Reflection 1 - A Fearful student
Where there is fear, there can’t be any learning. This is the philosophy which I strongly believe in. Students who fear going to school, cannot pay full attention to what is being taught in the class and their minds are preoccupied with unknown and imaginary fears which dissuade them from letting their imagination go free.
I encountered such a student from Grade 6, who was often dropped off at school by her father. She used to wail and used to get literally dragged into the classroom by her father. I never liked this as it made me think about what makes her dislike the school in general and her classroom in particular.
Then I decided to sit in her classroom and observe what goes on in the class. I observed that she was leaning on her desk and looking out of the window, totally disinterested in the proceedings in the class. I being the coordinator, instructed the teacher to make her read from the textbook. When her name was called out by the teacher, she was trembling. She struggled to read even a line properly. Further, when she was asked a few questions, she had no clue. I asked the student to follow me to my office.
When she came to my office, I made her comfortable by offering her a few cookies. Initially, she was a bit reluctant, but later she took a cookie. I could see that she was a bit comfortable then. I asked her about her interests, hobbies and what she liked to do in her free time. She told me that she was very good at drawing. I gave her a white sheet of paper and asked her to make a sketch of mine. She thought I was joking, but when I pushed her a bit she started sketching. Within a few minutes, she showed me the sketch.
Though it was a bit caricaturish, she did an amazing job. I congratulated her on that and wrote her name below the sketch and went with her and put it up on the Art Wall. She felt proud and I could sense that feeling of achievement in her eyes. I then rewarded her with candy. I also told her that she should make a drawing and bring it to me every day. She just nodded her head. I couldn’t decipher what she meant by that, but to my surprise, her father did not have to drag her to her classroom the next day. She hopped out of their car and ran inside the school gate. She had a paper neatly rolled up in her hand and she directly came running to my office to give me her drawing. This time she drew the school building. I gave her a warm hug and rewarded her with candy. This practice continued and now she is one of the best artists we have got in our school. She has won several awards by participating in various competitions.
Educators must identify the strengths of the students and work on them, rather than forcing them to learn everything. Results are important, but making the student love the learning environment and develop a sense of belongingness in the school environment is the beginning of the entire learning process.
Reflection 2 - An Impatient Student
Patience is a virtue, but impatience can be a superpower when it comes to learning. I realised this when I met a student from Grade 8.
Teachers regularly used to complain about him as he was never seated in one place and used to roam around the class, disrupting the usual proceedings. His impatient nature irked the teachers greatly as he never liked sitting in his place. I then asked the teachers about his academics. They had no complaints about that. In fact, they appreciated his academic performance and further, they added that his work is always complete and he was one of the first students to submit his work. I then got intrigued to figure out the cause of his restless behaviour in class.
I decided to call him to my office and ask him how he felt in the class, as he was a new admission. He was in a different school till Grade-7. Then I asked him what was the difference between his previous school and our school. Then he said that in the previous school, the students, who finished the classwork first were allowed to walk around the class and help the other kids. We did not have a similar practice in our school. In fact, I understood that the student’s behaviour was not out of indiscipline or insolence, rather it was a practice which was deeply ingrained within him by the previous school. In fact, this was a good practice.
I encouraged the student and let him go. In the next teachers' meeting, I shared this best practice with all the teachers and our principal. Everyone liked the idea. We adopted it and we could see that students felt more engaged, responsible, and involved. This made the learning environment much better.
Things may not be the way we see them. We need to go deeper and do a root-cause analysis. This helps us understand the students' behaviour and connect with them and can make our teaching and learning places more effective and livelier.