Circle Time is when children find more about themselves and what they are capable of. It is a time when they begin to realise how they can relate to others. Every morning, children and teachers start their day with this articulation of their feelings, ideas, and plans for the day. Together, they also set the structure for the day. This makes children aware of what their shared expectation is, and how they should individually plan their work as per this structure. It is also an experience of developing mind-body integration. Children and teachers engage in a variety of exercises which combine simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing with positive visual imagery. It helps the brain to improve or learn new skills such as concentration.
Learning is a process of constructing knowledge and making sense of the world. It is a social activity. When children enquire about various processes and phenomena, they begin to collaborate in developing a shared understanding. This cognitive and social engagement enables children to become more aware of their own thoughts and thinking too. When they talk about or explain what they do, and how they do, they begin to reflect on their own thinking and develop insights that can inform further action. Learning then becomes a process of self-assessment, and assessment becomes the process of learning itself. Through various specific and general learning experiences, children are engaged in developing criteria or traits of the topic/question of exploration which they are able to use as a tool for self-assessment.
When children write, it is to write about what they have thought… to write what they already have in mind. This is very different from sitting down to think about what to write. This form of articulation or notation becomes a tool for self-reflection. Children in Junior Classes are encouraged to write for pleasure. They use their creative imagination to not refer to the past, but to create a past that belongs to them. They are able to connect to themselves, give voice to their feelings, and become more aware of themselves through this practice of self-expression. Teachers play a vital role in talking to children about what they feel in order to genuinely know them better. Their role is to activate, especially indirectly, these meaning-making and self-refection abilities in children.
To be silent is to live in the present moment. It is to listen to one’s thoughts, and become aware of them. It is to be able to connect one’s conscience with one’s consciousness of silence. After every engaging activity in school, the children and teachers, together, sit in the Gyan Mudra for two minutes and practice deep breathing. They try to establish that connection with the present moment by becoming conscious of their breath. The observation of Silence Time by the entire school just 15 minutes before the children leave for home is a profound activity for our collective soul.
All teachers are engaged in learning encounters with different experts through the session. Dr. Ravinderan, a renowned education psychologist, has been instrumental in empowering teachers to understand the needs and special needs of all children. Through many such intensive workshops, we have been developing an understanding of certain clear domains that all teachers need to keep in mind when engaging with children in developing the class constitution or rules. Through a dynamic process of cognitive and social democracy, all children and teachers develop structures and rules that fall in the domain of communication, movement, respect, conflict resolution, resources and any other class-specific need. These are also practically reviewed by the class from time-to-time through the year.
A classroom is the birthplace for values, attitudes and interests. When children experience problems, they begin to share how to address these problems. Teachers guide children in being able to co-create certain structures and practices that can not only become reminders for keeping problems at bay, but also principles to generate thought about how to create meaningful practices. Hence, children also begin to shoulder responsibilities in class, becoming managers of stationary, notebooks, fun sheets, cleanliness, lining up for movement across school, and issuing of books and other such aspects. They begin to listen to each other and respond with respect.
The nature of human language is that it is a tool not only for expression, but also a tool for thought to develop and flourish. Language becomes critical in areas where we need to organise our activity. Then, to co-create meaning, and reflect meaningfully to create meaningful experiences for the self and others, language plays the role of connecting people. This culture of sharing is strengthened by activities of organising events together with children. These experiences not only develop passion for collaborative work, but also the value of perseverance and persistent effort. And, in turn, children’s expressions become symbols of respect for work-based relationships wherein words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ move from being mere automatic responses towards genuine ethics.
Children, living the culture of childhood with the legitimate right to be the citizens of today are encouraged and facilitated in developing skills that explore relationships in society. Children learn in an environment that values enquiry and raising questions through observation and reflection. This takes children for many a trip and excursion to places out of school, into the community. This also fosters in children a sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability for the learning encounters they take up. This way of exploration eventually becomes a way of thinking and of life. The worldview that children continue to develop through such experiences informs children’s activities both in and out of school. The boundary between personal and school or other work then begins to dissolve and what emerge are only newer and newer horizons to be explored.
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