I believe that teaching is a process which involves the learning of both the teacher and the students. I enjoy working with children when they are full of questions and at times I am OK with saying “I don’t know. Let’s look for the answer.”
Any research based or inquiry-based project seems to work well for me. I enjoy leading the children through the process of developing a research question. It’s always interesting to hear what goes on in the minds of these inquisitive learners. Last year my grade 8 (14-year-olds) were working on the impact of government systems on individual and Societies. Students took up the case studies of India and Pakistan, some of them worked on Arab-Israeli conflict, and yet another group picked the Berlin Wall and its impact on the population.
It was interesting to see how to learn to co-own the learning and how they interacted as writers, authors, newspaper reporters; making presentations to each other, talking to the parents about with their grandparents histories via listening to oral histories, we even used Skype interactions with schools in Pakistan to understand how the thinking has developed in both the countries over time.
Our topic covered issues such as marginalisation, migration, division and inclusion. All of this was moving into uncharted territory for the children. Many of the activities and learning were guided inquiry, but the students also took their learning in their own direction, and they were very excited about looking at such real examples that they could relate to.
Further to this, they were keen to contribute to their ongoing class blog, which is open the parents and beyond. They also commented on the blogs of their peers and shared their thoughts and input to improve.
Along the way, I asked children to think about any research question. Each research question was unique. They then created an action plan to follow to answer their question. Through this activity were developed so many skills that were needed for my subject. But interestingly, their general awareness improved greatly and they not only understood what had happened in the past but also how the events they were researching impacted on the present.
We also took them for a field trip to one of the border areas of India and Pakistan. The students saw the exchange between the two border zones and came to know that the events of the past have been exaggerated at times, interpreted in different ways and that partition of India and Pakistan was as painful for Pakistan as it was for India.
As a teacher, I learnt that the child is not the only learner. We all are learners in the process of life. The parents need to learn what to tell the child and not colour their opinion. The teacher needs to learn how to guide and mentor the children. There are also lessons for politicians and the media to be responsible. If all people are principled and open-minded of the world, there would not be too much that we would need to do.
I realised this style of teaching not only aided me in letting the children explore in different directions, but also gave me a direction by the end of it.
It was a win-win situation and we all enjoyed it thoroughly.
Aprajita Ralli @ApraRalli is History Subject specialist – NCR Delhi , India