how to make my children care (say, for example, about their school)

26/06/2015

(or) நாமிருக்கும் நாடு, நமதென்பதறிந்தோம்! (1600 words, sorry)

Preamble:

The School that I am currently working with, is in an area of Tamilnadu, which is known to be a very violent place for the past so many decades – so much so that, even the police personnel and revenue department staff would like to avoid this tension filled and bottomless despair invoking milieu.

So.

There was way too much of violent and disrespectful behavior by the children (primarily stemming from abominable & pathetic parentage and the vitiated socio-political atmosphere) of the School, with which I was involved rather closely from the fag end of 2010.

This is a verbatim note detailing an approach that I circulated with/to our fellow-staff – I had translated this note in Tamil too in a handwritten mode and circulated it (but seem to have misplaced it!). I must say that, after spearheading this approach for some 3 months or so, rather relentlessly, there were some very good positive results.

However, today, on 26th June 2015, after some 4 years of this approach, I would say that though the violent ‘porukki‘ behaviour has very significantly dropped, it has not completely died out. I would assume that it would take a few more years to become a model place – because we in our School, though we really love our children,  do not have ANY control over what happens at their homes – what with the alcohol + tv/cinema + freebies + crime related dravidian problems that plague and continue to devastate my dear state of Tamilnadu. Sometimes, I go like – Oh what do I do and weep. Literally. :-(

So, here goes…

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Caveat: Please note that I am very new to our school, and I have my own biases and preconceived notions as well. Hence, please take this note with a pinch of salt. I could be completely wrong – so feel free to correct me.

This rather quick and drafty note has been prepared as a follow-up to the staff discussions on 20th Jan, 2011 – the point being, as to how can we gainfully address the issue of the children not being respectful to their immediate physical environment.

Children Community at Our School: Some Notes

One of our school’s significant stakeholders, is the Community of Children (CoC).

This document acknowledges this particular fact first and hence lays down a basic set of ‘expected behaviour modes’ in the CoC and the consequences of not adhering to them. Nothing in the approach laid out in the document is new, except the group/community orientation to the expected behaviour modes.

What are the various learning / life-skills objectives for the fulfillment of which the CoC is there at our school?

We can roughly classify the objectives under the following six groups…

  1. Acquisition of Knowledge

  2. Development of their own Understanding

  3. Application of such knowledge and understanding

  4. Acquisition of Skills – in languages, communication, tools, processes, time management and otherwise

  5. Development of Interests and Focus

  6. Development of a set of Attitudes – Metacognition, Critical thinking skills, Autodidactic nature, ‘Greater Common Good’ orientation, Stewardship, Perseverance, ‘To do, not merely try,’ Self-discipline, Power of Imagination

In my opinion, the best gift that the children could take away from our school, would be the 6th. I believe that if this can be delivered to the maximum extent possible, the rest five will automatically fall into position. (please note that, am not saying that nothing is being done now  in this respect at all; if in doubt, please read the caveat again!)

What is the expected behavior mode – among many – that we are trying to address?

The very basic parameter for the ‘expected behavior modes’ of the CoC is the idea of ‘respect’ – that is,

…Respect to:

  • Themselves

  • The properties & environment/ambience of the School.

  • The Adult Community (which includes our Teaching, Non-teaching, Support staff, Volunteers)

In essence, I believe that (with a few ‘worked!’ examples in my previous/practical experience), if this ‘respect’ is inculcated, then a lot of issues begin to get addressed.

But, why harp on the Community and respect angle at all?

In Tamil there is a saying by the poet Bharathi – ‘naamirukkum naadu, namadhenbatharinthom!– which essentially means ‘let us know that – the place where we are, is our community (so let us take care of it)’ – this spirit of stewardship needs to be reinforced again and again, without any letting up.

In normalized and closely knit communities (I think, the upper elementary, high and higher secondary classrooms are such things), correctives develop organically and after a few cycles, the community adapts itself to the idea that for errant behavior of even one of their classmates, the whole community has to pay.

No child can take recourse under the clause of NIMBY! (not in my back yard!).

At the same time,  we will not single out any particular child, but address the problems at the gross level – with love and kindness – as is usual in our School. We do not want any child to let down his/her friend – in other words, we would be respectful of their positive intentions.

I think the community should own up to the best of and the worst of behaviors. Of course, I know and understand that there are already set of rules of behavior – and they merely need to be enforced, with zero tolerance for off-behaviors.

I propose the following:

If a given class room is not clean or learning tools are broken or furniture are burnt/broken or there is intentional spoiling/blocking of drains in the toilets or there is some behavior in the children that we do not want to encourage in our classroom & its environment, we simply walk out with the children and go sit under a suitable banyan tree. (Please note that we have three huge banyan trees under which we have lovely and comfortable stone benches and tables, aesthetically pleasing ones at that; in case of rains or cold atmosphere, we can always go to one of our libraries)

We explain to the children that what happened was unacceptable – we would be very respectful to the children – and this, within the first 5 minutes of sitting down. No discussions will be undertaken at this time. And, for rest of the day we would continue to merely sit, reflecting on what happened.

