Saturday, October 26, 2013

My School – a fantasy



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“We have all learned most of what we know outside school.  Pupils do most of their learning without, and often despite, their teachers.”

I don’t know how many people will agree with the statements above.  Ivan Illich wrote that 4 decades ago in his deservedly celebrated book, Deschooling Society.  He argued that “Everyone learns how to live outside school.  We learn to speak, to think, to love, to feel, to play, to curse, to politick and to work without interference from a teacher.  Even children who are under a teacher’s care day and night are no exception to the rule.”

I am a teacher who has been working in an exclusively residential school for over a decade.  I won’t disagree with Illich.

Of late, my mind which is normally logical is flooded with fantasies.  The fantasies are all about a dream school that I would like to open. 

A school where children will be free to bloom without constraints imposed by systems.  Play, sleep, eat, and let children do what they like.  Freedom to children.

No, I should correct it: freedom to children’s creativity. 

Let the creativity unfold itself.  The school will provide all the infrastructure required.  The best teachers will be available for all those who ask questions about the stars beyond the horizon.  Einstein’s theory of relativity and the carpenter’s skill will all be taught, provided the student demands it. 

Thirst will be quenched.  No hunger will go unfed.

If the hunger is for food, healthy food will be provided.  If the hunger is for knowledge, the horizons will expand.

There’s no need to compel anything down the throats of anyone in the school.  Thirst and hunger will determine what each individual student wants. 

What each individual student is capable of will determine his/her horizon.

Teach yourself.  Each student will learn that.  Self-made people are the most successful people.  Make yourself.  We are here to help you to make yourself.  No compulsions.

The only rule: no destruction. 

The rule stated positively: Create, You are Born to Create.  

Dear student,

Don’t confuse teaching with learning.  Learning is your personal responsibility.

Grades and marks are no reflection of your achievement, let alone your potential. Hence you will get no grades or marks in this school.  You decide your own grade.  You create it.

Know that:
Medical treatment is not healthcare.
The Taj Mahal was not built by any University-trained architect.
Social activism is not necessarily love for mankind.
Police does not necessarily mean security.
Military poise is not national security.
Success is not happiness.

Dear student, you are responsible for your own life.  Only you are responsible for your own life.

Make it.  If you want! 

15 comments:

  1. Well said Sir.....Students are bound to follow such a rule of continuous Boredom of work.....Your Fantasy is the Dream of every student on this earth....Where they can actually understand themselves and implement what they like in life....The Most IMportant thing of this fantasy life is that there is No Tension of Grades......Indeed a True picture for every student !!!

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    1. The problem with my fantasy school, Dharamveer, is that it will benefit only those students who are not spoilt by parents :)

      More seriously, I think children are creative by nature. I have observed the little ones of my school for a long time. I have seen that they don't sleep, eat or play beyond acceptable limits. They want to do something creative all the time: draw, paint, clay model, etc. The problem with today's educational system is that it stifles such creativity.

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  2. The issue with this approach is: Students don't know what they want. For example, how can a student show interest in theory of relativity if he has no idea of the concept in the first place? That's why schools exist - they teach the basics of all the fields and the student can later on specialize in what they want.

    Unfortunately, in our society, students are forced to specialize in certain subjects for employ-ability purposes. IMO, That's wrong.

    What I would rather like schools to do is, teach subjects in a more creative way so that students don't feel that it's a burden. How about reading a thriller/watching a movie based on relativity theory? Don't you think that will be more interesting and pique the interests of kids and make them want to learn more?

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    1. Dear DI, first of all, thanks for your opinion.

      Einstein discovered the relativity concepts in spite of his teachers. My experience as a teacher has shown me that students seek out and learn what they want to learn whether the school teaches them those things or not. Good teachers, of course, become useful and sometimes necessary guides.

      I'm not saying that teachers are redundant. My argument is that the thirst or hunger for knowledge should come from the student primarily. If you give freedom instead of forcing them to study, will they study better? That's the question I'm raising. I feel most of them will, after the initial fooling around.

      I have tried out movies and other such interesting things to create a certain degree of curiosity in students about certain things. What I have found is: those who have the aptitude are motivated while others think I'm wasting time. The truth is: those who have the aptitude do not need such motivation!

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    2. Sir, I agree with Destination Infinity's comment above. (I'd been planning to write a blog on this!!)

      For instance, my son (8 yrs old) loves sports. He will play football the whole day for a whole month without sleeping or eating if you let him. I will only be happy if he becomes a good football player. He also loves origami and I love watching him do it. But I would also want him to learn some basic Math and alphabet so that he can read the newspaper or write a letter or go to a shop and buy things, and make payment and receive the balance. :-)
      He would not pay any attention to math (even if he likes it) unless I make him sit and do some work. He will never learn to read if I don't ask him to read something. He likes science experiments but I need to make him do it. I believe a little amount of prodding is required to make sure he gets the basics right, because I know that without pushing him a bit, he will never show interest in learning math or language or science.
      Maybe in the case of advanced learning, we could leave them to choose. But in smaller classes?
      I would love to hear your opinion on this.

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    3. I understand your concern, Jeena, especially since you have a personal interest .Of course, every person should possess certain basic skills like reading, writing and computation. I have had many students who were crazy about some game or the other and took little interest in academics. But when they see their friends studying and excelling certain results they too get motivated... Not much, however. I agree with you that such students require a slightly different approach. The thirst for academic learning will have to be created in them.

      Should we really force an 8 year-old to do a lot of academic work? Isn't it possible that he will eventually realise what he is missing and start picking up that? Of course, some guidance is required.

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    4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Sir.

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  3. That is the school I would send my kids to. The primary function of an educator should be to create a "safe space" for enquiry and problem solving. The rest of it is anyway an inside job.

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    1. Thanks, Subhorup. I'm glad to know that there are parents willing to take the risk.

      One thing that my life as a teacher has taught me is: the teacher's personality, its integrity, is far more important than any teaching.

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  4. I wish i had read this when i was growing up .. Sharing it :D

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    1. We adults ruin the children's creativity and imagination, right, Sangeeta? As a teacher, I would agree with that view.

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    2. You are right ... and I hope i can give my Smera that freedom to imagine and be creative and not let die by the time she grows up ..

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  5. Great article. Wish our uty profs have this insight..

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    1. University is different from school, however. At that level some serious bookish study will have to be done. No escape for you, I'm sorry.

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  6. Nice job, it’s a great post. The info is good to know!
    How to Start Play School

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