Going back through my diary and taking out excerpts for the Journal has been a rewarding experience for me. This is my third year in the school and also the first year I had an opportunity to be a class teacher. I was given the class teachership for class 7. Since I enjoyed my work as a class teacher I kept a journal to record as well as explore the issues that one is confronted with daily. Going through the entries in the journal, one gets the sense of a river that started from the mountains, the waters shallow, swift and choppy, which has reached its middle course where it has acquired volume and depth. I have learnt immensely with them and seeing the synergy in class now, one assumes that they too have undertaken the journey of learning. The entries are some excerpts that could give the reader a sense of this meandering, dancing, river of learning.
Had a discussion in class 7 regarding what are the factors that block us from learning a subject in freedom. After considerable discussion, we listed some points on the board. Finally we saw that three factors created the sense of pressure. They were:
- Likes and dislikes
- Fear of laziness, and laziness
It is obvious that none of them will exist strongly as long as we are doing things that we like. So we have to discuss primarily what leads us to like some subjects and dislike some others….
The class is a wonderful one, from whatever I have got to see of them till now. Though I did not expect it this way, I find the class responding wholeheartedly. Though they don’t give a very clear impression of listening, things 94 seem to be getting across. This comes out quite clearly in their actions. Last Thursday we had a culture class in which we discussed the boy-girl conflict. Today I was surprised to see the boys and girls playing Kabbadi during the C.T.P (Class Teacher’s Period). What was more amazing was the fact that they had decided on the classroom cleaners without my telling them. (In the morning I had spoken to them regarding how each one should be taking responsibility in the classroom.)
In my last entry I was full of praise for class 7. But things took a turn, maybe, just days after my entry in the journal. The class became noisy and boisterous. There were disputes revealing the fact that boy-girl issues were still operating within the class. One could also see that for them there was a sharp distinction between work and play.
When they talk, they talk loudly. And much of it is teasing or idle gossip. Perhaps the most enervating of all tasks is to make them attentive to whatever is happening inside the classroom. The challenge is to make them attentive and reflective, not by coercion and pressure of authority, but by awakening in them a sense of responsibility.
There was a very touching episode with Anand today. Anand had forged his mother’s signature in the diary. He denied having done that fairly strongly. At one point I told him that I do not want to be investigating the matter like a crime detective, and he knows what he has actually done. He started sobbing and finally admitted to having forged the signature because of fright. It was a moment of great vulnerability that we shared between us. I talked to him about how being dishonest gnaws into one’s being. I talked about the strength that honesty brings along with it. I also admitted that I had myself done a similar thing when I was of his age. Anand told me about the pressures he faces with his mother. We got into a discussion and we concluded that we must face the matter completely and intelligently. I took his diary and wrote a note to his mother. In that I mentioned that Anand would talk to her about the incident. I also conveyed my sense of appreciation of Anand’s honesty. The next morning I saw a smiling Anand waving the diary in his hand. In the diary Anand’s mother had written a very sensitive note saying that she had had a talk with him, to see that Anand deals with situations like these effectively. There was a sense of relief and joy in me when I read that.
We had a class discussion. The most relieving and encouraging thing in the discussion was that I got the sense that they trust me. At one point somebody, I don’t remember who, told me that my classes were very interesting. And quite a few people agreed. This came as a surprise to me and I must admit, a very pleasant one. A few days ago a student had compared my teaching style with that of the social studies teacher. The student had felt that this teacher’s classes were very innovative and interesting whereas mine were just talk and boring. In fact this very student did a complete volte-face and told me that I could make the most boring topic most interesting.
I am persisting with my demands on class 7 with a fierce determination. Almost every class is a culture class. I think they are gradually getting to understand that I mean business. But apart from this, I am getting a feeling that they might be getting to understand a new way of living.
For all the strong personalities in the class, competition and challenge is the sole motive for existence. The others have willy-nilly accepted this as a way of life in school. About five of them come from broken families, so they bring in the energy of an undigested and a complex social reality. The energy the whole class possesses is the energy of competition and restlessness that comes from being at war with the world. It is not the energy of well-being. Most of them have broken into the adult world. I have seen their energies manifesting in various forms. First it was through physical violence, and then when that was dealt with it, came out through teasing. Once again we dealt with this and the energy came out in playing games that require physical manhandling.
The job of a teacher can be compared to that of a gardener. On the one hand, the teacher has to be the source of growth and nourishment of children and on the other, the teacher must be constantly engaged in the process of weeding. Despite the attention given to a garden, there are always weeds sprouting and a gardener has to remove them everyday. (I am aware that the concept of weeding is a limited one, yet, for lack of a better analogy I have used it.) For the past three months I have been picking up the gender conflict issue in the class. At first, the exploration into the issue had yielded the fact that the boys were afraid of physical violence and teasing if they accosted girls. I dealt with the issue with a firm hand (something which I am learning to do more effectively) and saw to it that this came to an end. Today I can tell with some degree of confidence, that I no longer see these movements in the class.
In the role that a teacher takes, even in schools where something different is being attempted, the teacher becomes the centre around which learning takes place. Our Principal has talked about how a teacher should play an anonymous role and yet exert a powerful influence in society. I am beginning to understand what he says. But I do not want this to be a formula, which I enact. When the mind sees something within itself, it invents the opposite state. Seeing that I could be creating psychological dependence in the children, the mind tends to condemn this state and moves towards the ideal impersonal state. One has to stay deeply with one’s movements to unravel the nature of psychological dependence.
At present I am getting to be aware of the various ways in which dependence is fostered. Yesterday I was correcting the class 7 projects and giving them comments. I realized that my comments shouldn’t be giving them orders and instructions. Comments could be used to broaden the student’s thinking. For example, one of the comments I wrote for a student was, ‘What are the changes you would incorporate if you were to do the project again?’ instead of me suggesting the changes that could be incorporated. I am also realizing that when it is only the teacher correcting the work, the teacher becomes the upholder of knowledge and authority. Doing a self-review and peer- review of their work will mitigate this unhealthy culture that has been fostered in education. The last paragraph but one dealt with psychological dependence but not with emotional dependence. I am making a distinction between the two, but I am not sure what the distinction is. Emotional dependence to me is still a grey area fraught with complexity and far more vital in its energy.
In class 7 I have been consciously doing something since the start of the academic year. I decided that I would in no way use morality or authority to establish order in the classroom... In the field trip along with class 7 yesterday, one got to sense a particular order in the class that was born because of all our discussions and it had nothing to do with authority. The children themselves were not aware of it. By order I don’t mean that they were behaving properly. By order I mean the order of nature, free flowing, spontaneous yet integral and disciplined. One of the things that I have been talking to them regularly about is the art of living with depth and beauty, both in the group and while alone. I feel that they are getting a sense of it. As this happens, I am reassured that despite the flow of modernism, these children are embroiled in, there is space for something austere and beautiful to blossom.