The other day we had a group of visitors from Maharashtra who are working with government schools trying to motivate teachers and support them in their teaching methods. One of the problems they posed to us was –
– What to do you about slow learners? Do you have any specific materials for slow learners? How do you deal with the emotions of the children (and psychologically affected feelings) when children are moved to a lower level?
For a while our teachers who were present seemed perplexed and did not answer. Then they began a whispering discussion among themselves. One wondered what was going on. While they answered the question as best as they could, we had a discussion afterwards as to what was it that had them so perplexed.
The group, in turn, could not understand why we do to specific materials for slow learners. Also they could not accept the fact that our children do not feel upset or disturbed when they are moved to a lower level. We too, could not, at that point answer why.
A day later we discussed this issue as it was a festival day and very few children were in the school. We wondered whether we could not answer the question posed because we did not have a proper understanding of slow learners.
Shanthi said – we don’t have a category called slow learners. All the children are at various levels of learning and it doesn’t really matter to us at what level the child is. There are always some who are fast is some subjects and slow in others. Not everyone is fast in all subjects. Our children do to know that they are slow and their friends do not think that they are moved to a lower group because they are slow. We have moved Manikandan three times back and forth during the year according to how he has studied in the 2 -3 month period. So those who are slow need some support and they
get it anyway as we give individual attention to children.
She added, “We do not have any materials specifically for slow learners. We do have materials but for all the children and all the children use all the materials. If a child finds any one set of materials difficult, then the child does either a repeat or moves on, but comes back to the difficult material at a later stage.
Sivagami – we have seen in another school where they have a separate class room for slow learners with a separate teacher. These children will always find it difficult to integrate with the others. In our school we don’t categorise children in that way. This is why we found it difficult to answer when they asked what we do with slow learners.
She added – As long as children did not feel that one group was higher or lower level than the others, they do not see it as a promotion or demotion.
Shanthi – We do not change groups just once a year and so the movement from one group to the other is not such a big event. Practically every month different children (maybe 4 – 5)move groups.
Some children are reviewed every month, some every 3 / 6 months and so on.
Maybe it is an adivasi cultural aspect, but we take people of what they are and don’t put labels on them because once you do that then we tend to look at them differently and even to discriminate
sometimes. Acceptance of situations, things in nature etc makes one non-judgemental. Children are children, as far as we are concerned. Different children need different kind of attention and because of our group-system and also because we are a small school, we can give the attention they need.
Maybe we should observe non-tribal children when we group children the next time.
Later in the day, with these thoughts still in my mind, I also recalled that children are grouped according to academic levels only during the class time – which is perhaps for 3 hours in a day. The rest of the time they work in mixed groups (for craft, games, assembly, singing, dancing, acting, lunch time) which is for another 3 hours. So they don’t stay within the same the group the whole day /week/ year. This could also be the reason why children in our school don’t feel bad or are even aware that they are slower or faster than the others – leading to a feeling that they are higher or lower than others.