My Journey starts….
One weekly session of one hour per group for 12 groups across 4 school,
– develops into interactions with about 200 children every week. Children – boys and girls, who are very spontaneous, energetic, without any masks on their faces and coming from diverse and vibrant communities. In our sessions we sit together, build stories and conversations by pooling our thoughts & experiences and engage in various activities. These stories, conversations and activities revolve around trying to understand ourselves – Emotional Learning and, the world around us – Social Learning.
When I decided to write a blog of these stories and conversations that I have been a part of during the past few months, a question popped up in my mind – “what do the children want to say, ask, or share?”
I deeply pondered on this question for some days and being unable to find any answer, I thought, why not ask this to the children themselves.
So at the end of one of the sessions, I asked the children –
“Is there something you want to say, ask and share?”
There was a long silence………….
And then someone said,“कुछ नहीं , दीदी | ” (Nothing, Didi). They just had a question mark on their faces and nothing specific to say.
Having got no response from them, I am left with no option but to write what I remember as memories or rather as my reflections and learnings from the various interactions and discussion that I have been having with children.
Listening to the children……….
दीदी , इंसान के अंदर का शैतान दोनों धर्मो में एक जैसा है…….
One of the various modules of Social Emotional Learning that we conduct for sixth grade students is “Cultural Differences”. We talk about the vibrant and diverse cultures and traditions that run through the fabric of India. Being able to accept and respect the difference among us whilst preserving them, presents a challenge to many of us (and also opportunity to learn in disguise). We brainstorm, pool in many responses to create an understanding of the differences & similarities amongst us and how to respect and accept them.
During one such session, we were discussing about the various religions of India and differences and similarities in them. The activity, which was as a small group activity, involved making a Venn diagram of the various elements and practices of any two religions by listing differences in the outer circles and similarities in the intersection.
Several features got listed in differences – food, festivals, dance, dressing, music etc., and several features got listed in similarities –being human, emotions, god, prayer etc.,.
One response that still lingers in my thoughts is a statement by one child, that was –
दीदी , इंसान के अंदर का शैतान दोनों धर्मो में एक जैसा है |
(Didi, the devil inside the human being is same in both the religions)……….
टीचर, पिता और नेता सबसे बड़े बुली है |
Our organisation undertakes monthly campaigns in schools on various topics covering mental health. These campaigns are aimed at creating awareness on mental health and preventive mental health care practices with reference to school environment.
The November month campaign was on ‘Bullying’. During this campaign, while explain on how to differentiate fights and disagreements from bullying, I said “there will always be times when we fight and don’t get along with others, but that is different than bullying. It is not bullying unless the behaviour is:
- Without any reason – the purpose is to hurt someone and have fun
- One-sided or unfair – with one person being stronger than other and stronger one takes undue advantage of his strength to cause trouble to other and have fun
- It normally happens more than once – is not an isolated event.
To check on their understanding of the concept, I asked the children to give examples of bullying that they have experienced or witnessed.
Three responses which satisfy all these criteria and which came almost instantaneously from the children –
दीदी , टीचर सबसे बड़ा बुली है | वो हमें बार बार परेशान करते हैं, मारते हैं, और हम चाहकर भी कुछ नहीं कर पाते | और बोहोत बार ये बिना वजह होता है |
(Didi, teacher is the biggest bully. They trouble us repeatedly and we cannot do anything about it. And many times this happens without any particular reason)
मेरे पिता मुझ पर बुलइंग करते हैं |
(My father bullies me)
सबसे बड़े बुली हमारे नेता है, दीदी |वो हमें बार बार परेशान करते हैं, कभी ज़रूरी चीजोंकी कीमते बढ़ाकर, तो कभी नोट बंदी करके और हमें सब सेहेन करना पड़ता हैं |
(Our politicians are the biggest bullies. They keep troubling us in many ways like increasing prices of essential things and demonetization and we need to bear and put up with everything).
दीदी, लड़ने झगडने और मारने से ही दोस्त बनाते |
Rahul [name changed] was the most distracted child in my class. He was never able to sit quietly for more than 5 minutes. Out of nowhere, he would get up do a cartwheel, jump, just hit someone or simply run around.
One day, observing that Rahul was missing from two sessions, I asked the class “Where is Rahul?”
दीदी, उसे बोर्डिंग स्कूल में दाल दिया । वो अब नहीं आएगा । हम उसे बोहोत मिस करते है । खासकर फाइटिंग करने में ।
(Didi, he is enrolled into a Boarding school. He won’t come now. We miss him a lot, especially while fighting.)
I recollect another conversation on fights, watching the children fight with each other and often hit each other, I asked them –
क्यों एक दूसरे से इतना झगडते हो और मारते हो ? (Why do you fight with and hit each other so much?)
दीदी , लड़ने झगडने और मारने से ही दोस्त बनाते |
(Didi, friends are made by fighting and hitting)
दीदी, आप यह सब क्यों करते हो?
After completing a session for 5th grade, a little girl approaches me and asks me….
दीदी, आप यह सब क्यों करते हो ? आप को ये सब करके क्या मिलता हैं ?
(Didi, why do you do all this and what do you get by doing these sessions?)
For a moment, I was awestruck and did not know what I should answer her. Equally, I wanted to know her thoughts (my selfish motives), so asked her “what is your understanding about it….
It is not my intention here to interpret, conclude or summarise these responses of the children. I leave it to the reader of this blog to create his own understanding and reflections from these.
Having said this, I would like to voice one thought that keeps coming back to me – These responses and questions that children have raised, tell us that we need to revisit and rethink about our understanding of a child. This image or label of “CHILD” that we have built around children – can this be broken to see beyond it and treat them as our equals.
And the Journey continues……..
Like everyone else, I feel the children don’t need to be taught, they just need a trustworthy relationship in form of a facilitator, teacher or parent or maybe just a friend that they can use or rather anchor on in pursuit of their own goals and happiness.
This quote by Carl Roger* seems very inspiring and apt to quote here – “In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now, I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?”
As facilitators and teachers, we can rephrase it – How can we provide students a relationship which they can use for their personal growth, instead of trying to teach them or correct them?…………….
* – Carl Ransom Rogers was an American psychologist and one among the founders of the humanistic approach (or client-centered approach) to psychology.
About the author: Priya Mohire joined Apni Shala as a Programme Fellow. When she is not in class building life skills with children, Priya enjoys reading, traveling and being with her daughter.