a strong person, the attitude of a child towards a personal difficulty or confusion or external influence can reveal so much about where a child stands today and where can he/she reach if no intervention takes place.

We had an interesting experience the other day with our batch of children at the ‘School of Life’ program.

There are certain children in the batch who have been identified for art therapy based on the attention deficit indications that they showed. These sessions involve various activities using differet art forms such as music, painting, dance, also games, story telling etc.

Now, a certain group of children who are not part of these sessions feel deprived of these benefits and they tend to develop a kind of grievance against the other set. This difference builds up to a level where they don’t even want to talk to each other.

The interesting part is that some of these kids who are showing resentment are also very bright in their regular academic performance. The fact that they are not able to check their own emotions and also deal with them appropriately or handle their social interactions with maturity indicates a huge opportunity for providing them inputs on some important life skills like- managing one’s emotions, critical thinking, communication etc.

Thus what was earlier seen to be a difficulty, emerged as a big opportunity to help the children come together and explore what makes them feel the way they do and then giving them freedom to expresss that resentment. This expression leads to a more candid admission of sentiments which then leads to self awareness. And when this understanding is explored with complete openness mind and objectivity,  the state of mind is refreshed!

We believe that these behaviours and approaches of children in their larger society provide very significant opportunities of helping children develop both their emotional as well as social intelligence. The frailty of our education system is that none of these aspects would be covered by the traditional academic disciplines yet, we know that if a child has to emerge as a strong person, the attitude of a child towards a personal difficulty or confusion or external influence can reveal so much about where a child stands today and where can he/she reach if no intervention takes place.

We will always continue looking for these opportunities for making learning happen naturally.

Praful concentrating on his clay work

Praful concentrating on his clay work

This wonderful boy is not able to do too well in academics. Rather I must say that he finds immense difficulty in paying attention to anything that requires him to remember. He is always full of energy and finds it difficult to contain himself and it leads to other kids at time getting disturbed with his behaviour.

On the flip side,  look at the way he is trying to concentrate to create the shape of an idol using clay. This was done as part of the art therapy being handled by an able volunteer with the foundation.

This process of allowing children to express their skills and mental states using works of art leads to much more relaxed behaviour when children are required to focus on things which call for deeper attention of mind. If a teacher gets a grip on what the strengths and areas of interest of a child are, the task of helping the child concentrate on other aspects becomes easier.

A very powerful quote

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” –Thomas Jefferson

All teachers can have the above included in their oath

“I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every
form of tyranny over the mind of man.” –Thomas Jefferson*

Loved this post on the qualities that Google seeks in its employees. These qualities seem very clear and obvious and probably often stated by most organizations but the reasoning they have provided here and also thinking on how it can be developed from the childhood stage itself can pose a very stimulating question for any educator.

There is a child in our batch who is 13 yrs old. He is not regular in attending to the classes and also has indicated clear signs of having problems in paying attention.

The results of the exams were declared and he failed in his 5th grade. This is the second time that he could not clear his exams and so the teacher says that he will have to repeat his class.

His mother has studied till 4th grade and father till 12th grade. Father has never shown any interest in understanding what can help this boy in studying.

The question in front of all of us is, considering the fact that the child has to repeat another year in the same class with the same teachers but with children who are younger than him and see his friends elevate to the next grade, what is the mental state that he is going to attend his classes with.

The science of child development states that 13 years is an age when the child starts to understand his own identity in his surroundings. He is very careful about how the society perceives him. Its the onset of the famous teen age with its variegated issues.

By nature this boy is quite lively when he is involved in any sport and is also quite helpful but somehow books have never captured his attention. He runs away from it. Probably he detests them now.

In such a situation when a child is pulled on one side by the tension of establishing his identity amongst his peers and on the other hand he has to grapple with the baggage that he is not fit for studying in the subsequent grade, how does he manage this duality? What kind of support is called for from the part of the teacher who is going to see this boy yet again in the classroom? What kind of support is expected from his parents who are almost devoid of any understanding of child psychology though I am sure they love their child? What kind of attitude should this boy’s friends have towards him? What shouldbe our approach to deal with him? What all factors can we influence in this entire interplay of forces.

