Getting Children Involved and Interested in Learning
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”, goes the Benjamin Franklin quote.
Here is a story where this quote came alive.
The school was conducting a two day residential camp on Leadership Development which in fact was an unplanned one. A 10th grade student comes to the principal and questions him. “Why are you charging the fee for the camp having said that year long expenses are involved in the school fee?” The principal was quite quick to sense an opportunity for the child to be involved in the process. Consequently, the budget realities were shown to the student and he was ultimately convinced with the move.
Secondly, he had a question about the amount that the school was collecting for the event. The student was given the responsibility to plan the entire event and was asked to see if cost could be reduced. He readily accepted when asked to shoulder the responsibility. When he did the math with his classmates he realized that the amount exceeded the one the school quoted. He took onus and the rest of the organising was done quite meticulously with the help from his classmates.
Another incident is when the students of class VII planned their field trip themselves; the student mart (Namma Angadi) run by students is another successful initiative where students buy things taking money from the school, sell in the school and manage expenses and profit and submit bills at the end of the year.
Had there been no space for the learners to question, they would have missed a great learning opportunity. The level of transparency in the system and open mindedness of the principal were instrumental in making a great deal of learning possible. Believe me! The respect of children towards their teachers increases many fold when the ground realities and sincere effort of their teachers are brought forth. Children give their heart and soul for the work when they are trusted and given responsibility. They become owners of their own learning. School, then truly belongs to them.
The real learning happens in the process. While organising an event children learn a lot in the process of convincing their classmates, planning the budget, delegating the tasks, arranging for vehicles to travel when it comes to field trips, communicating to teachers and parents etc. In case of running Namma Angadi, they have discussions on what to buy, in the process they can think about keeping the mart plastic free, negotiate cost, maintain bills and the list goes on.
Integrating these activities into the curriculum makes the entire learning environment vibrant, life-centered and meaningful. All this can go for the students’ anecdotal records and portfolio. More importantly, the measure of confidence and self esteem that students gain in this entire process is enormous. There is ample space within any school setting to involve students in many such learning experiences. This in longer run helps create more responsible, dynamic and accountable citizenry.
Spare a thought or two about creating such learning spaces in your own schools. Let students completely lead the morning assembly and bring in as many innovations, involve them in school’s policy making bodies, allow them to teach their peers – Each one, Teach one!, Encourage them to form Students’ Grievance Redressal Committee where students solve their routine challenges by themselves. Let the students’ council organise school events (at least a few to start with) and many more. There is plenty what a teacher can do way within the classroom. If we really keep child as the most important partner in the school, we, teachers and management are answerable to them. We have our duties to be fulfilled and ensure child gets the best in her all important school going age.
Every child deserves her own space and we, the educators are bound to offer it.