Friday, January 2, 2009

Play to win or play to play

And so one learns to teach, and teaches to learn ....

This is about Parenting, and Education, by the way.

Although we have put our kid in an alternative school (read, no tests, no homework, a happy go lucky place), we are not at ease. We keep wondering why his spelling is so bad, why his attention wavers so much during studying, etc.

And so, finally we succumbed to the old trick.

Papa bought a football for Pavan. (He loses it almost every month). And told him that he can have it only if he passes a 'test', in which he will have spelling, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all together. Out of thirty five marks, if he scores at least twenty, the ball is his. If he gets more than thirty marks, he gets a chocolate too.

One hour for preparation, and the time starts now!

I have never seen the boy this enthusiastic. I am cooking, but he comes into the kitchen and gets me to help him with his revision. He memorizes big words like ' pradakshina' as I fry the onions. Then we do some multiplications and divisions. Dinner is almost ready and only five minutes left for the test to begin. The little one suggests that we quickly re revise his spellings once more!

Papa announces that no music, no eating in the same room, no distractions. The stop watch starts. And test begins. Like all tests, this has a big surprise. Instead of spellings (from the essay on 'holiday in Tiru' which I had made him write the previous day), he has to write a paragraph on his recent holiday.

Pavan quickly comes to the kitchen and touches my feet. I am thrilled. 'Papa too!' I tell him.
He is looking at the football on Papa's table as he gets his blessings.

For an hour the entire family goes through the 'test' vibrations. Pavan takes a water break, then a pee break, then a potty break. The stop watch pauses.

The boy is again looking at the football as Papa corrects his paper.

'Should I cut marks for bad grammar?' Papa asks me.

'Please don't. It was supposed to be a spelling test.' I say.

And, he gets..... twenty five out of thirty five ......and jumps in joy on Papa's table and grabs his football...and breaks the rule of not playing inside the house for the next two hours....

'This was a good idea.' I say to Prayas over dinner.'Maybe we should put him in a regular school with tests and marks and numbers.'

'Lets see.' he says, the wise one for a change.


Two days later, I ask Pavan to study.

'What will I get ? A Skateboard?' he asks.

In panic, I write to his god mother, first teacher of Riverside school, Navjyoti. Here is her answer.

Rewards and punishments have long ago been rejected through research and studies. Learning has to be a joy in itself, not something inspired by an extrinsic reward. Intrinsic motivation is critical to making him a lifelong learner. How long will you give him balls and bats? Won't his demands for rewards become bigger with time? The real world will give him no rewards for every little step of his, which will be a disappointment for him when he goes out there. When we try to allure them with rewards or threaten with punishments, the message we give is that if it weren't for these, my teaching or your learning wouldn't be worth it!
You need to find schools that are truly focused on each student. Its unfortunate that our schools teach subjects, not children.


Nino's Mum said...

it's a worrisome scenario for any parent - and one that my husband and I will soon have to burden: if alternative education is letting our children live their childhood's stress-free, can it also backfire?
Have been an intermittent reader, and have always wanted to tell you that I find your blog very familiar and charming at the same time.
Adding you to my blogroll, if that's okay.

JOY said...

life is always the repetition of the same cycle, only difference is in the level of external evolution, now all the kids are very same, the real purpose of the education is to let him become what he has in him. and for that the education has to be fun. so dont think much, but do feel a lot, react to the feelings in way of actions which are practical and possible for you and shall find your kid following you. as kids love to follow their papa and momma, and they love to feel themselves smart than what they are.

Banno said...

You've made a tough choice. I chickened out, and put Dhanno into a regular school. I like to think however that parents can influence children over and above schools. But I do hope you find the right one for Pavan.

Sreejit said...

Very nicely written piece which basically summed up such a important issue.
Its really a sensitive choice and one on which lot of things depend.