September was a month of festivities in grade 2……well, as much partying that I could allow without taking away from learning time :)
When the Gods…err….shared a bench…..
It was somewhere in July that little Sahil walked up to me and asked, “Didi, Tomorrow chutti school?” When I asked him what made him think so, this is what he said, “Papa bol rele the ke Hindu logon ka kuch to bhi hai kal”. Maybe it shouldn’t have shocked me, but coming from a little guy…..it did catch me off guard. I can understand why though, in case of any communal disturbances, low income communities, slums etc are the worst hit. In fact most of these communal establishments for all religions find their party workers and activist in these very slums. So it’s natural for the kids to develop strong biases without any rationale to support it.
So when Ganesh Chaturthi and Eid came almost in the same date slot this year (9th September and 10th September 2010), I thought this is an opportunity I must make optimum use of. A surprise celebration was planned for my kids on Thursday morning.
I came into class early and set up the idols, chart, flowers, aarti stuff and sweets etc on a bench. The kids meanwhile were queuing up outside the locked class door, clueless about what’s going on. So as the door opened and the kids walked in …… their excitement and happiness on seeing the entire set up was something that is hard to describe in words. As they walked in, I’d stationed Salman and Kunal on either side of the class entrance to say to every kid entering…..Eid Mubarak ! and Shubh Ganesh Chaturthi!
I’d requested the other school teachers to come in and sing the ganpati aarti (such karta dukh harta) in my class. After the aarti, everybody wished each other Eid Mubarak. So it was a 20 minute long free hugs campaign in grade 2. After which Salman spoke about Eid and Kunal spoke about Ganesh Chaturthi for 5 minutes. Of course, Kunal only remembered that we eat modak and laddu on Ganesh Chaurthi and forgot the rest of his speech :). We made three groups of 3 children each and they went to all classes and distributed the malai pedas to all other teachers. They memorized the line, “Our Class is celebrating Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi. Please have some sweets.” (That was a precondition; you get to be a part of the sweets distribution team only if you speak in English.)
The idea behind this whole event was not to preach them about god or to be god fearing. The idea was to celebrate the differences, to tell them that prayers from half cupped hands and fully joined hands go to the same place. Infact, I picked the south park bit about ‘Super Best Friends’ and told them that all Gods are best friends. So if you make a wish and if one god is busy, then the request goes to another god. I have never seem them listening with such rapt attention in any other lesson. As a finale for this celebration, I explained to them the poster that I’d made as a back drop for the gods, the merging of all religious symbols; and what it read below:
“Ishwar Allah tero naam
Sabko sanmati de bhagwaan”
It was over an hour invested, but sometimes certain non-academic celebrations are way more crucial and they should be prioritized so.
When percentages and ranks dissolved into (high) spirits!
This was the first unit test celebration party…..It’s good to celebrate any milestone. It was a first of sorts for me too, making papers grading them….filling in report cards to the parent’s teacher meeting. For kids who’ve performed well already, it gives them the momentum to work harder and for kids with low percentages, the promise of a bigger party at the end of the next exam works as motivation to perform better! So this was an attempt at celebrating the academic differences. Put cake and cola together and throw in a chicken dance……and the kids forget everything, and that precisely was the idea. Of course, I added my little speech about the class mantra:’ Work Hard. Be Nice’ and how need to work harder for the next exam and do their homework regularly etc. It was too good an opprtunity to miss out, their mouths were full of cake and they were so happy that they would’ve said Yes! to just about anything.
So here are my lil ones saying cheers with one glass raised and doing cow-a-bunga with the other hand!
PS : A big thank you to the volunteers who helped deliver the cake and stuff, and managed the games with the kids!