All it takes is to ask — WhatIf?
Can you recall a moment where you have questioned yourself on something you witnessed or believed? Have you ever had this feeling when you thought about it and felt “oh what if” ?
I’m sure you would have had these thoughts running through your head, like all of the times I have wondered:
What if a creative solution to a problem can be implemented?
What if we could fly to our destination, crossing this traffic?
What if flowers could talk to us?
Don’t you think these thoughts always help us push our thinking a little further? These thoughts often help me delve deep into my thoughts and reflect on how I perceive and react to each of these thoughts running in my mind. Unfortunately, in this fast paced world, the space we give to these wandering thoughts is minimal at best. This makes me think “what if” we all took some time to think and answer all those creative thoughts/questions that keep popping up in our minds every now and then.
I was recently introduced to this thinking of “what if” as a part of the WhatIf exercise at Key Education Foundation when we partnered with WhatIf-Global to pause and re-imagine education for our children. I realized how I wasn’t giving enough importance for all the possibilities this one phrase could give me. As I kept thinking more about it, I got to reflect and pull out all those unacknowledged piles of questions that were stored in my shelf of questions that I always ignored. This exercise helped me know a little more about myself and the choices I make.
By the end of our internal exercise I was inclined to take it to a larger audience and hence decided to be a part of this campaign and take this opportunity to our stakeholders and our teachers in specific.
With the same zeal we started this campaign with our teachers. We conducted this for a period of 4 weeks with 4 different themes. But as a team we always approached our teachers to share knowledge and this new approach of thoughts/opinions sharing seemed a little offbeat to them. This was one of the challenges when we started off the campaign with teachers.
We started with a theme on personal challenges, and moved onto parents, teachers and children in focus as themes for the subsequent weeks. While few teachers were comfortable to share their #Whatifs, others needed a prompt to push their thoughts around it. We used images, sentence starters and more to nudge our teachers forward in expressing their thoughts.
We had few image prompts for teachers to share their thoughts on “what could we as humans do to take better care of our planet earth?” We also had an image for them to express “what is the wish that comes to their mind when they look at an image where a boy is engaged with soft toys and girl playing with blocks and manipulative toys?”
We had amazing sharing around these, I would like to quote a few where teachers expressed “#Whatif we used biodegradable materials instead of plastic? ” this was so thoughtful while the other teacher expressed “#Whatif we saw the world as a classroom?” These thoughts left me amazed about how our teachers could think, articulate and acknowledge the concerns, and made me wonder again:
Whatif opinions were not merely options to be discarded but ideas to be valued?
Whatif ideas were idealised? and then maybe, even realised?
Teachers had an option to express their whatif either in form of art, story, audio or text anything that they are comfortable with. Here are few that I hold very close to me, to share a few on theme child in focus we had a teacher express, “whatif children feel free to share their own opinions” this largely covers all the small battles that we fight towards freedom of child to express and also touches upon the socio and emotional development of the child. When we look at parents in focus, one of the teachers felt, “ What if parents take advice from children?” surprisingly this again aligns with the whatif shared on the child in focus theme. It emphasises that a child should feel heard and acknowledged. Now looking into the teacher herself sharing from her perspective, this will amaze you “Whatif teachers ask students “what would you like to learn today”.
Looking into all three perspectives deeply made me realize that all of their thoughts are strung together so progressively towards growth, expression, achievement. As an educator it makes me think how all stakeholders’ perspectives are aligned strongly to convey to this society that we should always be open towards including the child’s opinion in everything that we are trying to accomplish for them. We always assumed we give the best to our children and we don’t have to ask them about anything, but the experiences we are having with them and this “#whatif” campaign highlights and re-articulates our thoughts on how we should include children and hear them out in the design and development of their learning. You may be wondering, how can we involve them and receive feedback on what they are learning? But children are always creative learners and thinkers so let’s start this journey by listening. You may just be surprised at how much a little person can tell you about their own needs. And even if you truly believe you know what is best for your child, it doesn’t hurt to ask them and lend them your ear.
Just think: #Whatif children were also looked at as an important stakeholder in their learning?