Learning to Unlearn|Apr 18, 2011 11:03 AM| by:

Why do Grown-ups Ask Strange Questions?

I ask a serious-looking Khyati, an 8 year old of Orange Group who’s been hit by a ball in the head and has come back to the group,

“Why aren’t you smiling?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

There’s no way you can put an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. It’s not an exclamation at all, just a simple statement meant for a rather thick-headed adult who can’t figure out the obvious.

I’m reminded of my practice-teaching days, during my B.Ed. course, when we had to teach in allotted schools. I had to teach a section of class seventh, with 11-12 year old children. As far as I was concerned, at that point of time there couldn’t be naughtier children on the face of the earth. I’ve learnt a lot since then! I had told the children that they shouldn’t disturb the class by asking permission for going to the toilet or to drink water. What I’d meant was that they should stay put and not shuffle around. I was right in the midst of Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’, reading “I floated lonely as a cloud…” when Ikshvaku right in the middle of the class went glut, glut, glut, gulping down water from somebody’s water-bottle, and spilling half of it on his shirt, with blissful disregard of the rules set down by me.

As a novice, I saw this as an act of supreme rebellion, something that could lead to something worse, if not nipped in the bud. What if they all started gulping down water – all fifty-five of them? My newly-founded teacher’s ego was hurt and challenged. I ROARED at him,

“Ikshvaku, what do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m drinking water.”


“Because I’m thirsty!”

No exclamation mark here either. He’s thirsty and he’s drinking water. Period. Children are naturally direct and straightforward, unless you give them a cause to be otherwise. But with fifty-five children and an inexperienced teacher the ‘otherwise’ prevails.

Harvinder Kaur

(Harvinder Kaur began her journey in education because it made her heart dance! After a regular job for some years, she worked as a volunteer in non-formal education based on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy which was for her a turning point. An avid writer, she writes poetry, articles and stories on education and spirituality.)