Last evening i was sitting down with the kids as they had their dinner. My two year old took a bit of his kheema and paratha and looked up with a smile saying “hmmm…deeelishus!” Nish of course, wanted to add to that and he said..”you know..it’s actually scrumptious!” “i like how you are using different words in stead of simply saying yummy” I said to them. Not to be left out, Sid immediately jumped in, nodding his head in a new funny way he has recently acquired. “you can also say it is yummilicious! Aunt S told me that” (i remember my sister in law telling Sid this during our recent holiday together. Then it was back to dinner as they happily giggled and took “baby sparrow bites” and some “humongous bites”
I smiled to myself as I thought about how much these kids were learning and picking up all the time. Exposure, a safe space to explore and try things out and as much as i can manage- respect for them as individuals…these are things which i feel helps them become continuous and engaged learners. Just a couple of days ago when I was short with one of them, I sat down and deliberated on how to react differently because I did not want to hurt their self esteem. In the end, they pick up so much from what they see, the last thing I want to expose the kids to is rude disrespectful behavior.
My morning visit today to a low income private school lead to an invariable juxtaposition of two realities. On the one hand were my boys and I could see them grow and learn so organically. I was careful how i talked to them and I looked for a school that would respect them for who they are, hear them out, allow them to stumble and yet be there to give a hand…On the other, I was in this classroom where a teacher pulled a kid up for having “such big big handwriting”. She took a red pen and made an ugly slash across his paper, held his book up for all to see and then asked him to stand through lunch break and rewrite the whole thing. This was just a few seconds before she yelled at a kid, told him he was lazy and always causing problems…she compared him to his neighbor in class and basically ran him down in front of everyone. Her instructions were short orders pretty much barked out. This was 6th grade….
4th grade was not much different. The teacher was giving a pop quiz to the class and did not hesitate to ridicule a child, his spellings or drawings publicly. Punishments were arbitrarily meted out…stay inside during recess and rewrite all the spellings, remain standing and so forth.
The 6th grade class got me teary eyed. If this is how much you respect a student then why are you expecting him to turn out into a self respecting and people respecting person? How do you expect him to succeed when you don’t even believe he can? How does reducing his self worth in this manner provide any impetus for him to succeed? How are you teaching respect and discipline in this way?
I few months back I was upset because a teacher told Sid that his crayoning was like scribbling. It upset him and it really bothered me that someone could affect his self perception and confidence with a small un – though through statement. And then here today…what I saw was so much worse…so disturbing.
It is time for us educators and parents to recognize and appreciate a child for who is his and respect him for that. Sure we want them to learn and grow and become lots of things…but for me, it is important that before any of that stuff, my child needs to be comfortable with who he is, happy with how he is, respectful of himself and the world around him. Everything else will follow in due course…