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Ray – A Drop of Golden Sun.

During the training at TFI, there was a lesson in Pedagogy that talked about the four R’s of teaching – Rigor, Relevance, Relationship and Reflection. For some reason, the only R’s I would remember to include in my plan were Rigor and Relevance. The Relationship came naturally. The Reflection was somehow, mostly missing from the plan. That would only come in my long commute back home or when my own daughter did something to remind me of something that happened in class. But as I do some reflection at my own time, I cannot help but think of one more R word that kept coming up in my class – Religion.

It started innocuously. As an innocent question during lunch – Miss, are you a Hindu or a Muslim? And I volleyed back a question with a smile – Why does it matter? The question seems pertinent at the time. And because the small kids were not be able to articulate their reason, or felt shy in doing so, they dropped it. Until next lunch break. Lather; Rinse; Repeat.

But then, I knew it was a conversation that had to be pursued. So one fine day, I actively discussed it. In class. So that it wasn’t a stray conversation between me and a handful of kids. It was there for everyone to hear and participate in. And out came the tidbits of religious indoctrination in little children. Ranging from how one God is bigger than the other, to the eating habits of one kind being better than the other, to a request to convert to another religion, and how if I do – I will die. I have fielded questions about the existence of Gods, ghosts, and devils; whether God will beat me for having a tattoo and even whether a five pointed star is better than a six pointed one. All this from a class of second graders! Even within the children of the same religion, they don’t shy from correcting each other’s practices. (And then reporting to me afterwards with beaming faces!)

That religion is a major part of their lives is no surprise. The real task is turning that big chunk of conscious thought to something that’s going to have a more meaningful impact in their lives. I saw that I was that rare presence in the kids’ lives who could actually show them some rational thinking. Even if it was at a small scale. I consciously started driving rational thought in class – as morning meetings, reflection on behaviour and even class debates. Without trying to intrude on their beliefs, I gave them a way to explain things based on tangible facts instead of just hearsay. It was a pleasure to observe kids actually describing a chain of potential events to explain why I shouldn’t place my phone at a particular spot as was my habit!

Motivated by that ray of hope, in my second year, I have tried to introduce them to critical thinking and concept of cause and effect to keep that spark inside their minds going. Just so they don’t let go of that reasoning habit.

I have mentioned this more than a few times to my school management just to plant some seeds in their minds too – that we as teachers have this power over our kids that we don’t appreciate enough. What we say and do becomes their thought and action. As we nurture them, they will grow. The more we show them their talents and abilities, the more they will believe it. The more we show them the ways to make good things better, the more they will be inspired to fix the wrongs in their life in a constructive way.

This has been the focus of my efforts since last year. I know 2 years is hardly any time to make permanent a change so radical, all I can hope is that this fire in their mind will continue to grow. When they are faced with a difficult situation, they will have the courage and the habit to work their way out instead of relying only on divine interventions. Maybe they will even be able to spread this to other significant people in their lives including their parents. For all I know, they will become the very miracles their families pray for.

So many hopes. Such little time. We do what we can. And “pray” things will sustain.

Ahem. Amen.

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