Can a teacher be just a facilitator to children’s learning? Will it be ideal if we don’t teach at all?

At Puvidham we tell stories, initiate lots of discussions with the kids. we teach alphabets to our children through drawing. we teach one alphabet a day and tell them the letter is not important, the picture you make is important. since we learn everything visually we give importance to drawing, it is a potent way of learning everything. at the same time teaching alphabets doubles as a drawing class too. Our children don’t develop fear towards maths. either they do it or not but there is no need to develop fear towards maths since the fear and anxiety over a long period creates a untold misery and stress in the children.

for instance we do a small exercise where we fill up a packet with the sand and some seeds, this we ask them to observe for the next few days. as the seeds starts to grow we identify their types and tell which one is a monocot or dicot. so the next thing is, they start looking at every tree and go around checking whether it is a monocot or dicot? one day they came and asked us whether the palm tree is a moncot or dicot? we didn’t know, then we started looking for information in the net. before we found the answer a boy told us without any doubt the palm tree is a monocot, he asked us to look at its roots, it grows like that of a grass.

so the children have a strong observation and they can deduce answers from it. if a child has such a innate capacity, it is important we as adults let them flourish without spoiling it.

we have created a children parliament (similar to the real one) in which children will get to be elected by their peers. there will be a chief-minister who will be the head. they have to attend to any issues within the campus. When children  given the responsibility respond to it better than us adults. it is surprising how they constructed this playhouse by themselves, they divided their work class wise. 7th & 8th did the brick laying work, 5&6th did the plastering and 3rd & 4th did the inner plastering and the floor laying work.  when they do these kind of small projects they develop stamina, learn to work in a group and at the end of it gain tremendous self confidence.

Earlier we had children only from the local farming community. we have allowed them to take leave when they have work at their farm because they learn more working at farm than at school. this made their parents feel good about the school. the kids from these families don’t have a concept of rote learning.

now we are getting children from the city whose parents wants their children not to go through rote learning instead wants them to have a deeper understanding through learning by doing. Our dream is to make children design tools and instrument as a part of the course. I personally feel designing is one way of learning everything. for instance if they design a garden they have to take so many things into account, so children’s multiple knowledge system gets integrated.

In our society the children are not encouraged to think critically or do anything by their own. eventually when they grow up as an adult they end up waiting for somebody to tell them what to do. At Puvidham we encourage children to observe, listen and take decisions which is the basic quality for leadership. we hope they become leaders in their immediate environment

we have seen many children goes through a transition after coming here-

A boy who came to us 2 years before had a weird mannerism of constantly shaking his head. he has built up a tremendous pressure from his earlier school and there was zero learning. within a month after coming here he became a favorite among the other kids. in fact he became the chief minister in the children’s parliament. there was a radical improvement in his learning. he is now good in maths and playing chess.

Another boy was so timid and had fear over everything when he came to us. we understood his problem. he was good at arts so we encouraged him to draw and do anything he would like  at his own pace. the other kids also supported him. slowly he god rid of his fears and now he shows lot of interest in learning mechanics.

An autistic girl joined with us last year. when she came here she couldn’t say a single word except ‘amma’. she used to mumble incomprehensible words. the children here slowly understood what she talks but we couldn’t. in the beginning she had trouble even going to the toilet on her own. the other kids supported her. our kids are very empathetic towards children who needs help. they don’t make fun or try to isolate them. so when this girl sang for the first time they came running towards me shouting. they took pride and felt joyful in their friend singing a song.

Children are innately caring by nature. because of all the comparison and boxing they end up being selfish and lose respect towards others.

A Conversation with  Meenakshi Umesh of Puvidham Learning Center