elementary & primary: orientation sessions

As is the practice with NammaShaale, this year too, there were orientation sessions for the parents of elementary and primary children. On 4th of July  it was for the primary group and on 11th of July it was the turn of the elementary.

Following is a report filed by Jayashree Janardhan Ashok in respect of the elementary meeting on 11th. Though the scope of the meeting was to have been to bring out the various stages in the growth of the child and how the school and home can understand and assist the child – targetted primarily at parents who are kind of new to the Montessori mode of education, there seems to have been some ‘beyond the scope of the agenda’ interesting and impassioned discussions and sidetracks around the aspect of physical education.

I like impromptu discussions. I wish I had participated too. But, this time I have passed up the chance, not willingly, but I was not invited, luckily for you, I might add! 

Rashomon, that Akira Kurosawa classic, beckons. 🙂

Jayashree has presented her point-of-view, her take on how the meeting was and her views have been ‘pasted’ below verbatim from her email – with her express permission.

Thanks young Jayashree, for the write-up / report.

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The Role Of Physical Education

We had a very full and productive workshop by Rama with elementary parents last Saturday. Many aspects of elementary education were explored. It was wonderful initiative taken by Rama and the school in initiating such a dialogue so the school and parents are more in sync. Several questions and topics came up including task completion/following a passion project and the overall objective of balancing different work areas. Due to shortage of time we could not explore this topic fully but made very useful inroads. We then had a debate on the role of physical education primarily through questions raised by me – with active participation from Rama and several Namma Shaale parents. Reshma later brought up several questions on Math and Science education and Montessori approaches towards the same. We also explored several aspects of Montessori and the different stages of growth of the child.

I’m taking the liberty of continuing the dialogue yesterday on physical education. This is an important area and I’ve been exploring it for a few years now. I’d really like to request a longer dialogue on physical education. It will be wonderful if more people can post comments on this.

My primary intent is to really get all of us to take a hard look at how we view physical education. Perhaps not enough of us care about this. And hence this absence of physical education at Namma Shaale. Many of us view it as something dispensable – not “real” work. As parents who have chosen to put our children in a holistic education system – we must relook our positions. Several of the points I’m mentioning below are in response to yesterday’s dialogue. Here there are – and hopefully the context will be clear from the responses.

Yesterday’s discussion was surprising for me in many ways – while looking at physical ed – there seems to be a clear separation between education and physical ed. In my humble opinion there clearly seem to be several misconceptions about this –

1)Physical education in itself needs to be seen as integral to education not separate from it. Yesterday’s conversation clearly showed a lack of awareness around this. We kept separating work and physical ed. As lovers of science – one of the best science platforms is our own body. Learning to care of it is as much a science experiment as any. A sensitive physical education program can teach a lot about the human body. I’m sure you are aware of the many findings in science about the importance of a regular physical routine to stay healthy. Fitness and health are surely an important aspect of education. A human body needs to serve its owner for several years. And yet – we seem to simply pay inadequate attention to it. Most of our visions/goals in life cannot be met without physical health. I really would like us to recognize the role of health and physical education as integral to education – not something separate. It needs to be addressed in a systematic way – like other work areas.

2)Lack of physical education can really hurt the children long term. They “learn” and internalize sedentary life styles which can actually harm them in many ways and make the transition in adolescence and adulthood that much harder. Some of us grew up with little or no physical education. I’ve learnt things the hard way with plenty of health problems personally until I took a good hard look at myself. I really hope with the amount of information already available today our children don’t have to learn the hard way. It is much harder to change in adulthood something that we can learn so naturally in childhood. We should not let our own limitations become problems for the children long term. As adults – we need to offer the best to our children and let them develop good physical habits that will support their lives and dreams.

3)Our emotions also get regulated with physical education allowing us to contribute fully and freely in life’s situations. Physical ed trains the mind with many things including will power, participating fully, learning to win or lose, team spirit and many aspects of life. All of these are invaluable aspects of life/living.

4)As another Namma Shaale parent pointed out – it is a great way to learn team work and co-operation. As adults we will be working in team situations and it is important to learn this from early on. We seem to completely ignore this aspect of physical ed/sports. This is one of the reasons it is important for such team activity to take place within Namma Shaale – to help this community of children learn to work with each other.

5)There is PLENTY of literature of the benefits of a good physical ed program on the other aspects of education. Yesterday we dismissed this contribution with “work also produces calmness.” Of course while this is also true – it need not undermine the contribution of physical ed towards producing a balanced child. We need to be careful before dismissing it as “not necessary for a calm child”. Every science article I have read completely disputes this. While work also contributes to calmness – when there is so much restless energy – a good physical outlet will help channelize children’s “flight” and excess energy in the right direction. Every Montessori school I am aware of has this completely integrated. In fact physical ed is even available in card formats! Why are we looking at this as “work also contributes calmness so we don’t need any physical education?” This seems like an unnecessary restraint. Why cant we have both when the benefits of physical education are so obvious?

6)Some of the arguments were that there is too much “work” and not enough time for physical education. Are our children “so busy” between the ages of 6-12 that they have no time to learn about the benefits of physical ed? As busy adults – what can we expect from them? Ignore their bodies till they get a harsh wake up call from their doctors?

I urge you to ponder over these questions. My intentions are really for more children to learn to use their bodies and stay fit and healthy. I hope you will consider this. I hope Namma Shaale will hire a sports teachers of a regular basis and have at least 30 mins of physical activities every day including some team based activity. This will help the children A LOT.

Warm wishes,

-Jayashree

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— discussions on this, welcome; other parents’ reports too  —

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