This week, I have been walking around school and keenly observing the children. They all seem so different from one another. Along with the different socio-economic backgrounds, they also bring with them a plethora of personal experiences. How can I get to know them better and tweak the curriculum here and there to make learning more relevant to their lives?
My master's course is really making me think deeply about things nowadays. I know those who know me will smile right now. Naini? Think?! I am really glad I took this course and would recommend it to any teacher. Because of it, last week, I found myself in a quaint little school situated in the middle of "somewhere in Hyderabad"(still new to this city!). My purpose was to conduct a study of how children's religion, language and social status affect their learning. My colleagues (who were so supportive and happy to accompany me) and I were greeted by bright eager little faces. Each child greeted us with a firm "Good morning teacher!". Apparently, that was the only English they knew.
The students were lovely. They seemed happy. That was what struck me as so odd. They hardly had anything in their classrooms. The walls were drab apart from a few attempts by teachers to brighten things up (a poster here and there). There were no tables or chairs or story books. Just a worn out and long rug upon which the kids sat. Yet they were happy. I kept thinking what I could do to help them. There are a millions such schools in India!
In PYP schools, one essential element of our curriculum deals with the "action" component. What can students do with the knowledge they gain? How can they put it to use in a real-life context? As many teachers may agree with me, the action component is not very evident at times.
I happened to talk about my experience during one of the parent-teacher gatherings. I told them the story of the little school in the village in the middle of "somewhere in Hyderabad". I pointed out that their children were learning about simple machines and wouldn't it be great if we all worked together: students, teachers and parents, to make a difference in the lives of these children? My students had earlier suggested that they use a wedge (saw) and screws to build a table for these children. They would paint it with bright and vibrant colours. Was the action sustainable? Yes it was! The table could be used for years to come. The happy little children would be happier.
Dear readers, I cannot tell you how overwhelmed I was from the response of the parents. Their enthusiasm was amazing. Right now, they are gathering forces and and rallying support. They are planning how to go about using their children's knowledge of simple machines. They are charged up and want to make a difference. I know that the table is just the beginning. What is most valuable is that my students are watching their parents becoming a part of their learning- A learning that is so powerful because it is so relevant and meaningful. Aren't we born to serve others? I think every religion addresses this issues. I am sure every agnostic will agree.
I cannot say how gratifying this experience is. I hope as a community of learners, we can work together, use our learning and make a difference in, if not millions, but some 200 odd children's lives.
Befriending the parent community has many advantages. They are a treasure that teachers need to uncover. It may take time and patience, but it is worth it.
Today, one small step at a time. Who knows what will happen in the future? I leave you with some wonderful pictures of these beautiful children of rural India.
|The child was reading a poem quietly on her own while the other children were playing outside.|
|Do you crib about lack of resources? Well, these teachers do not. They make their own.|
|Bare walls , bare foot, but happy|
|A migrant tribe, Lambadi. Dressed in the most colourful clothes.|
|A father of one of the students. His profession is to climb trees and collect toddy, a local alcoholic drink.|