Observation

The twins’ school has this concept of “observation” where the parent(s) can go and sit in on the class for a short while once in a way. I thought it was a great idea. School, especially in these early days, is so much of a black box for the parents. Your kids go in, and some hours later, they come out. What goes on in there, nobody knows. The kids know, but they ain’t talking. Mrini and Tara have enough of a vocabulary and they can talk a dog’s hind legs off, but when it comes to school, they are less than forthcoming. “I played with toys” (or “tawys,” as Tara says) alternates with “I played with Navnit.” Sometimes, they volunteer alarming information like “Diya scolded me”. “Why?” I ask. “Because I cried.” This sounds like the outcome, not the cause, so I ask “why” again. “Because I bite Diya,” is the next attempt.

I think the twins are not very clear on the difference between fact and faction. To any question their answer is just as likely to be true, or completely made-up. Plausible, mind you, but not true. I don’t think they are actually lying right now… I prefer to think that it’s more like they don’t really get the difference between truth and telling stories.

So anyway, since I haven’t heard from their teachers yet that either of them has bitten anyone, I tend to ignore that part of the proceedings. But, apart from this sensational news, they don’t have much to offer. They sit through the drive home in silence, only occasionally speaking to demand to know the entire sequence of 21 songs on their favourite audio CD which has to be playing whenever they are in the car.

So, observation seemed like a good way to find out what they were up to in school. Not that we parents really need to know – as long as they are off my hands, and somebody else is handling them for a while, why do I need to know what, exactly, they’re up to? But, of course, we parents are a nosey, interfering bunch, so of course, even though we want our kids off our hands for a while, we do want to know what, exactly, they’re up to in our absence.

I spoke to the class teachers, and they said that Amit and I could both sit in for a half-hour or so one morning right after school starts. When all four of us got into the car to go to school that morning, they girls were quite happy, but puzzled. We explained that we were going to be with them in school for a while and they looked even more puzzled.

When we finally settled down in their classroom, seated on the floor near them, they both sat down to do their “work” quite self-consciously. The teacher told Amit that they were being on their best behaviour just because we were there to watch.

To be honest, I didn’t watch our girls that much. I was busy watching the other kids. Because the Montessori environment has kids of ages varying between two-and-a-half and six, you get to see what the older kids are up to and what your kids will, hopefully, be able to do, in a couple of years. I saw some of the kids working on spelling activities, another one working on a set of wooden blocks. Most of the kids were focusing on their work, though they also spent time looking around and interacting with their friends. I liked the fact that kids could choose what they wanted to do, and do it at their own pace. I saw one girl tell another that she (the first girl) wanted to do the wooden blocks, once she (the second girl) was done with them. I saw the second girl nod, continue her work, and, after some time, put the pieces back in their box and hand them to the other girl.

At one point, a boy came to the teacher and said he wanted his snack. It was still quite early, just after nine, but the teacher told him to go get his bag and sit at one of the tables in the corner of the room. A few minutes later, the boy was back, saying he didn’t want it after all. But I liked the fact that he was allowed to go and have his snack when he wanted it.

When I had sat in on the class in the early days, when the twins had just joined and all the kids were getting settled in class, it had been a much more chaotic environment. Now, it was generally silent, organized, and not restrictive. The kids all seemed somehow responsible for maintaining their environment. They pulled out chairs and tables, and put them away when they were done with them. Activities were restored to the appropriate places. Mats were rolled up and put back in place. It was good to see that the kids were aware enough and trusted enough to do these things themselves.

When we left, we said bye to both the girls and I told them I’d be back to pick them up as usual. Mrini smiled, waved, and continued to do her work. Tara waved cheerfully enough, but a moment later came out of the class in tears. The teacher asked if I’d like to take them home, but I thought Tara would be fine in a couple of minutes, and Mrini was happy enough, so I decided not to. Later on, Tara told me, “Because baba going that’s why I cried.”

Just when you think they are growing up, you realize how much they are still babies.

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9 Responses to Observation

  1. Supriya says:

    Very nice of the school to let you in to take a peek. I can imagine myself having a huge problem with not having a clue about what goes on in those 2-3 hours. But the prospect of Little p rolling up or folding mats by herself is very inviting. I can’t wait for school to begin and for her to get such important life-skills in her repertoire. πŸ™‚

  2. 101dreams says:

    Seems like a more evolved approach since the time that we were in school πŸ™‚

  3. Sowmya says:

    From the kids’ point of view, absolutely terrible idea πŸ˜› Gosh I’d have been very nervous if someone from my family was coming to watch me roll mats and put away chairs!!! Would raise expectations way too high at home gawd!

    Hehe Mika, waiting for u to return fire πŸ˜‰

  4. doug H / Mrwhatzit says:

    I think the freedom to develop self-discipline and interpersonal respect is one of the best aspects of the Montessori approach.

    Nice story, Mika, nicely told, as always πŸ™‚

  5. doug H / Mrwhatzit says:

    Reading that back, “the freedom to develop self-discipline” sounds like an oxymoron.

    I guess I meant that they don’t try to fit their students into predetermined boxes. Rather, they encourage them to discover their own interests.
    Once each child discovers the things they’re most interested in, what follows is a sort of self-discipline which comes from within.

  6. poupee97 says:

    Sowm: Sorry, dear – the kids were only too happy to have us around. They had been asking me almost once a week whether I wouldn’t like to come to school with them, rather than just dropping them off. They don’t get the concept of school as a place for kids. Anyway, I don’t think you’d have been nervous when you were 3. What expectations at home??? They’re perfect devils at home and only do what they’re told under the direst of threats.

  7. poupee97 says:

    Doug: I don’t think “freedom to develop self-discipline” is an oxymoron. But yes, you’ve elaborated it well. Now when is that self-discipline going to be transferred from the Montessori classroom (sorry, environment) to the home???

  8. Sowmya says:

    Hehee, just you wait till they grow up! Hmm wish I could see them man!

  9. […] out what our kids are doing in the three-plus hours that they spend in school. We had been for it last year as well, and came away enlightened and delighted in equal […]

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