Friday, July 4, 2014


In this day and age of computers and technology and gizmos, I find it quite strange that most people and schools still give so much importance to writing - handwriting. Why do we need to write still? Have we sat down and thought about that deeply?

Looking back at my school years, I remember how we used to dread our handwriting class - yes, we used to have a class just to practice good writing! I always felt that it was almost an art class of sorts, as all we did was to copy rows and rows of words, perfectly formed between two lines, every single time. And we would be graded for that! Sounds silly doesn't it? I remember how I used to write beautifully in this handwriting class (even got the top grades for it!), and go wild in all the other classes! My writing today speaks of my rebellious spirit - it is a scrawl, it follows no rules, each letter stands on its own (I always disliked cursive writing, and we were not taught cursive at all in school) and each letter would be formed a different way every time! For a long time, I had trouble keeping a standard signature :)

I also remember how when Raghav was younger, my mother and grandmother used to ask me to get him to write on a slate with chalk, as they felt that that was the best way to get a good, neat handwriting! One's handwriting was supposed to reflect one's personality. And personalities had to be the best, always. :)

Raghav however disliked writing, ever since they started it regularly in school, and more so when it started eating away into his playtime. It became one of the sore points for him to dislike school, and with a vengeance. For a long long time after he got out of school, he did not touch a crayon, pencil or paintbrush. He did not want to have anything to do with writing or drawing. And so we gave up. We then moved to a space of just letting him be. It happened when we trusted him and life. And then one fine day, he asked to paint! My heart took a leap...and soon, he was painting the whole solar system, one planet at a time!

But he would often feel sad if he felt that the drawing or writing did not look close to perfect - perfect the way he had imagined it in his head! He would sob and throw the pencil away. He would react the same way, even if I didn't draw something perfectly. I remember a day when we were chatting, and I casually asked him about writing and what he felt about it, he told me how the teachers at school always wanted the letters to be perfectly formed, every single time. He also pointed out how they would ask them to write words without having shown them the spelling even once! "How is that possible amma? To write perfectly every time, and know the spellings without seeing the word even once?", he asked. I realised that in many ways, he was a perfectionist, and wouldn't even attempt something, until he was sure of himself. I also realised that he was a strong visual learner. That was how he learned the spellings of words - by seeing them repeatedly over a period of time, not so much by sounding them out.
Today, I spent a good part of the afternoon planning games with Raghav for his birthday party tomorrow with a handful of his friends He finally voluntarily took a break from Minecraft to think up of games and clues for a treasure hunt game that he wants his friends to discover their treasure (his gifts to them!)...I was amazed at the clues he thought of for each, that were like small riddles...this is the first time he's doing something like this and so it does mean a lot to me!

And then I was asking him how he wanted to do the clues, and he immediately dismissed writing saying: " The computer is better actually for this as the letters will come out perfectly...I will type out all the clues and then print them out...I also haven't used the computer for this in a long time!"

"So it means a lot to you that the letters have to look perfect?", I asked softly.

"No, not exactly.....but I would prefer that! I don't want to write," he smiled.

He went on to type out all the clues on his own, with almost no help from me with the spellings. He had learned the spellings on his own somehow. I don't even know how or when.

There are so many different reasons why children don't want to write. Why don't we just let them have their way? Why don't we rethink our need to hold on to writing, almost like a religious custom, which if not followed, will pave our path to hell?

I think that writing, as a skill that needs to be taught and practiced, today has taken on a role like what grammar has to a language. We are now so caught up in the nitty-gritties of both that we are losing out on the larger beauty of the whole picture. Writing is but a tool for communication. Language is but the medium. While looking at what's missing or wrong, or what needs correction or practice, in both handwriting and grammar, we are damming the natural flow of the river, that already knows where to go and how to get there with ease. We are looking to teach a river how to flow and where to go.

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