By Chintan Girish Modi
(Chintan used to facilitate Personal Development sessions with eighth graders at Shishuvan. He offers a peek into his classroom.)
Over the last few years of my journey in education, I have been surprised by how there is very little effort made to share with children the reasons behind why they are learning something and the connections between what they learn in school and their diverse life experiences outside. This is extremely important but might sound too ambitious a task especially in scenarios where learning is so sharply fragmented that teachers and children are unable to make connections between one subject and another.
The Integrated Learning sessions at Shishuvan are valuable attempts to bridge these gaps. My previous blog post titled ‘Speak Up, Be Fearless’ (http://www.shishuvan.com/wp/?p=1038), co-authored with English teacher Sini Nair, was about one such session. The article has received some precious feedback from readers within the school and outside, and I am grateful to each one of you for reading it with interest and thoughtfulness.
Since Tagore’s poem ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ is not only included in the English curriculum of Std. VIII but is also part of the school diary, I thought it worthwhile to plan a Personal Development session with eighth graders around the theme of ‘fear’. Our discussions of the poem had addressed fear as an abstraction, a concept, an idea. It seemed important to make this more immediate, to actually identify, discuss and confront our fears, instead of comfortably spouting statements about being fearless.
I had to emphasize early enough that some fears may seem silly to others but for the person who is afraid they are very real. We must respect their feelings so that they feel understood and cared for. Laughing at their fears might make them embarrassed and awkward. They might also feel hurt.
As we sat and listened, a wide spectrum of fear-inducing creatures, people and situations went up on the blackboard: rats, injections, siblings, cockroaches, dentists, teachers, honeybees, death, dogs, darkness, marriage, speaking the truth, going alone to the bathroom, lizards, snakes, water bodies, failure, exams, anger, heights, losing one’s parents, and many more.
I also wanted us to talk about how it feels to be frightened, our physical and emotional responses, and our strategies of dealing with these fears. The responses here were equally varied, for example: isolating oneself, thinking about things that make one happy, running away, shivering, crying, going to a safe place, praying, shrieking, locking oneself in the bedroom, cracking funny jokes, reaching out for one’s teddy, preparing oneself for death, thinking of the person one loves the most, screaming, stamping one’s feet, eating something, thinking of a way to escape, laughing, switching on the lights, etc.
We concluded the session with an art activity, wherein each student was given a sheet of paper and had to select one of his/her deepest fears, imagine it as a monster and depict what it looked like on paper. The art work that came out of this session was utterly spectacular. Here are some glimpses of what our talented students created.
You might want to ask yourself the same questions and also make some time for the art activity. It is a whole lot of fun, as the pictures above would have told you. Besides that, the opportunity to know yourself a little better is always welcome, isn’t?