Patience, attentive listener, and careful observation are the key principles to understand the learners that one is teaching. Otherwise, the children can easily outwit you as they are also capable enough of weaving a good story (read a lie).
My current role at Tamarind Tree requires me to have a one-on-one meeting session with 56 learners of upper primary. These are all between 9 to 15 years old. I appoint a meeting with 8 students every day, making sure that I meet all the 56 students within 2 weeks. I have to understand how each one of the students learns and accordingly I am to derive activities. While reading through, you may see your own reflection in one or more of the traits mentioned below. During these meetings, I have got to discover how witty the children’s mind can be. Based on these meeting sessions, I have categorized the following types of learners:-.
Diligent: The diligent learner is very sincere. Will listen and follow up every instruction given. S/he will never break any rules, always punctual and compliant. Sometimes I tend to forget to follow up with their respective assignment, but I need not worry about it because this one will come and submit the assignment even before time.
Lazy: The lazy ones, I have noticed are very sharp otherwise, provided they are being prompted. This one doesn’t like to do any of the tasks given. It’s a huge pain in the ass as they repetitively forget to complete the work. Sometimes I wonder if I am being deliberately sent here to place me in the shoes of my mentors/professors. I can utterly empathize with them now.
The Whiny One: The whiny one will absolutely find every reason to blame others. S/he likes to exaggerate and complain about every tiny thing in life and thinks that the entire universe is against her/his favor. “Usma! The internet in my system is slow”, “Usma! My head is paining”, “Usma! See they are humming in the class”, “Usma! They are teasing me, please do something about it”, “Usma! …” And the ‘never-ending’ complains goes on. Most times, I try to deviate away from complaints and tell them to pay attention to the tasks assigned.
Always Need Validation: And this one doesn’t like to take any chance to make mistake before attempting to answer a question or Quiz in MyBigCampus (an online Learning Management system we use here). I literally have to beg them to go ahead and make a mistake at least and stop calling out my name to confirm it.
The Inquisitive One: This one really excites me, but sometimes it can be quite challenging because I am expected to have answers to all the questions. But at the same time, this one opens up doors to process more knowledge in my head.
Low Self-esteem: This one is very challenging to deal with. I have also learned to strategize how to motivate these kinds of kids. Needs a lot of hand-holding to bring out their potentials.
Dreamy/Not Attentive: This one likes to be in her/his own world. While in the middle of instruction, you would see him/her looking somewhere else always. To get her/him back to the track, one has to shout out the name.
The Mischievous One: I am sure you all remember that one kid in the class who will find every possible means to create a ruckus. This one is very clumsy as well, I have to think twice before lending him a storybook or using my laptop. If you were one of them, you have given a really tough time for your teacher, also someone to remember forever.
Reserved: This one is very well composed, likes to stay uninterrupted in her/his world. Sometimes, this kind of personality also attracts the opposite. We have some examples in our school. For all those reserved people there, you might not be aware but your classmates might have been crushing over you.
The Philosopher: Not only adult likes to think deeply, but there are also many young kids who like to question and understand the existence of life and their surroundings. Such a student normally comes and questions me about things that make me question my own existence sometime.
Of course, in 8 months I can’t possibly understand children’s mind hence I have generalized all of these characters as I am regularly dealing with them in my 20 minutes meeting slot. I am facilitating English as a secondary language in integration with the main subjects — Science, Math, Coding, Observation, and Digital Literacy in my school. Almost every day, I am being reminded of my teachers and couldn’t be more thankful for their patience and perseverance. Sometimes I wonder if I have been able to make any impact on my teachers, just like these kids did to me.
Once a co-facilitator mentioned “Teaching is the best way of learning”, in the desire to leave a meaningful knowledge I prepare myself in learning the concepts well which require me to unlearn and relearn theories/concepts that I have either forgotten or didn’t really register as a child. I now understand the fun part of teaching, it is the essence of being infinite as a lifelong learner.
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About The Author: Usma Dhammei a 2018–19 cohort India Fellow, working with Tamarind Tree in Dahanu, Maharashtra. She has been given the role of a digital facilitator with a group of children from tribal communities. Turns out, the kids are teaching her a lot more and it has been a joy ride!