New Term = Accessibility to Life Skills
I distinctly remember when I was in school, we had two breaks – one a short break after three periods and second one after another three periods, which was the longer lunch break. It was fun. A short break was refreshing and lunch-break was for food and games as well.
However, today in most schools (not all) there is only one break, which fluctuates between 25 to 30 minutes. Of course, it is done to accommodate the demand of increasing pressures of the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. But, I do feel it is taking away the much needed space for children. I as an adult cannot focus on one thing for more than two hours; so I wonder how students can either. Now, I understand even in a better way the utility of two breaks which we had.
Lunch also happens to be an important meal in the day to give energy, so that we can sustain ourselves. Less time for breaks also means less food intake. It is important that especially the younger students (classes I to VI) have two breaks, so that they can eat at their pace. Not to forget, children also have an instinctive need to refresh themselves after some time. Also, it is imperative that they have time to enjoy some social experience with their peers.
Further, I have observed that I, as a teacher, have to waste too much energy in settling the students when they have sat in one class for 4 periods at a stretch. They want to talk, relieve themselves, have a glass of water and more often than not need some time to look around, which should not be seen as their fault. And, by the time they have settled down and are ready for study, a lot of time has already gone. Let’s not forget the need to be on mark with the syllabus.
These are not the only issues, which crop up time and again when children have less space for their minds and bodies to relax. We dole them out generous servings of English, history, maths, etc, which is important, but without ample time and space for their minds, we restrict life skills which they could learn every day with a little bit of interaction. With more peer interaction they can learn important things like differentiating between right and wrong, team work, etc. e.g. while playing a simple hide and seek game, students can learn that one must take turns to do something, one must play in a team and one must not cheat for the game to finish on time. This can in turn build their emotional skills, enabling the student to make rational decisions and managing his/her emotions in the context of other people/friends. Games played with more than one person can teach the children to cope with stress. Even if children decide to play scrabble, they can put into practice the English lessons. Games like Chinese Whisper can improve their peer interaction and relationships. However, this can only be possible, when lunch breaks are a little longer.
More interaction could mean more disagreements/arguments between children/peers; and, students do have a knack of sorting out their issues. Here, we are talking about problem solving and critical thinking skills, as students find ways to solve issues or problems. However, social skills also go out the window if we inhibit the social interaction of children. Usually important meetings, deals etc. happen over a meal or a coffee i.e. a relaxed atmosphere conducive to sharing innovation and creativity. Not providing a conducive environment to children to share ideas could be inhibiting their social skills. Everything cannot be taught in the structure of a classroom. Have you ever noticed students in the class talking while the teacher is explaining something or talking to another student? I am sure yes. This can be attributed to restricted social skills. When students will not have enough time to develop these skills, they will not learn to listen to others, and respect the space of other people present in their atmosphere. This means we are not building empathy in students, which is considered to be one of the most important life skills by WHO. Further, good social skills not only improve interpersonal relationships, but also improve the ability of a student to communicate effectively, which can be very useful academically as well. To communicate effectively is another important life skill identified by the WHO.
Here, I would like to remind ourselves that these life skills are a very important part of CCE. These skills can actually be continuously developed and evaluated with the help of a lunch break. Also, as children develop these skills, they get to know themselves better and become open minded when it comes to other people, their habits, customs, traditions, etc. What is the point of education when our students still cannot question things or be open minded to different things in their atmosphere. This is truly the way we can contribute in building a peaceful society.
Lastly, lack of space and time, inhibiting development of life and social skills could be turning students into robots. With so much focus on marks, where are we heading? Are we heading towards an era of students securing 100 percent and cut offs out of reach for more than half of Indians? Of course, here, we are talking about raising the standard of academic excellence, but at the same time we are also clipping their wings and programming students to score just marks and miss out on other important elements of education. All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.
When I begin teaching XI std. at the start of every year, the students are full of dreams – someone wants to be a choreographer, and someone wants to be an entrepreneur. But, by the end of the year a few lose track of their dreams and there is nothing sadder for me than this. Why make education a gruelling task when it is one of the most crucial things which can make or break an individual’s life?
At the beginning of this new term, I have decided to nurture the talents and aspirations of my students give them space for their mind and integrate the curriculum with the world beyond classrooms, including good movies as an integral part of their school life. Education not only means books, but making children confident and aware individuals. The new term must be infused with new ideas or even old ideas with innovative execution. Let all teachers reading The Progressive Teacher, use this platform to share ideas to create space for children.
Priyanka Ohri says, ‘Having finished my schooling from Auckland House School, Shimla, I pursued my Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism. At present, I am teaching Mass Media Studies in St. Thomas’ School, Shimla. Teaching as a profession was discovered accidentally, but it is my second love after writing. There are two lessons that teaching has given me for a lifetime. First, to do what I love until I become perfect and second, you never know what you are capable of.’