Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dear Ma'am, my twins haven't completed their Holiday Homework!

The following post is more of a funny take on the notion of Holiday Homework. It is a heady mix of fact and fiction, and hence, depends more on drama to laugh and ponder over something.

Dear Ma'am

Today, at 1 am, I woke up with a start. SR and SB have not finished their holiday homework, and their school reopens TODAY!  I am sure that you are going to judge them on the completion of their holiday homework, and hence, am 'petrified'! I am very sorry, but...please don't pull up my twins for my tardiness. The fault is all mine.

I tried my best. After all, which mother does not want to be acknowledged as a supermom by her child's class teacher? But, I was kind of taken aback by the two pages of work, which according to your estimate, could be completed in 30 days. This scared the *&;^% out of me and I lost all interest and excitement.  And, at this unearthly hour,  I am wondering whether that was a smart move. Because, ultimately, homework is the yardstick that you will use to measure my achievement as a mom, and my twins' achievement as learners.

You stated that 'summer is a time for taking a break from regular academics' and 'is the time to relax, unwind and have some fun'. However, you were concerned about a 'learning gap' that could possibly occur, and hence were so thoughtfully assigning this work. Pray ma'am, what 'learning gap' are we talking about when a child is entering 'grade 1'? Further, much of the HW that you had assigned was drawn from the textbooks and workbooks assigned for grade 1.

One thing became very obvious to me. You have very high expectations for SB and SR, and other kids like them. Let us see what those expectations are: 'learning an entire song in Hindi' (you have very thoughtfully linked up a youtube video which looked quite garish. SR was positively freaked out), writing the sources of water on an A4 sheet of paper (I couldn't see any reason why an entire A4 size sheet should be wasted for that, so, in an apparent act of 'deviation', I just showed them another garish video that you had linked. I didn't make them write. Incidentally, you have yourself pointed out to SR and SB on so many occasions that paper must not be wasted).

You had very thoughtfully told them to learn a song, poem and a story in their mother tongue. I am sorry, but my knowledge of singing is very limited. And as of now, SB and SR seem to be sharing a similar trait. But they do talk in their mother tongue, and can understand the language. If that was your intention in assigning this task, then by all means, they have achieved it.

On an earlier instance, you had insisted that children 'assimilate' a lot of 'vocab' and hence, they need to be exposed to all kinds of words. I tried reasoning with you, pointing out that expecting a UKG kid to spell and recognise the word 'embarrass' without even understanding the complexity of meaning and the phonetic structure is a tall order. In a single stroke, you just homogenised all kids and stated,  'Other kids are able to do it. Only SR and SB are not able to do it' suggesting in a sinister way that maybe, I was responsible.  With all humility I submit that, without your wise and educated interventions, it took me around 30 minutes to teach my sons the contrasting pronunciation between words like  'this' and 'thin' and then, sort such words into groups. At the end of which, both the parties concerned were equally frustrated. Maybe I don't know English. Or maybe,...I am not a good teacher.

One good thing that happened as a result was that I travelled back in time and recollected my own summer vacations while at primary school. It was a time that I had enjoyed and looked forward to. I made the decision that my sons would do the same.

Though you had not assigned any art and craft work, my twins painted one picture every possible day. I have collected them carefully. Would you like to see those pictures? (I am sure that you very 'thoughtfully' didn't assign such work because, you didn't want SR and SB to paint the walls of our house with their creative output. The damage is already done ma'am:-))

SR and SB learnt how to hold on to the tea filter securely (while an elder pours out the tea) which is actually a demonstration of their fine motor skills. Would you like to see that ma'am?

SR and SB learnt how to build a lego car. It took them three days, with the assistance of their nanny, to follow a manual and complete this task. You may say that it is mechanical and does not endow them with the halo of academic brilliance that you expect, but yes, they did group the lego pieces, interpreted the various steps of assembling from the manual, and finally built a car. I am sure that those skills also figure somewhere on the objectives listed out under Bloom's taxonomy.

My sons learnt and recalled the various landmarks in and around the place that we stay, and of course, learnt a few more things about passenger trains. This is because, we have to pass along a railway track every time we go out.  Do you want to ask them how to identify a Shatabdi, a Duronto, a passenger, a goods and a MMTS train? They will surprise you. (Why do I get a feeling that you won't ask? Incidentally, this can be classified under spatial intelligence.)

SR and SB learned to identify how different categories of groceries and products are arranged in a supermarket. They spelt out the words on the signboards and tried to help me locate the products that I wanted to buy.  (Of course, I had to give them their jellies and Cadbury Gems as a reward). I had the pleasure of watching them evolve into these 'angels' who helped me with everything that their tiny hands could carry.

During this vacation, SR learnt how to clean vegetables with a piece of clean cloth and sort them out into different environment friendly bags so that they can be stored in the refrigerator. SB learnt how to arrange his toys back into his cupboard so that the door closes completely.(This was a major issue earlier!)

SR understood that his grandmother was undergoing a surgical procedure for her eyes, while SB understood the importance of dental hygiene (especially after losing two teeth. The chap now brushes his teeth every night before going to sleep. Experience is indeed great teacher!)

The list goes on ma'am, but I get the feeling that I have lost you somewhere in the first couple of paragraphs

I am not sorry that you will not read this. I am not sorry that you will not see the value of 'experiential learning'. I am not sorry that you will still insist on the power of the written word, the spoken story and the song that is sung.

I am only sorry that in your enthusiasm to avoid a 'learning gap' during the summer vacation, you will judge my sons by their ability to complete the tasks that you have assigned. I am sorry that you will not see what they have actually 'learned'. And,...they are going to be with you for this entire academic year, and hence, I am scared.

I'm afraid my twins haven't completed their holiday homework. I assure you ma'am, the fault is entirely mine!

Your truly
An anxious mother


appusmom said...

Great post Savitha. I completely agree with you and I think the Indian system has a long way to go from rote learning to experiential learning. I remember thinking in school that by the time the next gen comes up, we would have made this transition - but with my son starting first grade(��)'s more or less the same... wonder if/when things will change

K Krishna said...

Do we even wonder why it is said, " The hand that rocks the cradle....". the narrative was so captivating that by the time i completeed reading the entire narrtive, i had to rush to the refrigerator to cool the boiling blood.

These teachers, i tell you... (or, did i tell you? ) :)

Very good narrative. The pathos of a mother and the understanding of an educated adult have been intertwined very successfully.