Lakshmi Kothaneth -
If one wants to see humanity, the best place to go is the school. In the morning hours, it is immensely satisfying to see the future generation walk through their school gates.
The younger ones are accompanied by mothers or fathers or they arrive in a school bus. In a few years, the same students will be rushing to reach their offices or catch up with their meetings.
They would not be in uniforms anymore. They are all potential stars of tomorrow at this point, almost looking similar to each other at the first glance. What happens between now and future depends on how well they are nourished, nurtured and discovered.
‘Discovered,’ is the keyword. Parents hope their wards are going to be exceptional. But what is exceptional? Who sets the standard? Grades continue to dominate the agenda when it comes to defining students, making or breaking them as they spend their crucial years of growing up.
It was refreshing to sit in a room full of principals and teachers going through an interactive workshop conducted by Shahnaz Bahman, the author of Life Skills Series who has been an educator for 25 years in Bahrain.
Each group of professionals came up with ideas to encourage students to come out with their best.
A story narrated by Shahnaz taught me how important it is for children to get in touch with your own feelings — positive and negative — and recognise the symptoms and differences. One of the activities of Life Skills was to have a box in which one drops written notes of what makes him/her feel good. A mother gave her feedback that her daughter enjoyed it so much she continued with the practice much after the project was done and even when the term was over. It became a habit.
In fact, when later on when the girl’s father faced challenges in life, she continued the same practice of dropping notes of her feelings into the box to tackle her emotions.
“After all, why do people want to meet psychologists or psychiatrists?” Why do we meet the professionals? Is it not to express our thoughts and feelings? Is it because we have lost touch with our thoughts and feelings or are we afraid of facing them?
Talking about issues just takes us through the path to find our own solutions. Psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors are good listeners, whereas parents have no time to listen to the children as they are most often busy fighting their own anxieties for their young ones. If you look at the children, however, they are quite peaceful. Parents go into comparison modes. “He can run faster, run like him. He writes better, why don’t you write like that?” And then, of course, the grades.
Kids are stronger than we think. Most of them overcome parents’ anxieties, schools’ labelling and branding of the system and peers. They come out and strive. There are, however, some who do get affected and never reach their true potential. Is it because they eventually believed the labels that had been given to them?
In a relaxed conversation later, Shahnaz reminded me of the seven different abilities and the importance of recognising these talents in children. Psychologist Louis L Thurstone had defined the seven factors — word fluency, verbal comprehension, spatial visualisation, number facility, associative memory, reasoning and perceptual speed.
A look at the list will make one relate to the favourites. We have been avoiding the ones we are uncomfortable with. But in the case of young ones, they can learn to develop these factors.
Spatial visualisation, number facility, reasoning and perceptual speed — ah! Why didn’t I work harder? At least I have a logical reasoning for losing direction and having problems with parking.
“Don’t worry,” says Shahnaz smilingly, “It is never too late.”
As for the little ones entering the schools with their parents — mothers who are career women, fathers who are trying to patiently walk with the young ones debating whether they should carry the child till the gate, glamorous mothers who are texting on mobile and walking on stilettos, mothers who have forgotten about themselves and are trying to hold back their anxieties and fathers who are talking to their clients on their phones while walking their little ones.
Look a bit lower and you will see the little ones tagging along, most of them quiet. They have trolleys or back pack but minds are thinking — I wonder about what? Their teachers, homework, classmates, best friends or bullies, loneliness or fear?
Their thoughts have to be heard. That’s what I learnt in the workshop by Life Skills.
If we do not hear them now, we will see tomorrow. There would not be in uniforms, just citizens making a living.
To that a friend said, “We all have a beautiful gift called life. But most of us are not living.”