Monday, July 7, 2014

Learning and Teaching - Where does one stop and the other end?

Some months ago, Raghav was talking about wanting to do a talk on astronomy, based on all that he had learned on his own, through reading books, watching DVDs and poring through websites. He wanted to share what he had learned with others. It was the first time he had voluntarily asked to organize an interactive session with children and adults.

As we got down to planning his talk, which was more for me to understand what he was wanting to do, I began to put down things that he wanted to share, give or do with people, as a mind-map. While we were talking, I realised that he had actually got it all planned in his head to the tee, and even in sequence, although it was not against a specific time frame. He also mentioned to me that he would like to do a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of planets etc., similar to the one we did on his Lego creations. Now that got me more interested, as I finally had something to do :). So we spoke at length about what we should put into it, what we should leave out, how to break it up, and so on. I was quite amazed at the clarity he had inside his head about all this, while I needed my pen and paper to think through it all :)

One thing that stood out from this long conversation we had was this:
"Amma, yes I know we will do a PowerPoint, and also fix a day to call my friends and others over for the talk, but what if I learn something more about all this in the time between planning and actually doing the talk? How will I put it in? How will I share it with them?"

I realised how stifling structure could be for a person who is such a free spirit in his whole being. Yes, there are ways we could work around those points. But that was not the point.

The point was that he had actually touched upon one of the most important aspects of learning and teaching....that to teach, you have to be a lifelong learner, and to learn, you have to keep your mind and heart open all the time - open to learning something every moment. Learning flows like a river with no visible beginning nor is an endless cycle actually, unless we see it with narrow eyes - as starting from a spring and ending in the sea. For where does the spring begin and the sea end??

I also realised for myself, that I had never truly seen teaching that way. Yes, I have given many lectures to teacher trainees and others, and taught kids with special needs. I have gone with an open mind and heart and shared my limited knowledge with humility, with no fear of saying "I don't know". And yet, I had not been truly open, not in the way he was suggesting. I had my lesson plans and objectives. I planned for a session and went with that, although I was open to being flexible and learning from the group during the session. But there was a gap - a space in time between the planning and the execution, where I had perhaps not kept my mind and heart so truly open. And that I think was the gap he was talking about.

Today, we still haven't made any headway with this talk. It is still in the air, talked about occasionally. Today he has moved on to other things. Despite making so many plans, including thinking about getting others to watch and listen to his talk on skype, making small take-away gifts for those who attend, and so much more. Yes, it was fun planning all that with him. And yes, I know that he may still not do this talk ever. Or he actually might. But I don't care really. I am happy to keep learning with, through and from him, every moment, because to be with him is to constantly be in touch with myself. There is no other way. There is no greater learning than that for me. And I know in my heart that he knows, and that he knows and understands learning and teaching way better than I do and will ever know. And that is all that really matters .

So where does learning or teaching begin or end? Do you have any thoughts on this that you would like to share?

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