Doing it the hard way

Aditi and Ratnesh

In my childhood, more than learning, getting good marks in exams was important. That’s all. This was underlined by the rhetorical “Best of Luck” everyone offered before every exam. Now looking back, it’s amusing to realize that our education, assessment and even future is treated as a matter of luck and not learning. Not surprisingly, many of my peers had visited question papers from earlier exams, while some visited temples, and few even wore talismans.

Like all of us, we have had our share of ‘bad’ luck and ‘good’ luck in the recent past. But from a learning perspective (unlike exams), bad luck is actually better than good luck which is why we look back at the last year with fondness – towards all the unlucky events that brought reams of learning for all children and facilitators alike. Here are a few examples:

badluck-1 Earthbag kitchen wall collapses
What do you do when you learn an innovative way of making a building (earthbags)? You spend months building the walls, you collect donations rupee by rupee for the same, you are excited about your roof design… And then one night of heavy downpour and one whole wall collapses – dragging down the other three with it.

Well, what you do then is turn the page and start a new chapter in the textbook called experiences. Obviously you also do a lot of end-of-chapter one exercises – you ask lots of questions, you look for plausible answers, you search for all kinds of learnings hidden in the rubble!

The kind of exercises one went through span emotional, mathematical, scientific, naturalistic and yes, lots of interpersonal interactions.

And we also realized that chapter two is going to be very different – both in content and learning – and “Best of luck” is what we say at the beginning only.

Robbers in broad daylight
One long knife and two big robbers in broad daylight not only take money and jewellery from some people on the campus, they rob us of our peace of mind and implant in many of us a numbing fear. Million questions race in our minds trying to keep abreast of the racy uncertain heartbeat.

Many discussions take place, a number of interactions with the responsive locals happen, ideas for security are floated, and internal fears are worked upon.

The event also pushed us to look for all kinds of dangers which scare us – threats from criminals, natural disasters like earthquake, fire, safety from wildlife and so on. Teams were formed, research happened, drills and role plays added value and lots of security arrangements were made by the children. Most importantly, we bounced back forming a more aware, alert, and wiser community of children and adults.

badluck-2 Snakes and the learning uncoils
I grew up and lived with a fear of snakes. But with children it’s a different journey. We now co-exist with them. We’ve learnt that…

They cannot gulp me, no matter what my size
They are not waiting to bite me
They may take shelter in the store room,
They may lose their way and get into the house
…all I need is an understanding of them.
So we are all excited to meet more snakes in 2014, to observe them, to learn about them, to live with them.

badluck-3 A Long Breakfast
Consider this scene inside a restaurant: 20 children really hungry for breakfast. Two of them are to take everybody’s orders, collate and give it to the restaurant manager, and distribute the food when the order arrives. And they are taking a lot of time to do this.

What will you do? The adult in me was itching to help, interfere, take over.
I knew how to do this. I knew more than them and I could handle this much better.
But I held back my superior competence. This taking long is good news.
The children also knew how to do this.
They learned much more by doing it totally on their own.
Their way took us a lot of time to finish breakfast (almost double as compared to what I think I would have taken) – but every minute, every struggle, every thought of theirs – was far superior learning to what could be provided to them in any other form.
Any day, I would trade superior efficiency or superior results for superior learnings.

badluck-4 Lightening and thunderous learning
Lightning struck our campus and the thunder clap that followed was none like I had heard before – deafening, scary to the innermost bone marrow. I did not know what to do that night, I had never felt so uneducated that I found myself praying. Come morning we realized that our solar system has gone completely cold. We were without any light for the next 20 days. The darkness once again reminded us that it is a learning journey and nothing at campus is “done” – it is always “work in process”. The lightning led to the kids reading about it and understanding HOW to save oneself, what the dos and don’ts were, finding the safe spots on campus and how to huddle up to avoid being struck by lightning, Now the sounds in the night do not scare us, we are beginning to understand nature and we’re learning from everything around us.

In many ways, what has happened predicts how learning could be … nay, should be, and would be available to children in the future – from their life, for their life.


Leave a Reply