– By Karthika Vijayamani, Teacher at Tejasvita Trust
It was a Monday. A stations day for us. It is the day we give children a choice of explorative art activities to do. We teachers set up our stations as usual. One station had the vegetable printing activity. The station had a variety of cut vegetables children could pick, dip in colours and print on paper. Children enthusiastically came to pick their tray of vegetables and colours and set to work. Darshan (name changed) completed his first sheet of vegetable prints and went to the teacher to get a refill of paints and sheets. He then happily went back to his spot to resume his work but, oh no his vegetables had gone missing. I watched him, wanting to see how he will react. Will he make the choice to come up to the teacher and tell about the missing vegetables? Will he cry? What will he do?
Darshan is a child who keeps very much to himself and is very reluctant to come to the teachers for anything. I was keen on seeing his response. I watched him from across the room, anticipating a response. Not bothering about the vegetables anymore, he started dipping his own fingers in paint and making prints on his new sheet. ‘Nice move!’ I thought as I went on with my work.
A little while after, two very excited kids who were walking about in the classroom came up to me and very enthusiastically guided me to Darshan. They pointed to Darshan and said “Ma’am see, see” pointing to his fingers, which were all covered in different coloured paints. They went on to point how messy it was and trying to bring to my attention that Darshan was doing something totally different from what he was meant to do with paint, paper and colours. They looked at me with wide mischievous eyes, with a hint of pride like an alert citizen who had warned the policeman of a trespasser, waiting to be applauded for their act and also waiting for me to admonish Darshan for his. Darshan stopped his work and looked at me. I looked at him and encouraged him to continue his work. Two things happened then. One, a big smile of relief from Darshan. Two, quizzical smiles pasted on two highly bewildered faces of the other two boys totally surprised at the turn of events. Soon, everyone was back to doing their work.
After the class as we were packing up the things and were about to leave. Darshan came up to me and said, “Bye ma’am” and waved a good bye. That was the first time he had ever approached me by himself and said something. Class had gone on like usual and the above incident would have gone unnoticed as a part of usual class if not for that small wave of hands and that smile of confidence from Darshan. It was such a small incident and maybe it took all of 5 minutes but it made a difference to someone’s confidence. I am hoping that it also helped Darshan’s friends to realize that they are also free to explore.
Exploration happens when the mind is free – free of boundaries, free of fear and free to soar. We strive to keep our classrooms that way. And sometimes if we are lucky, we get to see the baby steps happen on an ordinary day, in the usual hustle of the classroom, in a smile and gentle wave of multi-coloured fingers.