As many of us get ready for the half-yearly exams, we are also wondering with trepidation whether we will be able to instill a sense of seriousness in our wards, anxious about completing board syllabi, and possibly, recovering from a season of inter-school competitions and festivals. But it’s important to remember that these festivals and contests have an important role to play in facilitating an open and encouraging educational environment. We would all agree that teaching is a kind of transaction. Teachers introduce children to certain bodies of knowledge and encourage the development of certain skills. From their students, they gain an understanding of how learning happens, and the many forms creativity and self-expression can take. This learning is fed back into their own teaching so the cycle continues, regenerated each time with new inputs. But a cyclic process can happen only when there is openness on both sides; a true exchange of learning can take place only when there are no big barriers. This is why it is so important to preserve and use the spaces within schools where such barriers can be broken and relationships built between teachers and students that go beyond the delivery of the curriculum.
Festivals and extra-curricular activities offer such spaces. They allow us to don new costumes, play different roles and relax a bit, so that we can all, children and adults alike, be just people. On Teachers’ Day, children become teachers and give their tutors a rest; on Children’s Day, teachers treat the children to presentations of their own talents, showing them that they care enough to make the kids laugh a little. Such spaces also allow us to let off some steam and cope with the anxieties and demands of academic performance. We need to make sure we don’t lose these opportunities, so that they can continue to give us a breathing space, all the way from kindergarten to the very last term of high school.