Four days later, and Michelle still hasn’t recovered from whatever made our stomachs upset last Friday. Even though I’m feeling better and love working with the children at SOUP, I’m also really appreciating the time off while Michelle is recovering to reflect, read, and write.
I read a few chapters of the book Joy lent me, “Urgency of Value Education and Primacy of the Girl Child,” and I’m loving it. The first few chapters were basically an overview of the current Indian education system and the many barriers that exist for women in Indian society, particularly girl children. The first substantive chapter really explained the concept of value education. The book’s argument reminds me a lot of the guiding philosophy behind Shrimashram, the school we visited outside Kolkata. Like Shrimashram, the book emphasizes the importance of educating the whole individual through experiencing art, music, dance, drama, and yoga. I really like the Indian value of harmony and interconnectedness; this book mentions this concept literally every other paragraph and how important it is to make sure that this value is consistently maintained throughout a child’s education. When they say interconnected, they REALLY mean interconnected – the book goes so far as to compare scientific evolution to yoga, explaining how yoga is really just an evolution of physical mastery. I used to make fun of the yoga-obsessed people I knew at home who would walk around saying “it’s not just a workout, it’s a way of life!” Here in India though, I truly understand that phrase. Yoga IS a way of life, and this book focuses on how important it is to incorporate that into education.
Another thing the value education chapter focuses on is the role teachers should play in a student’s life. I took a class at Penn this year where we talked about how exactly you determine what a good teacher is and what a bad teacher is, and reading this chapter reminded me of just how hard this task is. Like the book says, the measure of a good teacher is not just WHAT they know, but how they teach what they know to others. The chapter also really focused on how important it is for a teacher to become connected to the souls of the children, and that above all the example they set for their students will have a larger impact than anything they teach them out of a textbook. It was a nice change to be reading this after all the focus that is placed on test scores in the US. It’s all very true – I don’t remember half of what I learned in grade school, but I can still describe for you the personalities of every single one of my teachers and tell you how they impacted the development of my own personality.
It was also really interesting to compare what the chapter recommended for inclusion in “value education” to the mini-curriculum Michelle and I have designed for the kids at SOUP. We just followed our instincts making the curriculum, combining what we had learned from working with kids before and what we loved growing up, and it ended up matching almost exactly what this chapter recommends. A good teacher needs to help a child understand himself, his place in the world, and how other things in the world relate to each other. He also needs to learn how to express himself, and needs support for developing a strong moral character. It’s really opened my eyes to the fact that the most important thing we give to these kids over the next few weeks may not be the new English words we are teaching them, but might actually be activities that help them to better understand themselves and their place in this world.
Katie McCabe's Blog
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