SPIRITUAL PRACTICE WITH CHILDREN -1

Dr.madeswaran

Dear friends, today is Deepawali festival. All over India it is celebrated with lights and colors. It is the festival for children to enjoy, to learn  and to relax. Today I am very happy in sharing very unique experiences with my children of all age group. Because after being a Montessori teacher, my spiritual sadhanas [ practices] are with my students. They teach me , they make me to feel- realize the cosmic life and often they check my ego level. This article will help you to realize the reality behind the children, so that you will understand them and make them to grow without stress.

The incidents mentioned here has happened from the day I became a Montessori teacher . The names has been changed. After every incident try to find where we are along with the children? We must also try to change our self  to help the children. I am not boasting myself through this article, but I am just telling you that children will evolve along with us ,if we change. I am still practicing various aspects of child psychology through Dr. Montessori's teachings and Indian Vedic tradition.

1.The inner orderliness: Yesterday we were celebrating Deepawali festival in my school. After the 1 hour celebration, we started our classes. I went into one of my preprimary class for Tamil class. I use to call each child and give individual presentation while teaching the script.

When I went inside the class first the children protested the session. Their class teacher  explained the need for the class and the first child was called. She came to me and said that she was painting her clay lamps for the festival. She herself said that after painting 3 lamps she will come to learn.

Then I begun the class with an other child. After 25 minutes, she came with her note book and sat before me. She said that she has completed the painting work and came to learn Tamil. No body forced her to come. This is the inner orderliness inside the 6 year old child. But we need to wait for the evolution.

2. Children never ignore any thing: Yesterday  we put up a show in which children dressed like various Indian states and spoke in the regional languages about Deepawali. We want our student just to listen the various languages and costumes. But many adults commented that children will never listen and enjoy. The show started , children started coming to the dais and  started speaking. I was surrounded by a big group of 6+ children. They were playing, talking but suddenly some came and asked about the variation in language  and costume.

After the show, 2 children from grade 3 came to me and said., '' thank you sir! we were very eager to visit Rajasthan state [ a west Indian state], but today we saw how a Rajasthane look and talks''.

The entire show will never attract every one .,but we need to prepare our shows and work for children who deserve for them. Immediately we cannot expect them to come and share their views. They will observe and reflect some time later. So let us not ignore any such opportunity .

I can share you one more incident. When I was telling the stories of Deepawali in preprimary, I taught the children to wish in Tamil. After 3 days a child of 6 year old called me when I was going to van. He said., '' Tamil sir! thank you for teaching me to wish in Tamil. I have made a Deepawali card for my grand parents and I want to write and wishes in Tamil. Please help me tomorrow!'' Next day the child started learning fast to read and write. So what ever we do  with true love and dedication will be a call for the children to grow.

At the same time there were children who did not participated in many presentations. Some of them came and told me that they felt very sorry for that because they have to complete other work. This is the beauty of self order inside the children. Most of the Indian schools ignore to do many activities ,because the teachers think that it will be a waste. But I will say , your hard work in putting such presentations will make the children to respect you and come to you for more work and learning.

3. Children observe us: One day a grade 7 boy came to the staff room. He said that he wants to observe how I am writing the drama scripts. I gave him the chance to observe me , while I was making a skit for their class. The boy was so calm and keenly observing without any question. Then he also left the room. Few months later he gave a note book in which he has made one of this poem as a skit. He also thanked me and said that he will be exercising more script writing. 

Then I made him to change his handwriting, spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Today he is one of the best actor in my school and also doing well in the subject. So I say that what ever we do , children will observe and eager to know and we need to make that approach to work with them. But we need to wait for the call, change and slowly guide them..

4.Children listen to us: Very often we complain that children never listen to us. It is wrong. They will listen to us, if we tell them politely and  firmly. But we must be confident in the matter which we are advising or insisting them to follow. They always respect our words if it is really giving them the clear message. But they are not ready to accept if our words are not conveying the fact clearly. In this we need to be very patience and also firm without hurting them. But continuous remembers are always having good effects.

Example: When I started teaching primary children every day I was spending 25 minutes to settle them, to clean their class . One day I just stopped talking when they came to the class. Slowly they started cleaning the hall and settled . I did not not say any thing. But I have written the agenda for the hour, and children were very eager to do those activities and because of lack of time , most of the exercises were left out. This continued for few more classes. One day few of them met me and said that they  were upset because they could not do most of the planned activities. They blamed me for that.

I just smiled and explained how their delay in arrival, class settlement and other actions are eating the time and how we were unable to do the planned activities. Next day there were handful of students who came soon to the class and started settling the desks and cleaning the hall. Even they started arranging the desks for their friends. Few went outside and started bringing their friends soon to the hall. Then as usual when I started the program they  said ,'' tamil sir! e are sure that today we are going to do all the planned exercise. We have understood the value of time and work...''

Till today they are keeping up the timing and working well.

5. Children like us to respect their time: Today we are not at all listening to the children for genuine reasons. One such issue is to respect their time . Very often my students have requested me to give some time to complete an other work and to start my work. I have respected them and allowed them to do their work. Most of them have finished my work and respected the dead line.

