While nursing the overwhelming goodness from last night’s movie ‘Hindi medium’, I couldn’t wait to pen down a special memory among the millions that I reminisced. This ain’t any movie appraisal. It is about an event, which happened in March’17 that lionized “Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded ” – Jess Lair.
Just couple of days before the Final Exams were due, Shivangi reminded me “Didi last year you say – you take me and friends to your house. Didi when you take?” Let me add some context here. As a Teach for India fellow, we do a lot of community visits. We enter student’s houses to understand the home environment, parent investment etc. Now, if the teacher visits the student’s house, it is but obvious that the student will also want to visit her teacher’s house. Especially when she is only 8 years old. Hence Shivangi had expressed her willingness to visit my house last year. To which I replied that I shall take her and other kids to my house the day they will be able to read their grade level texts. And after a year I had completely forgotten about my promise. I was surprised with her memory power and determination. I was very happy that she reminded me but on the flip side I was not sure how productive or stressful, a dayout could be for me and the kids before the exams. Moreover it took me one good year to get used to their community. How would 10 kids respond to this environmental change in a day? I had all kinds of comparisons going in my head – from Jetsons to Flintstones and Doremon to Chota Bheem.
I floated the idea of getting the kids to my building, among all my well-wishers. Geeta, a warm friend and a BSG movement member told me about a special recital on ‘Friendship’. The kids of my building were preparing this play on the account of ‘International day for the elimination of Racial Discrimination’. She suggested that it would be enriching to see them perform for my students. Kids teaching kids – about not discriminating friends on the basis of colour, class or gender. I was very nervous as I was scaling behavioral possibilities of my kids towards kids who went to high income schools.
The day started with a lot of excitement as I had not disclosed the agenda for the day to them. En route to my house, I got so engrossed in singing with them that I had forgotten to instruct on how to behave, what not to say in a different ecosystem. ‘Thank God’ for that, and you will see why. It is powerful, when children know how and what they are learning. The sense of ownership comes by itself and is transferred more easily. Both the groups somehow knew exactly how to behave with each other. They shared their reflections post the recital. There was not even the slightest place for discomfort or language barrier. Love and Care can never be taught to someone. It is an experience that those kids unfolded – as Jess Lair acclaimed.
I strongly believe that a progressive teaching approach is not about giving kids the liberty to do what they want. Rather it is to design experiences that allow them to make cognizant choices. As parents, we constantly want our privileged kids to absorb reality of poverty, disadvantaged children and other vulnerabilities in our country. And what’s in fashion regarding the above concern? We make our kids spend time once a year with such children either by distributing gifts, playing games or cutting birthday cake with them. This is such a valuable conscious effort, but how much of an impact is it creating on your child? How can we make a measurable impact on a monthly or quarterly basis? Can we make this effort more on the lines of engagement and exposure rather than exchange of material gifts? If we want our children to keep their feet on the ground, we need to push more responsibility on our shoulders. We have to hold ourselves accountable to create something far more extraordinary for the needy kids to be able to access opportunities. And in this way lead them to a path that can put them on the same level as the high-income kids.
These kids demonstrated that one adapts to survive no matter what the hassle. If you have a happy approach amidst struggles, you will gift yourself something called “Life”. The kids from my building had made cute little welcome cards and friendship bands. Playing games, activities were not the only factors that broke the ice between the two groups. It was sharing that made them tick. It is no doubt very challenging for kids to explain and talk about their outcomes, journeys. But that is how they learn to make little comfort zones in the ever-changing world. Having a sense of inclusion was never taught to them and it was never taught to any of us. We learn to figure it out ourselves. This negates the idea of ‘Fitting in’ as it deeply stimulates us to ‘Evolve’.
PS: They are waiting for you.