Children are so incredibly resilient and we adults, parents included, underestimate them all the time. My kids never cease to surprise me.
Last night, Aadyaa started complaining of earache. Now that is bad news indeed, for it is an ailment that she has recurrently a few times a year and it is bad news! The earache is usually acute and takes a while to subside and means half a night of her howling in pain, while we scurry around trying to medicate, placate and allay the sinking feeling in our hearts. Over the past year she has had this problem, we have an arsenal of homeopathic, home remedies and mild allopathic medicines ready to combat it. For some reason, last night all the ammunition failed and Aadyaa and we were up most of the night in pain, hers physical and mine mental!
There was the added stress that she had her annual sports meet at school this morning. Something the kids look forward to and have been working really hard to prepare for. She would have been heartbroken if she had missed it and till midnight I was hoping the earache would oblige us and go away. Well, as you know, it didn’t. Surprisingly though, Aadyaa deviated from her pattern of howling through the night and was exceptionally tolerant of the pain. We read books, munched biscuits and chocos, chatted, sang songs and caught 15-minute shut eyes through the night, peppered with the various doses of medication we were trying out.
Eventually when she fell asleep past 5AM, we had decided that sports day happens every year and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she misses it. On the other hand, she made me promise that I would take her if she woke up in time, even if it meant she simply sits in my lap and watches!
Morning came and we all got ready before we tried to wake Aadyaa up. Not only was she up and about, but she went on to complete all the activities that were planned at the sports meet, displaying her usual balance and poise at all types of physical challenge. No tantrums, no crankiness. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised.
Small things I observed today made me realize just how vital school, her routine, her friends and her teachers are to Aadyaa’s world. For instance, she demanded her teacher’s attention and sat in Mudita didi’s lap through the morning assembly. Once reassured by these minutes of comfort, she gave her best to the day’s proceedings.
I’m glad I decided to play along and let Aadyaa take the decisions this morning. I was rewarded for my trust and she gained another few notches of self-confidence. All in all, a good day!
Shikshantar, where both my kids study, is celebrating its 10th birthday this week. Yesterday, the primary and secondary blocks threw their classrooms open to parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles to take a peek at how they had expressed their journey in the school. The theme was Stories and narratives were central to the exhibits around the school.
Oh boy, it was an emotional ride. While the younger kids had attacked the theme with enthusiasm and gusto, the older ones clearly expressed a strong bond with their schoolmates and the institution. Hearing the teenage kids, I was transported back into a world where even the tiniest gestures by friends meant so much, when passions ran high and relationships were intense; when we felt strongly about everything in our lives, when adults were often perceived as enemies of fun.
It was a pleasure to see the comfort the kids shared with their teachers though. I visited in the late afternoon, when things were beginning to wind down. In most classes in middle and senior school, groups of kids were hanging out and having a lot of fun. And also chitchatting and laughing with their teachers.
Here are some pictures I took, that express the love and the bonding the kids feel with their school, its spaces, its people and the entire world it creates to nurture them.
Thursdays are set aside for the weekly trek to SPA. I spend about 4 hours there, two of which are dedicated to a group of students exploring the role of an architect while working in the low-income housing space. The next two hours are spent interacting with 5 students doing individual dissertations in subjects ranging from hospital design to vernacular materials. It’s a tough ride for the kids, to be expected to think in a structured, critical way and to express themselves clearly in language that is not the first language for most of them! They do rise to the challenge though, in their own topsy turvy way.
The discussion today though, veered to another aspect of student life, especially in a professional college. As the youngsters poured out their hearts, it struck me that little has changed. I distinctly remember asking our faculty in our final couple of years of college about why they felt the need to burden us with so much workload that we are incapable of quality work. These kids asked me the exact same question today! Back then, we also asked our profs if they didn’t think unstructured time was also important to the creative process and to the business of learning, in general. I don’t remember getting any reasonable answers. The gist of the response was that pressure is the only tried and tested way to make kids work. Full stop.
At the time, I thought that is ridiculous. Having experience the American system of college education, and despite being on the ‘other’ side now, I know it as ridiculous. Students perform very well when given some choice, some flexibility and encouraged to exert their opinions. But they do need excellent resources, exposure, role models, inspiration….which is hard for our stuck-in-a-mould institutions to muster. So, even though I do get rather frustrated by the lackadaisical attitude of some of my students, I do believe a more liberal system will sieve the meritorious from the average, the curious from the idle, and teach kids to take responsibility as opposed to the current system that is, from what I see, rather top-down!