Sunday, November 30, 2014

Understanding the child

There is a lot of research taking place all over the world regarding how the children learn and what makes them to fear or like something. Some children are born brave. Here, I refer the word brave to be extrovert and do not hide anything which they might feel to say or do. I am not a researcher but being with the children has helped me in understanding many aspects of their life regarding their behavior and learning. Some children do not feel comfortable while crossing the road and the reason for that may be they might have got injured in a road accident. A very important example can be that not many people would like to cross the cemetery except the close relatives. This is because they are told about the ill effect of the problems related to departed souls. We in India find many places labeled as the point where some untimely death took place due to an accident and now frequent accidents take place on that spot. Such accidents are blamed to be the curse of the untimely death though the real reason might have been a deep curve or an improper crossing etc. but as young children listen to such conversation in the family they develop the same thought in their mind.
There can be many such examples quoted and discussed but I would like to focus attention on my interaction with a child of seven years a few days back. This experience took me back to my childhood and my experience with the children as a teacher for more than thirty two years. Though I always confess that I learn many things from my students and this has been proved right once again. The parents of a child came to meet me and shared the problem the child was facing in the class. We discussed the issues related to the children in today`s life and were of the firm opinion that the parents and the teachers must understand the problems of the children more carefully. During the interaction parents mentioned about certain qualities of the child which impressed me and I was keen to meet the child. He came to the office and entered the room without any hesitation and was confident. He did not express any excitement on seeing the parents and entering the Principal's office for the first time. I asked him whether he knew and what my name was. He answered confidently and mentioned the name. I appreciated him for this and uttered a statement that I was happy to hear the name spoken by a child because this was not the practice and the culture and most of the students will say Sir or the Principal Sir which does not necessarily makes me feel very happy (In India teachers are not called by their names but Sir/Madam). We started talking to the child and in between I asked him to eat some sweets which were kept in my office. He immediately said No to this. I tried to encourage having sweets but he was not at all interested. The parents felt that the child should not have said no to the principal so they also tried to eat the sweets which he firmly denied. I let the things left there only because the child was very sure what not to do and changed the topic to a book which his parents were reading. When asked about the book he said that he does not read this book but sees the pictures in that book and based on that can built up a story. This was quite impressive to me and more things were discussed. When he was asked questions related to subjects he confidently answered all of them. One spelling spoken by him was wrong but he was very sure that his teacher had marked that correct in his assignment book so that must be correct. Here I would like to mention that in the same book the teacher had made the correction subsequently but whatever was understood by the child initially did not get erased so easily.  It took me quite long to convince him what the correct spelling was. Through this example I wanted to emphasize on the point which all of us have heard and come across a number of times that the children follow the teachers without doubting that they can ever be wrong.
We were together for about an hour and were to disperse. While the child was about to leave the room and he was once offered the sweets as token of appreciation for being so good. Again he said no. But in spite of leaving the office he took the mobile from his mother and started searching for something. We were curious to know what he was doing with the cell phone. After some time he found a video and came to meet (I was sitting on the other side of the table) and showed the video which was related to the ill effects of consuming sugar. The lady in the video was explaining that human being get enough sugar through the fruits or the food intake therefore there was no need of eating additional sugar rather eating sweets might be harmful. Though the child did not say anything but we could understand why was he not interested in eating the sweets offered to him. He was not taught this by anybody but the video and he was influenced by that. The second eye opener incident took place immediately after this. When he was leaving the office he was told that one should say thank you to the other people if they have helped in any way. He immediately responded by saying thank you. Now he was told that it should not be plain thank you but thank you sir. The child responded that he did not say sir because when he came to the office the Principal said that he was not comfortable when people address him by saying sir. Three of us were stunned and it was after a while we realized that how quickly and indirectly the child was learning the things said by us though we did not really mean to teach him all that. The parents left my office but this child refuses to get out of my thoughts and mind. I am still wondering how many thousands of the children would have been affected by my indirect remarks made to them. This incident reminded me of all my interactions with the children and their response to that.

I shared this with all of you specially the teachers and parents to be very careful while sharing certain things with them directly or indirectly. Please do not get angry with them and scold or label them as to be undisciplined because they did not do anything which you wanted them to do because there should be some genuine reason for their not following your instructions. Always try to understand the cause of the action or reaction of the child in spite of reacting to their response immediately. Whatever the children do is the reflection of what they have learnt from us. So be careful while dealing with the future citizens of the country.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Morality in question

Recently our school celebrated Sanskaar Divas which involves the primary school and is intended to showcase the talent of the young kids to their parents and grandparents. The basic objective is to remind ourselves of the values and morals which are the asset of an individual to survive and make the society more useful and supportive group of the people. In Indian society, family fabric has been given a lot of importance which has kept the individual as a unit even in the most difficult and trying situations. We feel great when all the people share the importance of the values and morality. I do not know what would be the correct and exact translation of the word Sanskaar but this definitely includes values and morals and in wider perspective I can say ethics. I would leave the topic ethics for some other day and focus only on values and morality (I am not very sure about what is responsible for other but these are interwoven).
The first question I would like to ask and discuss is - what do we mean by morality? This may seem to be an absurd question because we have been hearing about it and following it right from our childhood. Anything which is good can be called moral but bad is called immoral. To whom morality applies and do we have to see this in all the actions and in the nature? Morality generally applies to a human being or a group of people or an organization in which large number of people are involved. The weather can be bad but this does not mean immoral because weather did not mean to be bad and harm others but if somebody intends to do wrong to others or even the nature, it is definitely an immoral act. The action of an individual having clear goal and foreseen result will involve morality because if something is done unintentionally this may not be put in the category of immorality. Morality is bequeathed to us from our ancestors and is the result of evolution which must have taken place over a period of time. There may be certain traits which are universally true and do not change with time or place. For example, honesty is imperative and telling a lie is morally wrong. There may be exceptions even in these cases also but by and large these have remained universally true and all the races in all times followed the same.
How do we learn or in real sense imbibe values? This generally begins from childhood or even before the child is born. The child learns the first lesson of morality from the mother and the other family members who around him since the child is born. He will crawl and try to get something and the mother or any other adult around would help him get the same. When the child breaks a toy the reaction of the mother will teach him some lesson which will become the value resulting in his moral development. At times the child does things which will make the mother happy and in other situation she might get irritated. We can easily make it out that the child has peculiar responses to irritation and pleasure. The way the adults behave in front of him, the child will learn the things accordingly. After the mother, comes the role of other family members. If the environment in the family is of brotherhood and respects towards each other the child will imbibe the same and if the family members do not exhibit the difference between right and wrong, the child will also become likewise. After all this, comes the school. The child learns the extended form and the nature of the social values and morals. In some cases, people have started discussing against the joint families just because the environment of extended family is not conducive for the child to imbibe values. Though I do not agree with that because joint family is the smaller unit of the society and the children learn social values in this bigger group better than in nuclear families. Nowadays you have the creche and play schools before the children are formally admitted to a school. The play schools also play the role of home and family and help children bridge the gap between the home and the school. When the children join the school they are exposed to heterogeneous group of the people around him. This includes the teaching staff, fellow students and support staff. They tend to form group depending upon their nature and belief in the values imbibed by them by this time. It is noticed that some children become friendly to the same sex group and others may be in a different type of group. Some children like to talk a lot and some remain withdrawn and confined to themselves. This makes us to believe that the moral domain of the children does not remain CONFINED TO THE ADULTS ONLY, THE PEER GROUP DOES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THAT. They constantly evaluate and imbibe the right and the wrong through their interaction with each other. The vision and mission of the school and the objective of running the school also contribute significantly in the development of varying thoughts in the mind of the students. If the written document is different than the real work done by the school then the children indirectly learn to do the same and consider it morally right while that is not the case. The role of the teachers and the schools is equally important as that of the parents though the initial development takes place at the family level. The teachers have tremendous influence on the kids and their behavior and values do make a lot of impact on them. Many kids copy their teachers blindly and start behaving exactly in the same manner. So, the impact of school values is profound and significant for them. I have been saying that if we want our children to have national character, then this can be done the most at home and in the schools. Home and schools must work in jointly so that the children do not get confused about the values they are exposed to at two places.
The next important agent in regard to morality comes from the society. This question has been asked a number of times whether values can be taught or these are acquired by an individual by birth. People do not have clear answer to this because there are examples in the society to prove both. But the people do get affected by the norms of the society. The general public or call them the subjects for the sake of discussion, need to follow the norms called as values as set by the society. This is also true that the society norms are influenced by the ruling class. So, the ruling class must be well aware about values and morals. Not only this, they should ensure that the values are imbibed and followed by them in true spirit. Here, the ruling class is the parents or the teachers in the context of home and the schools respectively. The impact of the individual on society and vice versa is an unbroken circle and both are interdependent. So, the passing the parcel game does not hold any ground here.

But in case of the children- parents, teachers and the society are responsible for the values and morals learnt and imbibed by them. I have been sharing and emphatically telling all that our children are good, only thing contrary may be their behavior or actions and these are learnt by them either from the family, schools or the society. Hence to blame children is not right but we should introspect ourselves, as adult and make changes and improve our own behavior. Our children are born with no negatives but they learn all this here in this world which have borrowed from our ancestors and owe to our children.