During the very last period – at 2.30 PM or so, we will ask the children what will they do differently so that the next day is also not spent under the tree. We will seek solutions from them and allow them to address the problems, come up with meaningful suggestions, and then address them as Adults.

The next day begins as usual. If the errant behavior crops us again, we go thru the same process, that’s all.

Note: There shall be no books, no reading, no chit-chatting. Only silence for the rest of the day. During Lunch and Snacks, this group facing the consequences will consume them but, continue to keep quiet; they can go may be one by one,  not in groups that is – and then assemble right back under the tree, in a silent, reflectful mood. They can of course go to the bath/restrooms as usual, whenever they need to.

Of course, we would not use this approach for non-turning in of homework, or the normal huge delays in the payment of the meagre fees that we try to collect from the Children.

Steps & Suggestions:

We should inform each grade and in the assembly that, the price of unacceptable behavior will be that – the whole class. CoC pays for it.

We start implementing the method after a day – clearly telling them again, about the rules, just in case!

The adults who are supposed to take the class for the children facing the consequences will sit with them – quietly, doing their work, period after period.

All adults will have to adhere to this for the effectiveness of the approach.

We will go thru as many cycles as needed.

We will ‘be the change that we wish to see…’

We as adults at the School, may also need perhaps, to do the following, so that we are also ‘seen’ to be respectful to our environment, our community.

  1. We will stand one as a community, the moment a decision has been democratically arrived at.

  2. We will not (not even absent mindedly) do the things that the children are barred from doing.

  3. We will keep our offices / labs clean.

Please write your comments / reflections / suggestions – in the pages attached to this document. It would be useful to have your considered and thought-out reflections, when we get around to discussing the note please!

Thanks for your patience!

__r.

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Having observed the horrifying effects of nearly 50 years of Dravidian government(!) – with its blatant swindles, unabashed casteism, shameless rent seeking behaviour, doling out freebies at the expense of taxpayers, abominable sexual violence and little else in terms of redeeming features – I feel very angry and aghast at the current state of affairs in my dear Tamilnadu.

I feel that unless these mother fuckin’ Dravidians are booted and hounded out of political and social power structures, the Tamils have no scope for even any dreams of hope!

But then, this view of stark reality is not going to make me  despondent and feel completely spent – though it is very tiring and trying to work against heavy odds. I may take a break from whatever little that I am doing, but then as my dear  Arnold Schwarzenegger would say – I will back! ;-)

As for the CoC in School – as we say in Tamil, ‘only the time will tell’ whether there will be any longterm effect in terms of improvement. Yes.

THE END, but my dear reader, what do you think?

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9 Responses to “how to make my children care (say, for example, about their school)”

  1. ravi Says:

    ram,
    //Though the violent ‘porukki‘ behaviour has very significantly dropped, it has not completely died out//

    how do they react ??

    i studied in a village school, there were some minor issues concerning few students.. but over and above these few students, issues were minimal. might be due to our school location and local support.


    • um, dear Ravi – some of the details are further down in the post – maybe you you didn’t read this post completely?

      Ok, since you asked – some of these vexatious behaviors are – pelting stones at the glass windows, breaking furniture, petty thievery, defecating in the middle of the playground and the like. But the number and frequency of these incidents have come down.

      I might as well add that, many of my fellow teachers (including yours truly) have been roughed up by the inebriated relatives of the children; these kinds of things are added incentives. ;-)

      There are also other things like occasional graffiti calling our parents names – and this is an yearly bonus.

      I must not lament too much – actually these kids are far better than software engineers; sarcasm apart, they are merely little boys and girls in a hurry to grow up, that’s all! ;-)

      The basic lesson is life is: This too shall pass. :-)

  2. vijayaraghavan Says:

    அய்யா,
    தங்களது இந்த பதிவு உயர்தர ஆங்கிலத்தில் உள்ளதால் வரிக்கு வரி என்னால் விளங்கிக் கொள்ள இயலவில்லை .மன்னிக்கவும்.
    நமது குழந்தைகளை ஒரு சிறந்த மனிதர்களாக்கும் செயல் முயற்சி என்பது மட்டும் விளங்குகிறது. தயை கூர்ந்து இந்தப் பதிவை தமிழில் தருவீர்களா? நாங்கள் எங்களது கருத்தை தெரிவிப்பதற்கு?


    • அய்யா விஜயராகவன், உங்கள் கருத்து புரிகிறது. ஆனால், என்னை மன்னிக்கவும்.

      அன்புடன்,

      __ரா.


  3. This reminds me of the behavior of some children of my friends who are well off, have stable homes, living by them selves, i mean with no elders in the house. Boys and girls, when we get together in any one of our homes, create so much of havoc, uncontrolled by their parents, damage so many things. To my dismay, the parents never correct their behavior, and in the name of friendship, we are forced to keep quiet, and just expect them to leave as soon as possible. I think the behavior is primarily from two factors, unfettered access to videos, cartoons, games, and parents not controlling them or telling them. This is amplified by the sugar rich food/drinks they are allowed to consume. I feel bad for the kids, but the parents are to blame, and they are in no mood to listen, as they are simply concerned about their own enjoyment.


