We have 30-35 young children (2-3.5 year olds) under our care in the play school I work. One of the morning sessions every day is a ‘rhymes class’ where I recite and play act the popular nursery rhymes and children sing along. Children participate according to their nature and mood of the day. There are some kids who are very active each day, sing and even dance along (always a pleasure to watch them!). But there are some kids who just stand quietly. They appear to have no interest at all in singing. I don’t force these children to sing along with me. I keep thinking that they are ‘just kids’ who come to school to play and enjoy and they have several years ahead to learn. I only encourage them to participate…One day, our principal passed by when I was in the class and commented as she saw the children who were just standing quietly, “Force, scold and punish them to make them learn these poems. Parents complain that their children do not know anything.”
This statement got me thinking. Fear of punishment and even punishment are the common means to get the children to learn. Is it the right way?
If we induce fear of punishment and learning as a chore at this age, will the children not resent learning for the rest of their lives?
Where is the joy of learning if children learn just to avoid punishment or lack of success?
Can we not instill some joy into their hearts when these children whose minds have yet not accustomed to the practices of learning in regular school (rote learning, homeworks, exams and marks etc) are under our care? Can we not give them the pleasure of seeing a picture book, hearing a song (be it nursery rhyme) or expressing oneself through actions..?
I find all the answers in the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
“What you should do is to teach the children to take interest in what they are doing – that is not the same thing as interesting the student! You must arouse in them a desire for knowledge, for progress.” (CWM 12,pg 171)
But the even more burning question is how to start making these small changes while the other teachers and parents are of the conventional attitude?
Though I have not yet found a way to introduce the ‘Principles of Integral Education’ into our setting I had some satisfaction on that same day that something is working.
Later that day, I asked a child who usually stands quiet during the rhymes class to recite a poem for me. She recited not one but several…
“There should be no difference in the mind of the child between work and play, all should be a joy of interest. It is the teacher’s job to create that interest. ” (CWM, pg 186)