Couple of days ago, I was taught a lesson.
Having been brought up in a world where routines, schedules, and orderliness ranks very high in the order of proper behaviour I was trying through a learning activity to instill such values in my three year old grandson. I was stumped when he, a child who listens to me most often refused bluntly to comply with my “suggestive” instructions.
Every morning, when I am at Svanir and Matuiti does not have school, he drops in to my cottage for a session of indoor activities. He begins the day drawing trucks and lorries with as many wheels as he fancies.
After he has almost totally covered the cemented floor of the room and portions of our varandah, he stands up and from various viewpoints appreciate his art and urge me to do so too. Of course, I comply happily. Having met approval, he would look for something else to engage his exploring mind, for instance, a chocolate treat from my wife if she is around, or a game with me with a soft cotton stuffed cloth ball.
It’s worth appreciating that because he is conscious that I am still recovering from long drawn Covid, and that I cannot play with him for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time, he suggests that I should rest and read out to him from a Bengali book, with pictorial stories of Handa and Bhoda, two popular children’s characters. Enough of stage setting. Let me come to the reason for my anguish.
Since Matuiti has been enrolled in the nursery section of a nearby school, his mother Indrani and I have been trying to teach him nursery rhymes, alphabets and numbers. He has been picking up the information fast but in a playful manner. Writing down alphabets and especially numbers, however, has not interested him. Indeed, most children do not find that worth wasting their play time.
What would be a “logical” reaction to this in adults? Persuading, scolding, insisting, promising rewards on completion etc. You know the prescriptions of motivational theory: X and Y. His parents did just that. Crying was, at times the child’s last resort of protest.
One can’t say that such response on the part of adults is counterproductive; for all of us have gone through such experience, and have learnt our lessons under such circumstances, and to various degrees of quick success. But unlike parents, who have to juggle home and office work with child rearing cum teaching, a grandparent has all the time in the world to do otherwise. So, what was my reaction?
Surprisingly, the same but with a slight twist. What I attempted was to write down, knowing his penchant for sequential activities, a routine that first allocated time for him to draw as many trucks with as many wheels as he desired followed by a short indoor session playing with his cotton ball and then a school-type learning session. The reward: a round of audiovisual storytelling.
The most important aspect of the number and alphabet session was to show him that he would be able to do all that I wanted him to do if he followed a technique, or a memory link. For instance, high voltage power towers as A; he picked this up very fast. An upright pole with two bulges on the right for B, just a pole as the number 1 and so on.
But I met with intellectual resistance while suggesting that he should look at my left ear (when facing him) for writing 2 and the right ear when writing C. I failed to find a simpler analogy so he got fed up, and walked away. He climbed onto the bed, hid under a blanket and sulked!
The good news is that Indrani managed to teach him how to write 2 and a few more alphabets by following the school exercise book consisting of repeated writings on dotted lines. But he himself, the bright guy that he is, managed to find an appropriate link for remembering 2. Yesterday, he showed me a 2 and then quickly added a few more lines with chalk to turn it into a chair with four legs!
I pray that he picks up information in this manner and is able to convert that into knowledge.