Thursday, October 7, 2010

If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour, and voices

Today, we are pleased to run another report from Gandhi Fellow Kabir Arora on his experience in a Jaitpura school. I think Kabir would agree that ideas are like plants; they can be transplanted or spread through seeds to many minds,  but just like plants, they will look a bit different depending on the soil in which they grow, and the care they are given. 

In other words, learning is not mimicry, and minds are not empty cups or blank slates. At root, all learning is a creative process, and all of us are ultimately responsible for tending our own minds and the ideas that grow there.  Because of this, learning requires the participation of the learner as well as the teacher; without this, it just won't happen. Good learners figure this out.  They understand that what goes on in their minds matters.  Without this understanding and the confidence that follows from it, rote memorization really won't take you very far. Learning your tables isn't much good if you don't understand why you'd want to multiply.

In this installment of his report from Jaitpura, Kabir Arora spells out some of what this means on the ground. 
Confidence, colour, pride, voice...these are much more than nice-sounding words; they are what make real learning and thinking possible.  They are not the icing on the cake or even the cake--they are the main course.

Colourful articulation...

“If I were my teacher, mathematics would have been fun to mess up with!”

Learned how to unlearn! Key insight to move further in life. Children have lot to teach to our modern world filled with violence and hate. Their innocence can help in building “One world”, curiosity to prepare a base for rational society and scientific development.

Realized: “If I were my teacher, mathematics would have been fun to mess up with!”

Every child has a whole world inside filled with imagination which needs to be articulated. If done so, can help in making the class interesting. One way of sharing the ideas is using one’s voice, but colours make it beautiful.

We always make our copies and books colorful. I tried blank white walls of my own classroom for colourful articulation. Grids, butterflies, elephants, birds’ etc. part of their imaginary world were out on the wall. That gave them a confidence. A feeling of pride! Satisfied with their art work, they want to share what they know.

Our education system is saturated, no space to absorb, and consequently tiny voices remain unheard and die out. Words like “Dungar”, “Chirdkali”, “Choosa”, “Mand de”, “Chhant” don’t find space in their books. The state says “Marwari” is a dialect of Hindi, though linguist don’t agree.

In traditional system most of us desire for a silent class, but my own experience forces me to
Fearless minds.
disagree with the notion. The class is chaotic when students get an opportunity to share what they know; this helps them in learning something new and relating it to their own life. Silence in the class is observed on the occasions when the environment is full of fear, students know nothing or they are not able to relate it to their own reality. On my part I always tried to provide them an environment “Where the mind is without fear”, pen enough to absorb their thoughts.

To begin with I learned how to move as “I”. The induction unlocked the long dead memories of my own childhood; I used to think the hard drive of brain has been formatted when it comes to childhood. I was wrong, sweet memories are still living in the subconscious mind.

Not an attention seeker (though sometimes love it), I make myself invisible many a times. In the classroom, doing this was tough initially, later on I tried it again; kids amused me with their team spirit (in my superficial absence) which we miss in our surroundings. For the first time in my life I felt attached to some external force. Trying to find my own self in sward world, solitude is something which I have started longing for; Loneliness gives me a sense of freshness. Aimless traveling, pointless.
For more on Kabir's experience, see also:
A Gandhi Fellow in Jaitpura: Introducing the School

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  1. I think Kabir's students are very lucky. A chaotic class! Rarely heard of in the Indian school scenario.

  2. Even I feel lucky to be in them. They are amazing souls, flowers yet to be bloomed.


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