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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

~ Let’s All Assemble…~

 “How I learnt learning.”

                              Let’s All Assemble…

continued from Good Morning Continues...

 *all the he's used in the post are used in a general manner (student). They do not indicate any gender bias.

       The cries and byes ceased as the one thousand two hundred children, of different grades, different intelligence levels and different personalities entered the school. Each student, be it a first grader or a tenth grader, carried a monstrous or rather gigantic school bag. It would always be a really long way before reaching the classrooms. The lift was available for teachers.
       What I did not understand was that the teachers carried a purse and hardly two books, and the students carried a huge bag. Who needs a Lift, Teacher or student? I’d say why not let both get the facility.  a really lucky lift, I'd say.However, only teachers (and students in dire circumstances) would be allowed the use of the lift. The rest had to climb all the way to their classrooms.  
       Once the students reached their classrooms they would DUMP their bags on the chairs; next, they would head for the ASSEMBLY.                                                                                               

       The assembly- those twenty (or thirty minutes due to some delay) minutes, when all children of all grades assembled, in the corridors outside their respective classrooms… The students would stand in columns with their ties on- in a very neat manner and their shirts tucked into their pants. There wasn't one living being, who couldn't visualize the state of that same uniform an hour later. The assembly was definitely something very innovative (at least on the frontier). It was, better than just a prayer and anthem. The news headlines and some interesting facts were also told, which were only heard by the children, but not listened to. There is a considerable difference between these two tricky words. The birthdays on the day would also be announced. It was a motive to get the children together and pull out the program. This is because the pupils were made to collect information for news and also create a creative script for the daily assembly. 
              The mike and sound system were not upto date, but were well maintained. Sometimes the sound wouldn’t be heard on a floor or two. The assembly would be concluded by the national anthem and would begin with the prayer. The exercises were an integral part of the assembly. The assembly- which seemed very different and a unique system, was lovely and glittery. However, the methods used were least involving. The assembly never caused excitement in the students.
              Moreover the clashing of the bus timings and transitions clashed with the assembly. This caused a lot of chaos and a situation of disarray. A student just reaches his class, after running, pushing and then climbing five floors. He, just is trying to get his breath back. By the the time, he has kept his bag in the class and managed to get the oxygen levels to normal in his system, he realizes half the assembly is over. Can we wait for a boy and then begin the assembly? No of course not. But can't we wait for a hundred kids? This is because it is true that there are a hundred kids coming late. Not just the ones who come walking or have missed the bus. The children, who come by bus, too end up reaching late due to a number of reasons like reasons like tyre puncture, or any other reasons. I would easily be able to see students entering the columns, even after the assembly began. They would keep entering in between and elongating the line. This process was not overlooked or taken care of in any manner.
         In my former school I had never thought that there could be something other than just the prayer and anthem early in the morning. When I was introduced to this new system, I was delighted and found the assembly an improvement over the former traditional system. I had just joined this new school and found it all so very glamourous and beautiful on the outset. It seemed all ostentatious and magnificent.
        It was only when it was my class’ turn to host the assembly, and then I became a part of the assembly, I realized what I should’ve realized earlier.
        The students- who were the teachers’ picks and favourites would be the one who got all the credit and work. The making of the scripts and major hosting was usually done by them. It shouldn‘t be mentioned but it was a sort of gender bias- girls would usually be handed over larger portfolios.
      A class would usually be able to host twice a year. Never did there seem to be a change in the hierarchy of the hosts of the assembly. The weaker ones or the ones who the teacher had a dislike, never were given the chance to say any major sections. The ones, who would’ve told the important segments in the previous assembly, would always do the important segments again the next time.
        In my class, it would usually be girls given all the significant sections. I, or rather all boys, were given minor parts like the fact or birthday.
       No attempt was made in order to get ALL the children involved in the process. It was just the selected ones who were made to be involved in this procedure. It was like a caste system. The ones, who were to be left out, were left out. The ones, who were to be encouraged, were encouraged.
      No one thought of the development of the children. It was like just cleaning a lovely, expensive shoe over and over again; and letting the dirty sandal rot. Unless someone picks up this sandal, mends it, and then cleans it, only then does it sparkle. At the same time there is beautiful sparkling shoe, made of pure leather which is left to rot. However much the shoe may glisten and glitter, if left unattended, no one recognizes it, the shoe is of no use.
     Back to the assembly! If someone makes a mistake while narrating a part, that student’s weakness would never be acknowledged. He or she would be removed right away and replaced immediately. No wonder why the mistakes of the favorites were conveniently overlooked by the teacher. The focus was more on framing a good and flawless assembly rather than focusing on the development of the students’ oratory skills.
          No matter how much talent a child possesses that one rejection from the teacher and insult of being removed from the assembly, the confidence of the child is crushed and crumpled! That too, just for merely reciting a line a little fast or slow! What I fail to understand is that if the child is unaware of how he should narrate, how fast, how loud then he instinctively does what is right for him.
       Although, the child forgets the incident in a day or so, the next time s/he has a mike in his hand, be it ten years later;s/he shivers with the thought of making a mistake. He feels it is wrong to make mistakes. Actually, it is really good to make mistakes.
     “The Ones, who don’t make Mistakes, are the ones who have never tried…”
       But this timid child, feels making mistakes is bad. He never overcomes the rejection. Some may overcome the fear. They may not give a damn and say, “I don’t care a damn,.” That’s what I did. I was removed from the assembly for narrating the morning exercises too fast on the mike. That doesn’t stop me from hosting the teacher’s day. That also doesn’t stop me from speaking on the mike.
        But that was what I did. I, myself did a little self counselling to neutralize these dictates on my oratory abilities, plus being a homeschooler now, I don’t have to host or stand in any assembly. There are a number of others who can’t stand this sort of rejection. These are the ones who are never able to recoup. They live a normal life, do all their things perfectly; but when it’s time to speak on the mike, they fumble and fear elimination.
            So although the assembly looks à la grand on the outside, it is not as grand in reality.
        Yet, it’s just been the backstage I’ve been talking about-the hosting. It is just a total of six children compering the show but a 1000 other children hearing; only hearing, not listening, as I said earlier!

