The Value of ‘Pausing’ in Education

“शिक्षा में पॉज ले पाने / रुकने का महत्त्व” – इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें

मुलानं सोबत शिक्षणाच्या गती ला विराम देण्याची गरज आहे – हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा

There is a rising discourse about the need to shift focus from the age-old, industrial vision of education, one where schools are simply prep factories for the future workforce and to move towards a more grounded and inclusive vision of holistic education, where we consider the learner, their context and the context of the present world to envision and co-create a better, more harmonious one in the future. More and more formal institutions are adopting the terms ‘socio-emotional learning’, ‘citizenship education’, ‘mindfulness practice’, ‘climate change education’ within their curriculum at least in theory and as part of their timetable.

And yet in practice, we often continue to value some old factory values more than others. Like marks, report cards, star charts, the ‘best’ project, the ‘topper student’, obedience, and conformance within the classroom. The culturally accepted definition of success, the structures of assessment, and the validations of a child’s worth, quite often continue on the path of the same race that shapes our global economic and capitalistic political scenario.

The fears of failure, the urgency to accomplish, to compete and beat the competition, the need to feel validated and loved on social media, to feel productive and happy every single day,  are all too real. The fear of missing out or as is popularly known as ‘FOMO’ begins at an early age for children in our current society. To combat these fears, adults and children alike, notably, do one key thing; We run. 

We run from cramming one learning task to another, from one report card and medal to another, from one new-age app to another, from a coding class to a tuition class to an art class to a dance class to a chess class. From dawn to dusk, children and us adults are chasing an elusive idea of perfection, progress, and achievement.

It is against this fierce humdrum of daily activities that we at Apni Shala are inviting us all to bring in the necessary ‘pause’ within our own and within our childrens’ lives. 

What do we mean by ‘pausing’ or ‘slowing down’ : 

Before we even begin to unpack this concept of ‘pausing’ we feel the need to ask ourselves the question of whether we are living our lives on ‘auto-pilot’ or in ‘survival mode’? Both these concepts focus on how, in times of stress or while doing mundane tasks, our brains switch to using coping mechanisms to free our mind from having to think too critically about things given that it constantly senses a threat to survival. “Autopilot has gone from being an evolutionary protection mechanism (like in the FFF ‘fight’, ‘flight’, ‘freeze’ response) that helped us survive, to our default mode of operating whereby we sleepwalk into our choices,” says Dr. Williamson.

Constant stress puts the brain in a constant survival mode and thus hijacks our other cognitive, creative thinking processes allowing for only reactive, survival-linked thinking.  Being in survival mode can feel like a blur. When we’re in the midst of a stress response, we can feel like we aren’t thinking clearly.

The pause in the morning team huddles before teachers and staff begin their day with students (pre-COVID photograph)

As the sudden halt of the pandemic begins to subside, as we begin to resume our normal lives in some new ways, we have started to move in at a speed where we want to do it all, for ourselves and our children. Right now, educators/caregivers may be facing stress at multiple levels. Under these circumstances, many teachers may find themselves going into a survival mode throughout the school day, and experiencing the feeling of urgency that goes along with it.

As schools reopen, we hear teachers share their fear of how they feel that students have lost an entire year of education and now they feel pressured to make sure that learning across two years is transacted as soon as possible into the young minds. While we hear their apprehensions a thought pokes its way in; after this long halt of almost two years, are we back to moving our lives into a full-throttle mode? Are we back to filling the minds of children with information they won’t possibly be able to retain? 

Children often feel overwhelmed when they are presented with work they cannot cope with or comprehend fully. They learn better when they are given their space, when educators (caregivers, parents, teachers) believe that they are experts of their own lives, learning and growing from their experiences. Hence, it is essential for us to pause or slow down to assess the current needs of children. 

Pausing with Art: An art-based activity for parents/caregivers of students at Khoj, Apni Shala’s SEL-integrated school initiative (pre-COVID photograph).

Slowing in a sense is physiological and a part of human evolution. The human brain is equipped with two systems, one fast and instinctive, and one slow, more controlled, and supportive of logical reasoning. Despite this, our society considers being slow or taking a pause as a problem, a hindrance in achieving our ambitions and goals. Intentionally slowing down daily routines or taking intermittent pauses both physically and emotionally, favors learning and as a trait should be cultivated in our students.  It is seen to reduce feelings of anxiety one might have to deal with during these uncertain times which could impact learning and other spheres of our day-to-day life. It is also established that when we are able to pause for a few minutes during the day, it helps us to willfully relax our bodies and minds which leads to improved performance and learning. It is both an idea and a practice that opens spaces for children and their caregivers.

It thus seems important for us to think about how taking a pause could help unravel our inner cognitive and emotional systems at work, helping us to slow down our race, take a moment to step away from the track and observe ourselves in order to course-correct or to even simply breathe before we join back with better intention. 

A student-facilitated mindfulness activity for school (pre-COVID image)

Wondering what are some ways to slow down with children? Here are some ways to do that.


About the authors: 

Krutika Khare, as Programme Lead with Apni Shala, facilitates Social Emotional Learning with students, educators, and parents in a variety of settings. She manages the Government School Partnerships and leads the design of SEL in the ecosystems with the programmes team. Krutika holds a Bachelors’ in Psychology and an Advanced Diploma in Counseling. 

Saesha Pillai, as the Khoj Curriculum Lead with Apni Shala, works to envision and create a learning space for children and adults that is built on the foundations of Social, Emotional, and Ethical Learning. Saesha holds an MA in Education from Azim Premji University and is a Dance Movement Therapy Practitioner from Kolkata Sanved and TISS, Mumbai.

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