With children moving to a new class, parents and teachers should ensure that the baggage of the past is left behind.
Unlike the end of a calendar year, the end of a school year holds great psychological promise for children. Even though we adults make solemn resolutions on New Year’s Eve, like working out regularly or not yelling at our children, these noble intentions usually fade away with the morning’s hangover. Before we know it, old habits rise to the fore again. One reason we find it difficult to stick to resolutions is that circumstances do not change with the dawn of a new calendar year. The same humdrum routine resumes and the thrust to be a slightly different person dissipates like fizz from an uncorked champagne bottle.
However, for children, the transition from one class to the next is indeed significant. Summer holidays are much more than a vacation for them. A different teacher, change of classmates and new textbooks excite children with the possibility of starting afresh. We adults must be careful that the baggage from the previous year is not carried forward. For example, Devi’s Maths teacher in Class V believes that she is hopeless at the subject, so the child fervently wishes to make a favourable impression on another teacher. Vinod, a loner in Class VII, is tired of being called “bookworm” and hopes there will be a few like-minded boys in his new section.
Children get slotted into unflattering categories rather easily. Almost every class has a clown, a dud, a klutz, a nerd, a sneak and a goody-goody. As most labels are superficial, schools must ensure that a child does not carry an ignominious tag right from grade one all the way to 10. I still remember being put into B-division during PE class based on a single running race. This was in Std. I. Children in A-division were given umpteen opportunities on the athletic field, while B-group was only allowed to march and take part in the drill. What was even more shocking about this system was that a child could not upgrade himself/herself to A-division. When I was in Grade IX, the school got a new PE instructor who abolished this hierarchy of opportunity. Suddenly, B-divisioners were screaming with glee as they attempted high jump (never mind that most of us did not clear the bar) or held a basketball, possibly for the first time in our school lives.
When children move up a grade, the new teacher should try to form his/her own impression of each child instead of relying on reports from the previous teacher. After getting to know children for about a month, he/she can ask the earlier teacher for opinion and inputs. But, even after learning about a child’s academic history, teachers must provide children a chance to begin anew.
Parents may use the summer holidays to help children leave negative experiences from the previous year behind. The vacation offers an opportunity for rejuvenation. What can parents do to reaffirm that a new beginning is in store? Parents should help children break free from the shackles of over-scheduling. Holidays do not serve their purpose if they are spent shuttling from tuition to camp to class. By slowing the pace of frenzied activity, we can give children time to unwind and untangle the knots in their heads.
Summer is also an ideal time to provide children with psychological space. You don’t have to nag Rakesh to have a bath, eat on time or finish his homework. As far as possible, let children work out their own rhythm. Summer also provides parents with downtime from nagging, and can be cathartic for fraught nerves. As you don’t have the tension of schoolwork, you can bond with your child on a deeper emotional level. Instead of always ‘telling’ the child what to do, you can actually ‘talk’ to your child. As conversations meander and drift, you may get refreshing and surprising insights into their worlds.
A big question that haunts parents, especially those working, is how to keep their wards occupied in the summer. By and large, put the onus on the child. Let her pick her activities. Children may try out new skills and pursue passions. Cooking, karate, calligraphy, ballet, skating — the child may venture into uncharted terrain without pressure on outcomes. If your child is bored, encourage him/her to form clubs with friends, collect titbits and trivia, start a community initiative like introducing recycling in the neighbourhood or spreading awareness of pedestrian’s rights. Children should also have ample time to play and summer affords them an opportunity to befriend visitors. Friendships forged with children from other places can lead to meaningful and diverse relationships. If your child is an avid reader, allow the child to read books of his/her choice.
What about academic work? Should parents make sure that kids stay abreast of their school lessons? If a child has specific difficulties, the stress-free time of summer may be used to catch up on certain skills. However, any academic class should be restricted to a maximum of five hours a week. All children, especially those who struggle in school, need time and space to recharge, recreate and reinvent themselves. When children resume school, parents and educators should ensure that “The old order changeth, yielding place to new.”