by Rachna Shah, Language Program Co-ordinator & Outreach Program Manager
Every time I interact with parents in meetings, or workshops, I am intrigued at the contradiction that presents itself as on the one hand parents claim to support the skills of collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and innovation as significant in the 21st century, and yet on the other hand, there is a persistent insistence on demonstration of learning in traditional forms like worksheets, tests, and graded exams. “At least send me one worksheet every day!” and “Why are his scores so low?” and “How is reading a book homework?” are remarks thrown at me, as the Language coordinator at school. After months of witnessing these inconsistencies, dealing with the frustration of repeated explanations and reading several books and articles, I finally wrapped my head around this pattern! Their beliefs were driving their mindset, behaviours, and requests. A belief, a rather elusive concept, is something that is accepted as the truth without a definite base in reality, or research to validate the contention. This lead me to delve deeper and discover more about where do these beliefs originate, how are they really accessed, are they modifiable, and if so, then how?
Naturally this led me to activate my senses and I became more cognizant of people’s reaction, as well as my own behaviour and attitudes, and it was truly a revelation! I perceived the huge discrepancies in human thought, word, and deed, using myself as the prime subject in my little, private experiment! However, it is important to note that these new pair of eyes was anything but comfortable. It made me want to change my lenses and revert to the old ones, and often shut my eyes preferring to be uninformed. Even though ignorance is considered bliss, I beg to differ!
Not seeing, not knowing and not being aware was as discomforting as it was to see, to know, and to be aware!
It was a double-edged sword, and I figured that since I was going to be bruised either ways, I would rather explore and feed my curious mind in the process! At least my neurons would fire away, making new connections and create new ideas!
After partaking in this self-discovery mission for an extended duration, I realized that this is journey was one without a destination because as you dig deeper, you embark on other unexplored areas that require even further shoveling. Literature informed me that beliefs regarding teaching and learning are formed through one’s own experiences, both personal and schooling, and beliefs are pervasive, in that they are difficult to modify, especially when formed early in life. This defined my ‘a-ha’ moment! The inconsistencies that I was witnessing over the past months made absolute sense. Even though I had convinced myself that I bought into the so-called ‘effective’ instructional strategies delivered in professional development, and subscribed to skills relevant in the current decade, I secretly yet held on to certain beliefs rooted in traditional practices, such as demanding a certain level of obedience and discipline in my class, expecting to complete my curriculum demands in the stipulated time regardless of other factors, subscribing to a particular seating routine in my class, my need for control, to mention a few. After all, being a victim to the traditional schooling practices, and parenting styles, I had implicitly incorporated those conventional ideas into my cells and had unknowingly allowed them to shape my actions, ideas, and notions related to the learning process. Then how was I expecting the parents of my students, who have also been part of a similar conditioning process, by virtue of a common, shared cultural background, to embody new age ideas, and revamp their expectations and demands? Was this again an unacknowledged belief of compliance playing out in my life?
I had opened a Pandora’s box, and everything I had shoved below the carpet over several years was finally surfacing! Regardless, I am smitten and cannot escape this continual reflective process! The parents have led me to awaken a sleeping lion, for which I am grateful (secretly!). I have started appreciating how several of our behaviours, thoughts, feelings, reactions, preferences, and orientations are driven by our beliefs. More importantly, it’s like I’ve unearthed a ‘magic wand’, almost like a secret code to alter any external factor. And yet, I am cognizant that this ‘code’ needs to be rewritten, requiring tremendous effort, patience, gentleness, perseverance, and faith! I guess the hope is that since there is no predetermined destination, it can be self-paced process. After all, each step ahead, no matter how small, is yet a step in the right direction!