After receiving a pre-loved basketball, a 10-year boy began bouncing it enthusiastically. A volunteer who was nearby said hello and learnt that he was waiting for a friend. When he offered to hang out with him till his friend came by, the boy threw him the ball. As he caught it, he dribbled a little before passing it back. The boy was impressed and asked him if he could show him how to do a “wraparound.” He obliged and showed him a few other dribbling moves too. The boy was thrilled, and the volunteer would like to think that it was a genuine compliment and not just flattery when the boy asked if he played for the national team.
Children are usually wanting to learn and look up to adults who attend to them with kindness and friendship. Perhaps, one may say that the boy was attentive because it was a context of fun and games, but I would say that he was attentive because he was attended to. Granted that schoolwork may not seem as inviting as basketball but I am quite sure children want to succeed at it too if they could. Basically, no one likes to fail. Failure is necessary but not exactly pleasant.
During a meeting, a colleague shared that 5 teenagers were always present at a weekly homework support programme but they were often reluctant to hit the books. Instead, they would sit among themselves and chat. A disruptive presence we may say but they have not been mandated to come and if they just wanted to socialise, they could do so elsewhere. So, we need to consider that these youth learn best through dialogue and they seek to be attended to by a supportive adult who is able to help them hear different perspectives and to problem solve as a group.
Today, information is easily accessible and all the more, being a supportive adult to a young person or even a peer must be more than simply being a knowledgeable person. When people come together, they need to understand that they are simultaneously students and teachers. They are part of a partnership where each one helps in co-creating a satisfying experience where there is much self-reflection, thinking, learning, teaching, and last but not least, an emotional connection.
By the way, after trying out the moves he was shown, the 10-year-old invited the volunteer to the street soccer court saying that he was good at football and will be happy to show him a few tricks if he wanted to learn.
Relationships are important for engaging people and it is not just the level of rapport we can establish but also how we perceive others. As people in the service of others, do we believe that we are here to change people? Or would it be wiser, more humane, and realistic to say that we are here to create a context for people to act on the change they want in their lives?
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
Education should be a process of self-discovery, of developing one’s own capacities and pursuing interests and concerns with an open and independent mind, all in cooperation with others. – Noam Chomsky