        The pupils may seem to be listening intently to the news, facts----- clapping for birthdays of others-----performing exercises-----singing the anthem and prayer-----all these things did really happen. However, they aren’t done with the discipline they should be done with.  According to me the assembly was just exaggerated in the magazines with photos of children in straight queues, in discipline. The students would be seen standing in order and had an intent and absorbed face.
           Here’s how the school magazine and word-of-mouth explained the assembly system: A really brilliant idea. So different and original! Children reach school early in the morning and stand in columns. They are refreshed by the very creatively designed exercises. They sing the anthem and prayer which causes them to have a wonderful day ahead. They sing birthday songs for birthday songs for their fellow school mates. They are enlightened with the news and get to know amazing facts and historical events that occurred on that day.


                 I am sure you’ve got a rough summary of how the reality of the assembly is, after seeing that I have given it a separate title.
     So, the rough (really rough I’d say…!) picture of the assembly is:
      When one tells that the children stand in disciplined queues-first of all it’s already half the assembly finished before all students manage to get into the queue. Some students opt to not stand in the assembly at all! Surprising, isn’t it? Then what do they do during those twenty minutes? Some choose to be in the toilet and some hide back in the classroom. The children who have come late are the ones who are more than happy to miss the assembly. As I earlier said, the assembly is least involving.
      Talking about discipline, students (including me) find it difficult to stand for that long. It is but natural to find standing for twenty minutes after a climb of five floors with a hefty bag. If it would be interesting, encompassing and a bit less monotonous, it wouldn’t be so difficult. An assembly, daily is really difficult. Bi-weekly or tri-weekly would be much better and create excitement.
       If scripts would be improved, some humor allowed (two really funny jokes early in the morning are more refreshing than the morning warm up exercise, the name given to the exercises), a guided meditation, if they are able to frame it,  and some excitement shown in the hosting. This would do it all and make the assembly better.
        However, the reality of improvement in the assembly shall only be a long lost imaginative script. The reality is what it is. Going through the motions…
     I myself would never be able to remember the news in fact an hour later. I wouldn’t hear it, some… or rather most of the times. The news were ultra-boring, no teenager or school going child would be able to connect to the news, unless it was related to a sport.
      The birthday wishes, were the only thing I felt were sincerely appreciated, that is LISTENED to by the students. I can guarantee this because the students would make fun of the surnames of the birthday boys and birthday girls. All would sing in chorus. The birthday song would be sung for nearly 10 children daily. However, if there wasn’t a birthday of a classmate or friend, hardly some would be heard singing the song. There would be incredibly numerous mistakes while pronouncing the names of children. You can make out the reason- the unawareness of the children of how they should narrate. The mistakes would be like-“Pardiwala” became “Padriwala”; even in the news, the names of many well-known people and personalities were twisted- like “Abraham Lincoln” would become “Abraham Linco-l-o-n”. It was really very disgusting. To not know how to pronounce a name or two of students in the school is understood, but not able to pronounce the names of well-known personalities.

               The exercises, which were called the ‘Morning Warm up Exercises’ were least stimulating. They didn’t seem to have any effect or benefit on the health of students-neither physical nor psychological. I never found out who had made such uninspiring exercises. They never motivated me. This is because they were monotonous. Moreover, all those people around me did the exercises without interest. They did it like a formality. The teachers, too, never seemed to encourage us in any manner to make us involved and enthusiastic to do the exercises. At the same time, the management never thought of improving the exercises of the assembly in spite and despite of seeing the children so bored with the monotony of the assembly; and exercises, especially.
                 So, this was the general scenario of the assembly. Then I question again. Is it necessary to stand in an assembly, to gain knowledge? Whether I do the exercises or not, does it really affect or has any connection to my intelligence? Do I need to go to school for that one fact, or one historical date, while I can know a dozen more events on the day and a billion more facts through the internet? Do I need to stand in an assembly queue for half an hour daily in order to begin my day? No…
       Then why school? Why assembly?
   Now that I am a home learner, it is not the assembly which is the beginning of my day. It is something I love doing. Usually I sit and read a newspaper. Sometimes it is just typing my blog until noon. Occasionally I select a subject and then browse about it on the net and see some videos about something that interests me. No more do I have to sing birthday songs without any interest. I can wish them on any social networking sites. I don’t have to exercise the way the school or someone wants me to, I do it the way I want to do it. It may be just a walk or jog.
            It’s really wonderful to sit on the balcony and write, while it rains outside. Really much better than standing in an event that was the same yesterday and shall be the same tomorrow.
      Now, I look forward to something different for tomorrow which will be different from yesterday…

        written by one Who doesn't Stand in An Assembly, But stands                                                               Apart...                                                 

       ©Shahen Pardiwala. All Rights Reserved.



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