The ZP School of Bahiramkotak is in the Pen taluka of Raigad district. This is a story about young Aditi, who joined our school in the 1st std, some years ago.
In the beginning, Aditi would refuse to come to school – and if she was made to come, she would cry non-stop. She would start wailing as soon as the person who had dropped her off was about to leave. Even when her sobs subsided, she would sit in a corner all by herself and have nothing to do with her classmates. She would not play with the other children during recess, and would get upset if anyone approached her – often, she would start crying all over again, insisting that she wanted to go home. The other students began teasing her, which caused her to withdraw further into her shell.
At first, I assumed that Aditi was having trouble adjusting to school, as many children do. But I soon noticed that she would not join in with her classmates even when they sang songs, danced, or played games. I realised I would have to make special efforts to ensure that Aditi grew interested in school, else there was a real danger of her dropping out of the educational mainstream. I felt I had to learn to think like her in order to get to the bottom of her disinterest.
By then, it had been two months since school began. Aditi had made no progress in learning, nor had she made any friends. While other students drew letters in the sand, she could not be persuaded even to draw lines. I decided that if I was to enable her to learn anything at all, I needed to take things at her pace, and find out what activities interested her. While I worked on my approach, I continued to make a special effort to converse with her, encouraged her each time I got had a chance, and picked out colourful educational toys and games for her from the school’s collection.
One day, Aditi happened to lay her hands on a school photo album. That was the first time she showed an interest in anything at all. She would sit with the album for long stretches of time, identifying the people in the photos. This gave me an idea.
I collected photos of her family members, her house, her pets, their boat, and put them in an album for her. With the help of the photos, I started teaching her the alphabet. By then I had understood that Aditi had trouble relating to the pictures in text books. For instance, when the other students were shown a picture of a woman holding a baby and told that this was a “mother”, they grasped the concept. But Aditi needed to be shown her own mother’s picture to identify the word “mother”, only her own house was “house”, and so on.
Aditi liked the photo album – through it, her home and her family had now become part of her school. She would be engrossed in the album for hours. Initially, I had hoped only that this picture book would help her stay in school, but soon I saw that she would stop crying when she turned the pages, and would speak the words related to the photos. So I began introducing her to other words starting with the same letters, along with pictures of those objects. Gradually, Aditi started writing these letters and words in the sand. She was soon learning numbers as well.
As Aditi began acquiring these skills, she stopped crying in school. She grew more confident, and as she realised that she too was capable of learning, her inferiority complex vanished. She started interacting with her classmates. I had told the other students to not tease her, but they stopped on their own as they got to know her better. Watching the others, she too started reciting poems and tables.
In order to evaluate her progress, I had kept careful notes of her daily activities, and of the changes in her behaviour. I had even graded her progress, but the best reward was when her father said to me, with tears in his eyes, “We had given up hope that Aditi would ever sit still in school and learn. But now, thanks to your efforts, she actually studies even at home.”
That each student learns, and that her parents believe that she is learning – this is really all that any teacher can wish for.
Blog: Rajesh Bhoir, Teacher, Bahiramkotak ZP School, Pen taluka, Raigad district
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team