Is there any easy answer to allow this child to fight his own limitations and at the same time manage the attitude of the society around him.

Its one of the most difficult situations that a child can find himself in.  Shouldn’t our schools match upto the needs of such situations?

I just hope we are able to understand our role with complete clarity and live up to its demands.

Brilliant essay on ‘Aims of Education’. This paragraph I guess, sums it all

The solution which I am urging, is to eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of our modern curriculum. There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children — Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory. Can such a list be said to represent Life, as it is known in the midst of the living of it? The best that can be said of it is, that it is a rapid table of contents which a deity might run over in his mind while he was thinking of creating a world, and has not yet determined how to put it together.

Maths lesson begins with Creativity

Maths lesson begins with Creativity

Its summer vacation time for children. Children are in no mood to open their books. 🙂

We are cautious that they don’t perceive any lesson as a burden. Yesterday we had planned to play a Maths game with the kids using dice. Children were expected to do mathematical operations with the numbers that appeared in the dice and they were supposed to have a competition around that. The objective was to help them build their calculation skills.

At the beginning of the game, we realized that it would be useful to spend few minutes on the shape of a die. The conversation lead to children being asked to prepare a die of their own. They figured out the method to do that and that then went on to discussion about squares, area of surface of a die, volume of a cube and so on.

The children got really excited to see that something which they had seen come as an accessory with some of their indoor games, carried interesting lessons on Maths for them.

The die in the above image was made by one of the kids- Poonam.

Thus what we planned as a game, gave way to an altogether different game with children spending almost an hour in toying with their new added skill. When children love something, its a sheer joy to see them work towards it. Its complete alignment of mind, body and spirit.

I hope we are able to proceed with the ‘planned’ game next time. 🙂

But does that really matter?

Freedom as a key to Growth

Freedom as key to Growth

 

Freedom is a fundamental prerequisite for growth to happen. If we want our children to flourish and to evolve as strong and able individuals, we can’t do it unless we are able to provide them an atmosphere where they are free to explore things, understand things by their own intellect and develop in the process.

Many a times we see that individuals who show a lot of promise during their pre profession lives, struggle or become jaded when they join certain organizations after completing their academic life. They become routine in their pursuits and then we hear about that proverbial rat race.

The state of that individual who meets obstruction in growth is exactly like that leaf in the above image which meets a ceiling. All the leaves down below get their required nourishment and key environmental condition of freedom and hence they look fresh but the one which meets this hard structure, finds itself constrained and it shows in its growth (or rather lack of it)

Thus freedom of mind is not just a necessary condition for growth of children, but it is also a condition which can provide immense benefits to corporations if they understand how to design this condition in their work environment.

Its certain that any individual who has learnt to live with responsibility in an atmosphere characterised by freedom, would any day contribute better if the work environment respects this essential Law of Nature.

Barry Schwartz delivered a very illuminating talk on TED based on his book ‘The Paradox of Choice’.

He builds a very interesting case on how the increase in choice which is based on the premise of increasing our freedom, actually ends up in negatively influencing our state of mind leading to a paradoxical situation.

The fact that there is so much to choose from in any thing you lay your hands or eyes on,  surely gives us liberty to actually try out a number of options before we zero-in on one but it definitely doesn’t lead us to complete satisfaction, since after making that choice we rarely get to assure ourselves that what we chose was actually the best option.

This is something that probably a lot of us might have experienced whenever we try to surf through the internet, or when we go and buy an apparel or pair of shoes, or surf through various channels on TV.  Its actually funny.  

Looking at the increasing trend towards consumerism, I really can’t anticipate choices to suddenly peter down. Thus it would be imperative on the part of individuals to develop that capacity to actually train the mind to effortlessly just focus on what we choose without having any attachment towards what we don’t choose.

That journey towards effortlessness would surely call for immense effort on the part of teachers to help children develop that kind of poise but its a quality which is worth developing if we want a society at peace.