They insist that he must be in front of their eyes. Some of them ensure that Kevin is looking towards them and is well settled at the table, though far away from them. A few have started insisting to bring him out of the bag otherwise he will get suffocated. This is the Minion - the one whom I introduced as Kevin and now the students say, he is more pleasant to talk to. Let me share with you how this started and where it is headed!
I teach English at Wisdom World School, Kurukshetra. The classes where I go to teach the subject are grade IX to XII. These are the years when they are fighting hard to keep the tag of 'child' away from them. They want to be the 'millennial and the smart-teen. There is an assertion in everything and unintentional aggression at moments. The children are growing and with that is dying their innocence and humility. These virtues are the foundation of engagement in the classroom. The former leads to curiosity and questions and the latter brings healthy discussion, be it academics or life skills. The school believes in the Zenjin Philosophy of Education, the one which identifies with my own belief in Life-Long Learning. The ideas from Dead Poets Society, or Freedom Writers or Tuesdays with Morrie or even from To Sir with Love all lead to a subtle understanding about teaching and the motive behind it. I do need to mention two other books alongside Zenjin Education (Kuniyoshi Obara), one is Diwaswapan by Giju Bhai Badheka and the other is Duishen, published as Pahla Adhyapak in Hindi.
The classroom does not get the mention of these heavy names and philosophies, but I have tried my best to serve them with the taste of goodness. While reading the Harvard University publication 'Teaching by Heart', I have realised that we teachers are responsible to 'Introduce the Students to GREAT TEACHING. All this is not possible - actually never possible - by using the same linear and stereotyped approach. A teacher is not a master or boss or an instructor anymore. The designation has died long ago. By realising that one needs to be a facilitator, the view looks better; the ground looks friendly and interactions are fruitful. The only thing that works in the classrooms of this century, is 'EMPATHY'. Accept it or not, you do know that the teacher you remember as your favourite actually had this spell of empathy on you.
Learning has to be a journey, not a standard/grade/class/session/term-bound activity. Teachers can be the agents and fortunately, at their own level, millions of these influencers have been doing their part. If you look at the canvas of startups, innovations and even the amalgamation of various disciplines in researches, it is evident that there is some change visible. The young INDIA, and even the whole world, is changing. They do not believe in the cliched - Think out of the box - anymore. The mantra is: THERE IS NO BOX AT ALL!. This brings me to Kevin again. My ultimate desire in teaching and as a teacher is to ensure that I make a dent in the perception that the students have of classroom teachers. I have tried this in HigherEd for around 14 years and have good dividends. Now in the K-12, the results are even more fascinating with their speed of revert. Kids love Kevin as it relates to the fundamental urge to learn through storytelling. The plantation of a 'planned diversion' has helped me keep them in the class itself. First I took the toy to online classes. As they had no reason to see me as a new entry, I had to give them a reason. the screen was the same, the internet and machines were the same. But when reached them was different. It was seen as fun, maybe a random act for a few classes. But, Kevin stayed, I survived the litmus test of consistency by carrying the toy in the bag for more than a month.
I have always believed that a teacher has to believe in his methods and mindfulness otherwise he won't be able to make the students believe in him. Of course, one needs to be 'original' in the wonderful world of copies. But all this shall come at a cost. The death of procrastination as well as of the fear that you may go wrong. Oh, Dear! There is nothing wrong or right in war and teaching. Either you make them learn or you learn what needs correction. The focus needs to be on just one thing - Happiness in learning. Kevin is a toy and the kids I have mentioned are the same who are said to be busy with PubG or what others they say... some PGMI or CandyCrush. They have their own fascinations and doubts. That's is what we need to work on. The dent I had mentioned in the beginning is to be made in that very zone.
Based on records (the students I have in a strong connection), I can insist that a teacher can do wonders. For me, it is just the beginning of expecting these wonders. I can see, even after 14 years of teaching and learning, that I am yet to be the good one. But, I know, responsibly and honestly, I can see that horizon. Taking Kevin to the classes, placing it on the desk and often picking it up to the WebCam and send a hello or some other assertion is just a normal thing. It has helped me bridge the age gap as well. I am sure, the same magic shall work, even after 20 years. If students allow you to feel young, adaptive and adorable, they make the best of that opportunity - encash it asap.
And yes, they are so much engaged with his idea that one of them said they will Kidnap Kevin, another said, he will bring Katappa to the classroom to meet Kevin. Someone else asked about his admission and a student of XII - that's Senior Secondary - introduced Kevin as their new classmate.
And not to forget, Kevin has started getting the chocolates and candies as a classmate if there is a birthday in the class.
What else, I would need to keep the journey on this happy track - that's the spirit of Carpe Diem!