Hema Surapaneni: Sculpting Happy Minds

As a child, I had always been intrigued by the world around me and changes, great and small alike, always made me wonder. I wondered at the way the ants lined up and worked hard to carry bits of sugar. I wondered at the way the little sparrows chirped all day to collect food to feed their young ones. I wondered at the beauty of the night sky and spent hours gazing and identifying constellations and fantasizing stories of these sparkling diamonds. I wondered hearing the tunes of the buzzing bees. I wondered at the crystal dew drops on soft green grass. I wondered watching the concentric patterns of ripples in a disturbed lake. I wondered as to how my mom knew which ingredients would go with the other to make the dish tasty and healthy. I wondered at the beauty of the blooming lotus and didn’t want to go to bed as it would wilt by morning. As a child I was in awe of life and wanted to know what will happen, how it will happen and when it will happen. As I grew, I learnt a lot, got qualified, and achieved what I wanted but realised that the most precious thing I lost was my sense of wonder. I had seen the same world as a child with much wonder and amazement and now as an adult, I want certainty of how things work with regard to my profession, relationships, finances and my future security that I have missed out the magic of life. I am not comfortable with surprises that are in store for me as the fear has dominated my trust in the world and killed the open ness to wonder. I have reflected over the importance of wonder in a person and that comes only when we believe in being “childlike” as they are born with this innate quality.  

In the current generation, the sense of wonder has been replaced with certainty. The children we are working with belong to “i” generation – iphone, ipad, ipod, etc and they want answers more than imaginative ideas. They are glued to their personal gadgets for long duration and it has become a challenge for the parents and teachers to reach out to them. They are aimless and dis-interested and have dull expressions with lethargic body language. They do not show alertness and get bored in no time as they have less attention span. Their creativity is hampered as they are oblivious to their surroundings and are disconnected to the events or people in and around them. They are losing the sense of observation which in turn affects their ability to wonder. They have become willing victims of the passive learning system.

As Daston and Park say, “Wonder was the reward rather than the bait for curiosity, the fruit rather than the seed”, let’s be “childlike” and take up the moral responsibility as teachers to get our pupils back to wonder and make their learning journey more joyous.

As educators, we should work on enhancing this feature to the next level as it is the foundation to inquiry. The facilitators have to open doors to the curious world and allow the children to explore and wonder. We have to view the world through the eyes of the children and fill their learning with excitement. We have to create that happy learning environment that is stimulus to their imagination which activates wonder.  Wonder is the beginning of wisdom said Socrates. It impacts the knowledge of the child to the higher level beyond the physical mind. Children learn to appreciate and stand in gratitude when teachers fuel their amazement and the potential to learn extends laterally. The learning engagements are more meaningful and the teachers can promote experiential learning through investigations and personal inquiry. It is absolutely fine if they get messy or dirty as we have to provide various avenues for them to touch and feel so they retain the information for longer durations when they explore with multiple senses. We should pave way for more exploration through hands on discussions, healthy opinionated conversations, and collaboration so that they make connections to real life situations. We don’t have to lose our adult sense to be more childlike. We need to be both so that the maturity of being an adult complements the spontaneity, awe and wonder of the child in us to bring out the best in us and in our children.

Hema Surapaneni, Principal The Gaudium School

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