We all love stories

Posted: June 19th, 2012 | Filed under: General | No Comments »

We all love stories and we all love (well, almost all) children.  As adults in the roles of teachers and parents, we have read numerous stories aloud to children. At Designin Schools, we chose to instead tell stories about children and adults to teachers and parents.

Acting as parables, the various stories in the sessions on ‘Children and Creativity’ struck different chords at the two workshops: one with teachers of Vishwajyot High School, Kharghar and another with parents at Just Books Library, Nerul.Our stories about children: ordinary children, none proven ‘gifted’ by a stroke of luck or subjected to a ‘genius’ moment, led participants to uncover some of their own.

In a world where technology has infiltrated every aspect of life with gadgets complete with operating manuals in various languages, we thought children were the only one who land up announced, but without any operating manuals. A teacher’s response made us rethink, as she rightly pointed out, “The operating manuals for children are the grandparents and their wisdom”.

Creativity and children:
Little children often imitate / emulate their favourite idols, could be a singer or a dancer or an actor. They can easily modify things into a mike to croon into. In doing so, they recreate the idea in their own worlds; as adults we are unable to do that fearlessly. Imitation is the foundation of creativity and children are inherently creative and fearless. They are not afraid to make connections between different ideas and objects. The absence of fear, especially the fear of failure enables them to think abstractly and innovate for themselves. We share here some such stories.

In a mathematics class, discussing concepts of addition and subtraction, a child diagnosed with ADHD (or as we know it today) stood up to say, ‘Rain is addition and Sun is subtraction’. The teacher was baffled for a couple of minutes and sought to clarify what the child meant. He answered, but, with a straight face, ‘Rain adds water to our planet, hence adds and the Sun with its heat causes water to evaporate hence, subtracts’. This is a child who you may think is unable to pay attention in class, but his mind travelled to connect the seemingly discordant entities of mathematics and geography, which even teachers do not think of.

In another, a grandparent, also a senior educator recalled telling his grandson the well-known story of the ‘Blue Jackal’. After listening to the story a few times, the little boy said, ‘Why can’t the jackal be red today, or green tomorrow”? As adults, we have never wanted to question the authenticity of the ‘blue’ in the story but he did. Because, he was curious to know how the story will be if the jackal changed colours; and his did not take away the learning of the story but only made it more exciting for him.

In an art class, children aged 7-8 were asked to draw and a colour a duck carrying an umbrella. The duck was supposed to be coloured in yellow, but when one girl decided to colour it a shade of purple. When questioned by the teacher if she had ever seen a purple duck, ‘I have never seen a duck carry an umbrella either,” she quipped. Had she been severely admonished about the purple duck, it would have scarred her mind forever and not allowed her to think freely.

Creativity and adults:
In talking to adults, we could see the various apprehensions about nurturing and channelling abstractions and creativity in children, and also owning up to their creative surges. One of the narrations highlighted how parents tend to react adversely to the inability of a child to score full marks /high grade in mathematics but do not worry about the lack of such high scores in art or sports. This hierarchy of subjects or a caste system needs to be done away with by both parents and teachers. At Designin Schools, we believe that in engaging in areas of physical education, sports and all creative arts can result into life-long learning.

As it seemed to be the norm, a woman (now also a mother of two) admitted herself to an engineering degree. But during the first year she saw some other students pursue architecture at the hostel. Completely taken in by what architecture encompassed, she wanted to switch over but the worry about losing a year held her back. After pursuing a job in IT for several years, she gave it up to realise her true passion lies outside and now works on organisational behaviour and also engages in art.

In discussion with adults, rose several questions on how can grown-ups undo the effects of the hierarchic systems of education. As a response, we all turned to Vishal Khandelwal (from Safal Niveshak), one such example in the audience. With an education background in finance, Vishal worked as a Stock Market Analyst for eight years, before he decided to quit the safe and secure job, to follow his dream of becoming an independent financial writer. He established Safal Niveshak, a guide to movement to help the small investor, become successful in stock market investing decisions.

Education as a ‘Cash-Crop’
As a team of design professional with a wider portfolio, we have often been posed with the question, ‘Par Scope kya hai – But what is the scope?’ A question not faced by doctors, engineers or even teachers.

There is a tea-shop run in Navi Mumbai by 4 ambitious youngsters with great entrepreneurship skills. Armed without a degree in culinary skills or a formal education worth boasting of, they together serve around 5000 cups of tea everyday (incl. Sundays and holidays) at Rs.8 per cup; this with a smile every day, sometimes a whistle and a pat on the back of their patrons. Assuming a minimum profit margin of Rs.2 per cup and a maximum of Rs.4 per cup, we leave you to do the math. (Hope you have perfected your math skills)

After eight years of a successful career as a software professional with a well-cushioned job, Sanjay has now left it all to become an entrepreneur. He is working on opening a franchisee of teashops that will combine more than hundred varieties of teas with the right food. Sanjay has no formal training in culinary skills either, but his passion drove him here and he has taken the plunge.

These two unconnected stories were not narrated with a defined lesson, but were left open for the participants to make deductions. The first story invoked extreme reactions from some. One thought that there is a big difference in the 4 young lads earning that kind of money and their happiness quotient when compared to a qualified professional earning the same amount; purely because of their lifestyles. (This was pointed to the fact that the young lads did not fancy a four-wheeler or stylish clothes or latest gizmos; and hence their happiness quotient ranked low when compared to their profits. We are not sure, but are very positive that it is otherwise). Absence of formal education or a different lifestyle put a big question mark on their able entrepreneurship skills and hence their success. With the second story, not one doubt was cast on Sanjay’s entrepreneurship skills or his lack of experience thereof. This was clearly attributed to his past as the successful software professional and his access to formal education.

Several inferences can be drawn from the stories we shared, but we are confident that they all build and strengthen a case for creativity in education; and beyond it.

Please feel free to write to us here and share other such inspiring stories.

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