Example: Last month I gave an album work to grade 2 students. It will consume half an hour to do. That evening few children  represented their whole class and requested to extend the dead line time. They were in a position to finish a math and social studies project also. So I asked them to fix a dead line. Next day they announced their dead line for submission . When few of them failed to submit on that they they them self gave consequences and made them to finish.

6 . There is a reason behind every issue: If a child has not submitted a give work , we need to question why? Because there may be many genuine reasons. But at the same time we must have a track with the child in getting the work. We must be very alert in following the child and home situation.

Example: When we celebrated Navarathry festival, we planned to represent  each state in India to talk about the festival in the regional language. So we selected children who came from different states. One 4th grade girl got selected for northern states. She also accepted to help in knowing about Maharastra state , because her father belong to that state.

Three days later she came to me and said that she cannot work with Maharastra state because both of her parents have gone to London for their business. She was very particular in time, project and wanted me to help her in that work. So we need not say that the children never respect the work and time. The work given to them must be challenging and light. Every day the home work  schedule must be well planned by the teachers.

There are students who write their own letters for not working at home. There are many many reasons behind each child. We must listen to them. But slowly we must help them to work by them self.

Every child wants to work . But there are many reasons behind their lapse of work. There are parents who did not allow the children to work at week ends. There are homes were parents are always involved in office work , business, world tours, week end parties,  family issues, hospitalized, separated partners, etc. Children also have many disabilities like difficulty in reading, writing, listening and understanding, tuitions and external influences.

So we always  respect Dr. Montessori's views about child psychology and follow the child. At the  same time please be aware about the areas where children will take advantage over us.

Example: When I started teaching Tamil script to   Meena , a five year old girl ., the class teacher said that she needs to be addressed in a particular angle. Because she has a disability of hearing. Because of this she became a slow learner. But we just treated her normally and gave individual presentation in Tamil and her targets were different. Slowly but steadily she learned and gained confidence in learning. Today she is in grade 2 . She is doing normal reading and writing. So we must always think in setting goals to children from their aptitude level. If every school do this help for the students, children will never hate their schools and work.

6. Children need our recognition: Children always need our attention directly or indirectly. They approach us for our  recognition. If we fails to do it, then we lack their respect. We need not appreciate them with a gift, but just a word is more than enough for them to proceed further. But the teachers and parents never wait for them . We want every thing  in perfect immediately. We do not spend time in just seeing and appreciating their work. Their talents are very often compared with pioneers and criticized. Their talents are buried by marks, tests and comparisons.

If you see in preprimary class room, when ever we give any work for the elder children, the smaller children also approach us to give them some work similar to the elder ones.   This situation is often faced by parents in homes. What ever the father or mother do , the child wants to try. Montessori advices us to leave them with their level work and follow it. Just teach them how to do. Do not expect the perfection like us immediately. Recognize their small work. Appreciate them for their help. If you teach the work and allow them to work along with you, they will never disturb you.

Example:1.  When I was teaching drawing to niece her 4 year old brother asked for a color pencil. I gave him a color pencil and a paper and made him to work. The boy did not disturb us for more than 30 minutes. Today he draw and paints well.

2. My friend's wife is very particular in watching and recognizing her son's work. Today he loves and shows his affection and respect  his mother. This attention never interrupts his work. The mother's attention and recognition has made him to approach her for any issue without hesitation and he has strengthen his belief on her.. This is the effect of a simple recognition.

3. When ever my children start their first writing, reading I give a big applause and make them to feel their very first experience of reading and writing. This has pushed them soon for more learning. They have gone home and told their parents that they are able to read and write Tamil language.

4. When ever my 2 graders learned very ancient poems and recited I have made them to realize that first experience . They have shared their experience and also recited the songs to others.

But our appreciation must not make them to feel over confidence about their work.

There are many children who are unable to show and improve their talents just because of parents attention, teachers negligence and poverty. Montessori environment provides an opportunity  to express their talents. Modern education has made children just a learning machine. Children are loosing the art of enjoying a music, flower, nature , painting, poem and the aesthetic sense  of human being is slowly getting erased.

In our school we recognize every work and guide the children to move forward. Every Friday, we send back their work for their parents. Even a small paper cutting, scribbling , coloring  will be send. Every work has its own perfection. It has to be appreciated.

Example: Next week we are going to celebrate our project day. Grade 4 children are performing  a Tamil play. When I invited the children for participation, Kavin refused to participate. Later when he saw the play he approached me and asked for a small role. He expressed that he likes to act but feel very shy to stand upon the stage. Next day I gave him a small role to act. Within a night he prepared the script and acted very well. Today he is asking for more dialogues. So simple appreciation, recognition makes children to work more and further.

In this context I like to remember how the small squirrels helped SriRama the great king of Ayodhya. They carried  sand particles and dropped into the ocean to construct the bridge towards Lanka. SriRama recognized their work.

When small children try to do some work along with us, we must appreciate them and recognize their work. During project day , it is very very tedious of teachers to sit and listen to every child 's presentation, but when we listened to them they were taken to the next level of developmental stage.

There were always handful of children who  cried when no body came from their family. A second grade child will put up only solar system, plant body , farm animals.. but for them the concepts are new. It is their own exploration. Why cant we appreciate them? Why we feel boarded? Let us think!