    • Tell me about it, Gopinath! Bingo!

      I think many parents (including so many of my very own relatives) do NOT deserve their children – at various levels.

      And, the latter get spoilt so much by all the coddling by the clueless helicopter parents… that, they all growup with an arrogant sense of entitlement and little else! (the school of ‘helicopter parenting’ – https://othisaivu.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/post-193/ )

      Added to this is the average abnormal bulge of the spoilt kids – with all the sugar and fat intake… Many of them look so unhealthy what with all the gadgets and less than a nano-second attention spans.

      Yes. Certainly the kids deserve better (not ‘anything’ goes) parenting, imho.


  4. இளம் நண்பர் ஒருவரின் மின்னஞ்சலிலிருந்து:
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    நேற்றிரவு தான் J.C. Pearce’ன் Magical child படித்து முடித்தேன். நல்ல புத்தகம், அறிமுகப்படுத்தியதற்கு நன்றி.

    அற்புதமான, எண்ணத்தை தூண்டும் பல கருத்துக்கள் ஆங்காங்கே இருந்தாலும் ஒரு சில இடங்களில் கிட்டத்தட்ட எல்லாவற்றையுமே அவர் விளக்க முற்படுவது போன்ற எண்ணமும் எழுந்தது. (எ. கா Primary perceptions ) மேலும், Pearce’ன் Matrix shifts போன்ற கருத்துக்கள் Rudolf Steiner’ன் எண்ணங்களோடு பொருந்தி வந்தாலும் ஒரே ஒரு (சம்பந்தமில்லாத) குறிப்பைத்தவிர வேறெங்கும் அவரின் பெயரை சுட்டாததும் ஆச்சரியமாக இருந்தது.

    தங்களின் சமீபத்திய பதிவை படித்தேன், எனக்குத்தோன்றிய எண்ணத்தை பகிர விழைகிறேன் தவறிருப்பின் மன்னிக்கவும்.

    உங்கள் விவரணையின் பேரில் ஊகித்தால், உங்கள் பள்ளி கிட்டத்தட்ட அனைத்து வசதிகளோடும், மிகவும் அழகுணர்ச்சியோடும் கட்டப்பட்ட/நிர்வகிக்கப்படும் பள்ளி என நினைக்கிறேன். பெரும்பான்மையான அந்த வட்டார மக்கள் இந்த பள்ளியை விரும்புகிறார்களா? அவர்கள் இந்த அழகான பள்ளியை தங்கள் வாழ்க்கை முறைக்கு சம்பந்தமில்லாத ஒரு இடமாக பார்க்க வாய்ப்பு இருக்கிறதா ?!

    அன்பு/அக்கறை இல்லாத பெற்றோர், வறுமை, குடி, வன்முறை, போதாததற்கு சினிமா, டீவீயின் பாதிப்பு. இதுபோல எந்த விதத்திலும் அன்பு/அக்கறை செலுத்த வாய்ப்பில்லாத மாணவர்கள் இந்த அழகான பள்ளியின் மீது விரோத உணர்வோடு/அக்கறையின்றி இருப்பதை சாதாரணமாக எடுத்துக்கொள்ள வாய்ப்பிருக்கிறது இல்லையா ?
    அவர்கள் காட்டும் இந்த எதிர்ப்பு, உண்மையில், அவர்களின் சூழல்/பெற்றோரின் மீதான கோபமாகத்தான் இருக்க முடியும்.

    A.S.Neillன் Summerhill பள்ளியில் இதே போன்ற சம்பவங்கள் நடந்தபோது அவர்களுக்கு அந்த குழந்தைகளின் சூழலை கட்டுப்படுத்தும் வாய்ப்பு இருந்தது, நீங்கள் வருத்தப்பட்டது போல எந்த விதத்திலும் அவர்களின் வீட்டு சூழலை நல்ல முறையில் மேம்படுத்தவோ, பெற்றோருடன், அவர்களின் குழந்தையை குறித்து, ஒரு ஆக்கப்பூர்வமான பேச்சு வார்த்தை நடத்தவோ வாய்ப்பில்லாத போது, “காலம் தான் பதில் சொல்ல வேண்டும்”

  5. aekaanthan Says:

    You and your fellow teachers have ventured on a Herculean task really. The desired results may not be immediately forthcoming, it may be awfully slow but still worth trying given the conditions you are working on.
    I too had studied in village schools. I feel now that I was quite lucky to have better and cleaner study atmosphere then. In our village, teachers’ efforts were backed up by village elders and parents. In your environs, this is unimaginable I understand. The world has become too violent and unmanageable..

    The way our dear Tamil Nadu is being scientifically ruined by these dravidian demons, I feel like crying: நெஞ்சு பொறுக்குதில்லையே… இந்த நிலைகெட்ட மனிதரை நினைத்துவிட்டால்…


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