Saturday, November 14, 2015

Are we preparing children for challenging years ahead?

This Children’s Day, I was invited to speak to teachers at a well-known school in Delhi. I thought I had three options. One, share with them my thoughts on what good teaching is. Second, to ask them to share what they had to say to a question I had in mind. Third, to get them to answer the question that needed to be addressed and then share with them my views on good teachers.
I chose the third option. The question I asked around 200 teachers present was what they thought was the one thing they needed to do to prepare children for the next 70-80 years. They were requested to write down the answer for later analysis.
I hinted at a few things, like growing environmental stress, climate change, infrastructural inadequacies, traffic congestion, population pressure, security concerns, health access, likely deficiencies in support services, nuclear families and the ageing challenges. I asked them how they as teachers were grooming their children, who would outlive them. And a follow-up question was: who is primarily responsible to prepare them?
The answers I got
Here are a few responses to my first question. “Nowadays, children do not have clarity between what is right and what is wrong. They should have moral values. They don’t understand what struggle their parents have undergone to meet their demands. They think it is their duty anyway. Children should understand their responsibilities too. In today’s world, children think having a bank balance is success. But they should understand that fulfilling their moral responsibilities nicely is success.”
Another response was, “The most important quality a child should have is to be able to be a good decision-maker. If this quality is imbibed, the child will be on the right path and will be able to devote him for others’ well-being.”
Another answer was, “Children are sensitive and they follow what their parents do as they are their role models. So first of all, we will teach the child to express himself, whether it is right or wrong. When he will grow up, he will know the right from wrong. If we develop this habit in the child, we will be aware what is going on in his mind and can direct it in the right direction.”
Yet another response was, “Children should understand the meaning of change as they always have to face this. They need to learn how to accept changes in their life and how to make changes in their environment. If they are able to learn, they will be able to survive anywhere, at any time and in any decade.
Parents, teachers to provide nurturing
To my second question as to who would provide this nurturing, the unanimous answer was parents and teachers. Here is a response, “As the saying goes, ‘Practise what you preach.’ So it’s we who have to imbibe these qualities and act; only then our children will be able to think, act and imbibe. Only we as teachers and parents can teach our children by asking their views about a social issue. This way, we can inculcate the habit of expression. If we ask their viewpoint it would help children think and choose options and develop the habit of decision-making, and they would gain confidence. This way, children will become good human beings besides being sensible and responsible citizens.”
So the ball was back in our court as parents and teachers.
Advice to teachers
What I told teachers was: ensure due respect to every child’s viewpoint; make sure you are accessible to them all the time; enable shared expectations; encourage self and love of learning; and teach collaboration.
The teachers I got the feedback from were from Delhi International School, Rohini, and Navjyoti India Foundation. Next time, I will connect with schoolchildren and ask them what they would like to see in their parents and teachers that would help them prepare for the next 70-80 years, and who they think can best provide them the grooming? I cannot wait to know their views.