They could each
write only 5 sentences on each child.
The first two
should contain what they like best about the friend.
The second two
should contain one quality they would like to see changed or
The last any
special insight about the friend.
They were to read
out their reports aloud. At that time the others should not talk / give
justifications of actions.
After all have
had a chance to read they may take turns at justifying themselves or in giving
their view - as the report required. I may ask for explanations.
Obviously every one is
always happy to hear all the nice things. But here are some of the charges along
with the defense.
1. Supri keeps singing all the time. Since three children made the same
complaint I asked them for an explanation. It seems this child sings any two
lines over and over again and not necessarily in tune. It irritates everyone.
Prying a little I found that he sang when they played card games or Scotland
Yard. He also sang when they played hide and seek. When the seeker went near a
‘hiding place’ he sang louder and faster thereby giving away the game. He was
scolded, excluded from games by the other children. That evening, after a lot of
leading questions by me the children saw that his singing was in direct
proportion to his excitement or anxiety. Seen in this light, there was suddenly
a lot of laughter and kidding. Supri found out what his problem was. Not that he
changed over night. Because the children found that he stopped singing but had
begun to walk or run around excitedly – the reaction is the same, only its
manifestation was different. Now the word is ‘for your success watch Surpi’.
Accusation : Kita
makes rude noises when I talk. The defense : she always knows all the answers, I
agree. But she always says, “See, I told you. I am always correct.” Only when
she says that that I make rude noises. If she stops boasting, I’ll stop too.
Again, there was a long discussion. We ended up with the notion that people
would not have to ‘boast’ if we acknowledge them first. If Kita were to say
cheerfully, ‘You are right’, were
genuinely pleased to have a bright friend, there would be no cause for rough
Suja and Pooja
bully me all the time. Again, with patient unraveling, it was found that the two
older girls wanted the room to be neat while the younger couldn’t be bothered.
There was a heated discussion with everyone trying to evaluate the word ‘bully’.
Pandemonium reigned. While one brought out dictionaries in defense, the other
wept piteously. The initial excitement died down and then began the study of
what was really being objected to. The objection was not in what was being done
but the way it was done. The complete disregard to dignity while the reminders
were given. I asked if Gita would object if the reminders were given
differently. Once the question was asked Suja and Pooja thought up a few hundred
ways they could suggest without letting the whole world on to their ‘reminders’.
The word bully was retracted and there were girlish hugs and kisses freely
The evening progressed
and with each objection the children grew to understand that complaints were not
against themselves. They learned to ask - ‘which of my actions are you referring
to?’ or ‘which incident are you talking about’? ‘Am I always the way you say I
am or is it in certain situations’. They learned to tell what is a whimsical
action and what is characteristic. They learned to overlook the whim and take on
only patterns for discussion. They tried to find for themselves the reason for
such action. They were surprised to find that their ‘arch enemies’ were just
guys who had a spot of trouble themselves.
It was well past
bedtime. Since the majority of them are still with Enid Blyton, a hot cup of
chocolate and cakes were suggested. I happily made some. When the youngest – a
six year old who had been all ears all evening - said happily: “Now I know that
I need not worry if aunt Aruna she scolds me.” Smoothly, they started the
inquest. “Which action of yours bugs aunt?” “Oh, I always forget to brush my
teeth.” In a chorus they all
shouted, ‘Now we know how to remind and we shall do it twice a
Kids will be kids.
Learning is emotional maturing. And learning is not to be
confused with going to school!
At best, school stimulates a child
intellectually. School provides a
child with a knowledge of the world he lives in. That is what ‘subjects’ are all
about. If in geography he is taught about the physical factors that go to make
up the planet, in physics he is taught the laws by which the planet abides. If
in biology he is taught how life forms, he is taught chemistry to understand the
relationship between life forms. (At least that is what ‘subjects’ are meant to
do.) The child’s information of the world grows. This is an intellectual
stimulation. If teaching stops here, the child comes out without being equipped
Understanding comes when he can see the world in relation
to his own existence. To take a few examples: Chemistry is often taught as
something that happens in a laboratory; something is poured and something turns
blue from red. Children are expected to ‘learn’ it. Some do because they are
fascinated. Though no one said in so many words, it was, for these children, a
near miracle. Those who did not see the poetry in it have never seen chemistry
at work. A child is taught that when he puts food in his mouth, the saliva
breaks down the carbohydrates into sugar and starch, that he actually sees everything upside
down but the impulses are so fast, the reaction of the brain so fast, the
response so great that we never know that we see things upside down! That in all
its lifetime the brain knows without actually experiencing, is a marvel. The
brain that stores the pleasant and unpleasant sensations, that records the likes
and dislikes of the tongue, the nose, the ear and the eye - is actually only
remotely in ‘contact’ with the world outside …a wonder. Long before TV companies
created the remote, we already had one! All this can be taught as pieces of dry
information or as exciting discovery. And this discovery is not only of the
world in relation to oneself; it is really the discovery of the world IN
ONESELF. Suddenly, one does not have to go to a lab to learn chemistry– it is in
Electricity is not only in wires, but also in the impulses
that are transmitted to the brain;
That, just as sea-water pushes the debris on to the land,
so does our blood leave behind the ‘debris’ in the kidneys;
Pain is not trouble, but essential for the remote sensing
brain to know that something is wrong and try to rectify it;
If a child is taught all his ‘subjects’ thus, there will be
in him an everlasting love for knowing; because with every knowing comes an
With every understanding comes a heart so large that it can
appreciate the similar and the different. To see beauty and wonder everywhere is
to be in a joyous frame. Learning is life long. With every experience our
knowledge grows, our perception widens and our later actions are better than the
In schools today, with the syllabi designed as they
are, teaching is becoming more mechanical, there is little thought for such
work. It falls on the parents. It is as though the society has divided itself;
school for information and parents for learning. Sad. For in my experience,
children who have come as ‘drop outs’, ‘behaviour problem’, ‘slow learners’,
‘non learners’ have all responded to this method. Learning is an unbeatable
When you teach your child, or should we say when you learn with
your child, begin from the near to the far. Here are some examples as starters.
The rest – as with everything else – is practice.
Compare the water tube in the garden to the arteries in
the body; they both take nourishment. Compare the sponge to the roots of the
trees – they both absorb.
Compare the sense of smell in a dog, an elephant and your
The idea that the volcano, thought of as destructive, was
the cause of the first amino acids!
The idea that planets need not be solid at all – look at
The idea that Chennai Central to Tambaram vertically is the
approximate height of the Everest! That half the cake for the younger brother is
no bigger than his own– a good way to introduce geometrical shapes, size, area
The idea that though dogs may hang their tongues out with
impunity he himself may not!
In each example, you could detail the why and how, as much
as you can and wish. You’d find it fun to read up so that you can teach your
child. If you can laugh with your child as you help him learn, you are a wonder
Aruna Raghavan can be contacted at: